The world today is in the midst of fierce combat against the deadly Coronavirus which has now infected more than 90,000 people and claimed over 3,000 lives. Besides human lives, the world economy has been affected as well. From carmakers to airlines and hotels, the impact of the outbreak is punishing firms worldwide.
Whilst, 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 try 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, the study of how viruses cause diseases in their target hosts.
- Plant virology, the study of viruses and how they affect plants.
What’s their work environment like?
Virologists can be found in many different types of health organizations. They also find employment in government agencies and universities. Others find work in 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. It is important to understand that a virologist will always work with infectious viruses. Because of this, there is a chance that they may get infected themselves. However, they 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 science that includes courses in cell biology, biochemistry, microbiology, immunology, and molecular biology. Upon completion of 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. Students are required to complete classes in their first year and undergo lab rotations so they can get an idea of where they would like to carry out their thesis research. Some dual MD/Ph.D. programs exist that allow candidates to acquire both clinical and research training.
Upon completion of a Ph.D. program it is expected that a prospective virology researcher will 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
But best of all, the future prospects for Virologists look incredible, with the job prospects for virologists expected to increase by over 11 % in this decade, and an exciting pay package 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 for you if you have an inclination towards the subject.