The number of specializations and combinations thereof which fall under the biological sciences umbrella is nearly limitless. And due to the level of expertise required, you will at some point in your academic career – be it before you start, during your degree or at graduate level – need to pick an area on which to focus.
It would be impossible to go through each one, but areas in which you might specialize include:
• Computational biology: The National Institutes of Health (an agency of the US Department of Health) defines computational biology as “The development and application of data-analytical and theoretical methods, mathematical modelling and computational simulation techniques to the study of biological, behavioural, and social systems.” This has become an increasingly important field in recent years. As the name would suggest, some mathematical and computer science nous will be necessary to succeed in this field.
• Molecular biology: The aim of this discipline is to understand, at the most basic level possible, the nature and interactions of the units that make up living organisms. A popular branch of molecular biology involves the study of DNA, with the goal of sequencing or mutating it in order to study the effects and possibilities of these processes.
• Neurobiology: This arm of the biological sciences is based on the nervous system, often focusing on the brain with the goal of developing treatments for both psychiatric and neurological ailments, as well as simply advancing our knowledge of the part of the human body we understand the least.
• Genetics: Mosby’s Medical Dictionary defines genetics as the subject which looks at “the origin of the characteristics of an individual”. This involves an investigation of the relationships between the most basic building blocks and processes of an organism – i.e. genes, protein and metabolism. The study of hereditary traits plays a large part in this.
• Evolutionary biology: This one is pretty self explanatory – a study of how life came to be the way it is today. This can be conducted at anything from a cellular level to the study of entire ecosystems. Though the main principles have long been in place, there are still plenty of discoveries to be made in this field.