Are you fascinated by crime dramas where forensics investigators arrive on the scene, take samples, and discover DNA belonging to a suspect? Or have you ever wondered how lab technicians in hospitals can take a blood sample, then in just a few hours, they can tell you exactly which disease you are suffering from?
The field of molecular biology holds all the answers to satisfy your curiosity. Below, we have all the collected information you might need if you want to start learning molecular biology.
What Is Molecular Biology?
As the name suggests, it is the study of biology at the molecular level. It often overlaps with the study of biology, chemistry, microbiology, and biotechnology. Molecular biology concerns the structural composition of genes and how they interact to allow an organism to function.
While studying molecular biology, you will get introduced to all the research happening in the field worldwide, covering everything from changes in genetic structure, to how to use microbes to cure diseases.
What Is Molecular Biology Used For?
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There are many specific tasks that molecular biology is used for. Some of them are listed below.
- Proteomics. Molecular biology is used to study proteomes on a large scale. A proteome is a specific set of proteins produced in a living organism. It also covers the study of how genetic material is embedded into RNA and then converted into protein.
- Genome editing. Advances in molecular biology have led to many innovations and discoveries. Genome editing is one such innovation. It is a technique in which scientists can change the DNA of living organisms, including animals, plants, and bacteria. Using this technique, humans can create their own species of organisms. Thus, genome editing will continue to be an area of molecular biology worth studying as new developments are made.
- DNA cloning. DNA cloning is the process of building customized DNA to use in experiments. It can be used in research on how to cure diseases or produce protein.
- Production of new protein sequences. If a particular protein is found in a certain kind of bacteria, scientists will breed the bacteria in large quantities. When the bacteria comes of age, molecular biologists can extract the desired protein from it.
Types of Molecular Biology
To further break down this broad topic, we have listed some specific sub-sectors of molecular biology below.
Diagnostic Molecular Biology
This field of molecular biology is advancing quickly due to clinical research. It involves the use of gene mutation mechanisms, and cell formation and destruction to develop new technologies that can help find and cure diseases. It also involves isolating DNA and RNA in laboratories.
The goal of this type of molecular biology is to use clinical studies to identify the causes of diseases such as cancer, cystic fibrosis, hemochromatosis, and cerebral palsy. The DNA analysis can even be used to discover changes in single-base coding sequences, which help introduce new technologies for diagnosis.
Microbiology and Virology
As the name suggests, this is the study of microorganisms and viruses. Advancements in this area are doing wonders to cure diseases and create antibodies. The study of microorganisms also helps in developing food technology.
The use of microbiology is not limited to the medical field. It is also used in the production of wines, beer, baked goods, and pharmaceuticals. Virology is used for developments in nanotechnology, agriculture, vaccines, and cancer prevention.
Genetics and Genomics
This discipline is the study of genetic material and how its behaviors change the functioning of an organism, whether it’s a bacteria or a human being.
Gene expression data can help distinguish the phenotypic composition of the diverse ailments. This field requires extensive use of bioinformatics and data analysis.
Neuroscience is the study of physiology and how neurons function in the brain. Neurons play a major role in the functioning of organisms. Tools in molecular biology have enabled neuroscientists to make advances in recombinant DNA technology and gene sequencing.
Learning Molecular Biology
Now that we know about the distinct fields of molecular biology, let’s review the ways you can learn about the subject in depth.
How Long Does It Take to Learn Molecular Biology?
To study molecular biology, you may choose to enter either a four-year bachelor’s degree program or an additional two-year master’s program. You may even want to pursue a doctorate, which can take another three to four years depending on your area of research.
If classroom learning isn’t for you, there are a plethora of courses available online to help you get familiar with the basics of molecular biology. Studying online comes with perks like flexible timing, learning at your own pace, and lower costs.
How to Learn Molecular Biology: Step-By-Step
Below, we have put together a thorough, step-by-step guide on how to get started in molecular biology.
- Selecting a course. The first task is to find out what type of course best suits you, either an offline degree or an online course.
- Getting enrolled. If you choose to get a traditional college degree, you should choose a school and get enrolled.
- Gaining insight through books. Reading books is a great way to enhance your knowledge. The books we refer to later in the article will be of great help.
- Learning techniques. There are many techniques you need to learn to become an expert in molecular biology. You should explore which specializations are of interest to you.
- Practicing hands-on. The more you practice certain techniques, the better your chances will be of getting the job you desire.
The Best Molecular Biology Courses and Training
There are numerous options when it comes to choosing the university or educational institution that fulfills your needs. We’ve compiled this list below of the best molecular biology courses and training programs.
Best In-Person Molecular Biology Classes
When choosing an in-person course, the prime requirement is finding a university with a program that is in line with your interests.
