Virologist  What They Do

Just the Facts

Insider Info

dotVirologists battle some of the worst diseases on the planet.

Virologists study the microscopic organisms, or viruses, that cause these and other diseases. Their goal is to find vaccines to provide immunity to the disease in question. Bird flu, AIDS, a resurgence of polio, and the pesky common flu and cold continue to perplex virologists.

dotThey spend much of their time in a research laboratory working with powerful microscopes. Increasingly, virologists team up with researchers and experts from other fields. From time to time, the work involves dangerous organisms. In these situations, special precautions must be taken -- such as wearing protective suits.

Virologists may also own a private practice and work with infected patients.

Dr. Joanne Embrey is a medical doctor specializing in pediatric AIDS. When she's not caring for her patients, Embrey studies the transmission of viral infection from mother to child. Most of her colleagues have got a doctoral degree of some kind.

She says that working with sick people can be hard. "High stress? It can be at times, because you're looking after people who are quite sick."

At a Glance

Study the microscopic organisms that cause diseases

  • Virologists are trying to be more proactive
  • A lot of lab work is involved
  • You'll need a PhD to get beyond entry-level positions