The world today is in the midst of fierce combat against the deadly Coronavirus. Besides human lives, the world economy has been affected by the virus. From carmakers to airlines and hotels, the impact of the outbreak is punishing firms worldwide.
While, a few years ago, HIV dominated the headlines, today people are more interested in influenza or tropical viruses such as Zika, SARS, or Ebola, which in turn are covered more widely and frequently in the non-medical media. And, now, we have a new strain of Coronavirus (COVID -19). Viruses are some of the most diverse forms of life in the world. As more and more strains emerge, posing a threat of skyrocketing to pandemic levels and claiming a zillion lives, study, and research in the field of Virology are becoming increasingly important.
The employment opportunity for virologists looks good, more so, with the appearance of new viruses every day and the process of constant research.
Who is a Virologist?
Virologists study the structure, development, and other properties of viruses and any effects viruses have on infected organisms. Scientists who study viruses to understand how they work play a vital role in microbiology and medicine. Their research helps to minimize the spread of infectious diseases and develop vaccines to counteract their effects. A medical virologist works as a physician, treating patients with infectious diseases or working on clinical research. A scientific virologist typically works only in research. Both require extensive education with some major differences. Some of the hottest areas of research in virology include:
- Emerging viruses like Ebola, Sin Nombre, and SARS, etc. have just been discovered recently and are the subject of a tremendous amount of fascinating study.
- Viral pathogenesis is the study of how viruses cause diseases in their target hosts.
- Plant virology is the study of viruses that affect plants.
What’s their work environment like?
Virologists work in many different types of health organizations. They are also employed in government agencies, universities, and areas of pharmaceutical research and development. Usually, they work in laboratories and offices, although some will go out in the field to conduct sample collection. They also generally collaborate with a team of other scientists. You may think that since virologists work with infectious viruses, higher chances are that they may get infected themselves. Know that virologists are trained to take preventative measures in order to minimize this risk.
You can become a Virologist too!
Becoming a virologist is a long but exciting educational journey. Aspiring virologists need to earn a bachelor’s degree in biology or a virology-related course. This includes cell biology, biochemistry, microbiology, immunology, and molecular biology. Upon completing a bachelor’s degree, prospective virologists need to take entrance exams for medical or graduate school. Students in medical school focus on theoretical courses for the first two years before embarking on clinical rotations.
Ph.D. programs in virology subjects are research-focused and usually take 4-6 years to complete. Some dual MD/Ph.D. programs exist that allow candidates to acquire both clinical and research training.
Upon completing a Ph.D. program, a prospective virology researcher can also undertake 3-5 years of postdoctoral research in an appropriate institution, usually a university.
The below listed centers offer great programs for Virology:
- Center for Virus Research (CVR), The University of California
- Australian Centre for HIV and Hepatitis Virology Research, Sydney, Australia
- Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, United States
- Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology, San Francisco
- Department of Virology, University of Turku, Finland
- Haartman Institute from the University of Helsinki, Finland
- Institute for Virus Research at the University of Kyoto, Japan
- Institute of Virology, University of Zurich, Switzerland
- National Institute of Virology, MCC campus, Maharashtra, India
The job prospects for virologists are expected to increase by over 11 % this decade, and an exciting pay package is to go with it.
The world needs more Virologists to tackle the problem of growing epidemics and pandemics. A Career in Virology can have outstanding prospects if you incline the subject.