- Location: Ithaca
- Time: 6 years
- Cost: $124,800
Cornell University is a distinguished research institute. It ranked 18th in the QS Global University Rankings in 2021. In this course, students will be provided with the latest technology and equipment to gain expertise in every aspect of molecular biology.
- Location: New York
- Time: 4 years
- Cost: $105,088
The University of Rochester is ranked 165 on the QS Global University Ranking for 2021. This school provides the best course in molecular biology. It is one of the best science institutes in the country, ranked 29th in the US.
This course will give you extensive knowledge in how to become a molecular biologist, and will also provide you with a lot of hands-on practice.
- Location: New York City
- Time: 5 years
- Cost: $190,400
Columbia University is ranked 19th by the QS Global University Ranking, making it a great option for learning molecular biology.
This course mainly comprises principal training in physiology, cellular and molecular biology, and biophysics.
Best Online Molecular Biology Courses
If you’re not interested in traditional offline learning, there is always an easy option to go for online courses. Below, we have listed a few classes from renowned online massive open online course providers.
- Provider: Coursera
- Time: About 6 hours
- Cost: Free
This is one of the best courses for learning about epigenetic patterns, data computing, and analysis. This course will brief you on the latest in genomics and current experimental equipment that is being used in molecular biology.
As part of the Genomic Data Science Specialization Program, this course is best suited for individuals who are seeking more knowledge about how next-generation DNA sequencing can help develop new character traits.
- Provider: EdX
- Time: 8 weeks
- Cost: Free
Massachusetts Institute of Technology offers this course via EdX, in which you will learn about the mechanisms of DNA, including prokaryotes and eukaryotes, and what sets them apart.
The course also includes analysis of protein structures, DNA replications, and how to repair proteins. It also discusses how DNA can withstand damage and will enhance your data analytics skills.
- Provider: Udemy
- Time: 1hr 36min
- Cost: Free
This course will provide you with detailed foresight into the occurrences inside organisms on a molecular level, including replication, transcription, and translation. It is a great course if you want to learn how to interpret genetic makeup.
Best Molecular Biology Books
If you prefer to learn by pickup up a book, we have compiled our top molecular biology book picks below.
Molecular Biology of the Cell, Sixth Edition, will teach you about molecular biology with clear writing and beautiful illustrations. This edition has undergone extensive revisions and includes the latest research in cell biology. As scientists’ knowledge of biology expands dramatically, it has become increasingly important that textbooks convey this scientific knowledge concisely.
This is a superb text for advanced undergraduate and postgraduate students. The illustrations in this book have been greatly enhanced. Protein structures are better illustrated with simple icons, micrographs, and consistency between chapters.
Each chapter now also contains intriguing open-ended questions about “What We Don’t Know,” which introduce students to challenging areas of future research.
Histology: A Text and Atlas, With Correlated Cell And Molecular Biology, 6th Edition, Michael H. Ross and M.D. Wojciech Pawlina
This book is a must-read if you want to know about methodologies, cells and tissues, organelles, and details about organisms’ mechanisms. The graphics and pictures used throughout will help you understand complex concepts.
In this book, the authors discuss various molecular biology methods, including histochemistry and cytochemistry, immunocytochemistry and hybridization techniques, autoradiography, organ, and tissue culture, and cell and organelle separation by differential centrifugation.
This book is great for both undergraduate and postgraduate students.
The World of the Cell is a classic in-depth text covering all aspects of cell biology and the fundamental concepts of this ever-growing field. The authors have created a coherent framework through which non-expert readers can understand the subject. Everything is written in clear and concise language with accompanying illustrations. The book provides a sense of excitement in modern biology.
The World of the Cell is praised for covering difficult concepts like bioenergetics, signal transduction, and DNA replication and recombination.
This is a recommended text for all readers interested in bioenergetics, metabolism, enzyme kinetics, thermodynamics, membrane transport, cell signaling, regulatory mechanisms, transcription, and translation.
Best Online Molecular Biology Resources
PDF Drive. This resource provides thousands of eBooks on molecular biology for free. Even if you are an advanced molecular biology student, you will be able to find the resources you need without paying a dime.
Barnes and Noble. With a wide range of top-rated eBooks and molecular biology texts, Barnes and Noble has made its way onto this list of the best resources to learn more about this field online.
Should You Study Molecular Biology?
Biological mechanisms at the molecular level relate to everything around us, like trees and animals.
With increasing progress in molecular biology fields such as food, clinical, veterinary, industrial, and environmental, the demand for molecular biologists is increasing every day. If you study in this field, you will be able to work as a scientist in a laboratory, a professor in a classroom, or as a quality analyst.
According to PayScale, the average salary for a molecular biologist in the US is $59,636. Therefore, if you are searching for a job that will pay off and give you the freedom to explore living organisms, then molecular biology might be the right choice for you.
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