Molecular and Cellular Biologists


Exploring this Job

Explore biology by taking courses in the field and taking on laboratory assignments, which teach basic techniques that working biologists use in their work. Get a job as a laboratory assistant, working under the direction of a biology professor and assisting with the laboratory sections of courses. A part-time or summer job in a laboratory that conducts cellular and molecular biology research is a good way to gain valuable experience. Graduate students often find work on research projects conducted by their school. Get involved in professional associations for molecular and cellular biologists, such as the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Attend conferences and events to meet others in the field and learn about career opportunities. Find event listings at Another way to explore is through student science training programs, which enable qualified high school students to spend the summer conducting research that is supervised by a scientist. This also provides the opportunity to conduct informational interviews with molecular and cellular biologists to learn more about their work and how they got started in their career. Ask your school's career services office for help with finding training programs and setting up these interviews.

The Job

Molecular and cellular biologists apply their research on animal and bacterial systems toward the goal of improving and better understanding human health. They aim in their work to understand how cells are organized and function. They study the mechanisms of gene expression, cellular bioinformatics, cell signaling, and cell differentiation. Molecular and cellular biologists conduct research on cells and molecules to learn how biological traits are passed from one generation to the next. They also analyze bacteria and viruses, to understand, diagnosis, and treat infections in humans, plants, and animals.

Molecular and cellular biologists may work for government agencies concerned with public health. They may specialize in toxicology, for example, studying the effects of toxic substances on humans, animals, and plants. The data they gather are used in consumer protection and industrial safety programs to reduce the hazards of accidental exposure or ingestion. Those that specialize in public health conduct experiments on water, foods, and the general environment of a community to detect the presence of harmful bacteria so pollution and contagious diseases can be controlled or eliminated.

The daily tasks for molecular and cellular biologists include gathering and analyzing molecular and cellular data, designing laboratory experiments, and adjusting experimental designs as needed. Biologists oversee the laboratory experiments, supervising the work of  assistants, technologists, postdoctoral research fellows, and others involved in the project. Biologists maintain laboratory records and data. 

They use scientific equipment in their work, such as microscopes, thermocyclers, and chromatograms. They use computer software programs to analyze data and create reports, such as analytical and scientific software like Minitab and NetPrimer; graphics or photo imaging software like Molecular Devices Corporation MetaMorph; as well as Microsoft Excel, Office, and Word. They follow strict health and safety procedures in their laboratory work, to prevent exposure to harmful chemicals and biological substances. They may be involved in preparing and submitting grant requests for research projects to government agencies and other sources for scientific funding. Biologists also prepare reports of their projects, sharing their research findings with other scientists, medical professionals, and the general public. They may write articles for scientific journals.