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3.3: The Branches of Biology - Biology

3.3: The Branches of Biology - Biology


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The scope of biology is broad and therefore contains many branches and sub-disciplines. It is quite a broad branch itself, and depending on the subject of study, there are also microbial physiologists, ecologists, and geneticists, among others.

Forensic Science

Forensic science is the application of science to answer questions related to the law. Biologists as well as chemists and biochemists can be forensic scientists. Forensic scientists provide scientific evidence for use in courts, and their job involves examining trace materials associated with crimes. Interest in forensic science has increased in the last few years, possibly because of popular television shows that feature forensic scientists on the job. Also, the development of molecular techniques and the establishment of DNA databases have expanded the types of work that forensic scientists can do.

Their job activities are primarily related to crimes against people such as murder, rape, and assault. Their work involves analyzing samples such as hair, blood, and other body fluids and also processing DNA (Figure 1) found in many different environments and materials.

Forensic scientists also analyze other biological evidence left at crime scenes, such as insect larvae or pollen grains. Students who want to pursue careers in forensic science will most likely be required to take chemistry and biology courses as well as some intensive math courses.

Another field of biological study, neurobiology, studies the biology of the nervous system, and although it is considered a branch of biology, it is also recognized as an interdisciplinary field of study known as neuroscience. Because of its interdisciplinary nature, this sub-discipline studies different functions of the nervous system using molecular, cellular, developmental, medical, and computational approaches.

Paleontology, another branch of biology, uses fossils to study life’s history (Figure 2). Zoology and botany are the study of animals and plants, respectively. Biologists can also specialize as biotechnologists, ecologists, or physiologists, to name just a few areas. This is just a small sample of the many fields that biologists can pursue.

Biology is the culmination of the achievements of the natural sciences from their inception to today. Excitingly, it is the cradle of emerging sciences, such as the biology of brain activity, genetic engineering of custom organisms, and the biology of evolution that uses the laboratory tools of molecular biology to retrace the earliest stages of life on earth. A scan of news headlines—whether reporting on immunizations, a newly discovered species, sports doping, or a genetically modified food—demonstrates the way biology is active in and important to our everyday world.


3.3: The Branches of Biology - Biology

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Molecular Biology

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Department of Biology

If you’re interested in life and the natural world, biology is for you. Whether you’re curious about molecules and cells, or organisms and ecosystems, you’ll work with award-winning faculty as you seek to answer significant questions in biological sciences.

The Department of Biology has flexible undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Top-rated biology faculty from around the globe will lead and guide you as you explore and refine your research interests through labs and field work. Faculty members also serve as primary advisors to both undergraduate and graduate students.

When you major in biology, you’ll establish a general background in the discipline through a series of first-year and sophomore-level core courses that preview the major sub-disciplines of biology. This introductory program is followed by courses that allow you to focus on more advanced material.

Biology faculty have research interests that span the breadth of modern biology, from molecules to ecosystems and are committed to research training of students at all levels. If you’re considering graduate work in the biological sciences, many opportunities for undergraduate research are available with our dynamic and award-winning faculty, as well as participation in the annual Undergraduate Research Conference.

Our 230,000 sq. ft. Life Sciences Complex has excellent facilities to help you prepare for a wide range of opportunities. The confocal microscope and five climate-controlled greenhouses provide valuable tools for research and discovery, helping both faculty and students stay on the cusp of leading developments in the field of biology.

Take biology out into the world.

Many of our undergraduate students go on to pursue careers in academia, industry, governmental agencies and a wide variety of professional settings. Students are also well prepared for medical, dental, or veterinary schools, or to enter the many specialized graduate programs in the biological sciences.

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Biological computation and computational biology: survey, challenges, and discussion

Biological computation involves the design and development of computational techniques inspired by natural biota. On the other hand, computational biology involves the development and application of computational techniques to study biological systems. We present a comprehensive review showcasing how biology and computer science can guide and benefit each other, resulting in improved understanding of biological processes and at the same time advances in the design of algorithms. Unfortunately, integration between biology and computer science is often challenging, especially due to the cultural idiosyncrasies of these two communities. In this study, we aim at highlighting how nature has inspired the development of various algorithms and techniques in computer science, and how computational techniques and mathematical modeling have helped to better understand various fields in biology. We identified existing gaps between biological computation and computational biology and advocate for bridging this gap between “wet” and “dry” research.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


Acknowledgements

We thank Dr Ruth Elsey and the staff of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries at the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge for providing alligator specimens, and the assistance of Officer Walter Cook of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. We also thank Peter Brazaitis for anatomical advice and Eva Sawyer for technical assistance. These experiments would have been impossible without the contributions of Danielle Gauthier, who assisted with crocodilian care, data collection and analysis from this project's inception.


SYMPHY: Researchers Propose New ‘Tree of Life’ Framework that Incorporates Symbiomes

In 1859, Charles Darwin included a novel tree of life in his book ‘On the Origin of Species.’ Now, a Rutgers University-led research team wants to reshape Darwin’s tree. The authors discuss their proposal in a paper published online in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution.

A 2016 representation of the tree of life. Image credit: Laura A. Hug et al, doi: 10.1038/nmicrobiol.2016.48.

“A new era in science has emerged without a clear path to portraying the impacts of microbes across the tree of life,” the researchers said.

“What’s needed is an interdisciplinary approach to classifying life that incorporates the countless species that depend on each other for health and survival, such as the diverse bacteria that coexist with humans, corals, algae and plants.”

“In our opinion, one should not classify the bacteria or fungi associated with a plant species in separate phylogenetic systems (trees of life) because they’re one working unit of evolution,” said Rutgers University Professor Debashish Bhattacharya, corresponding author of the paper.

“The goal is to transform a two-dimensional tree into one that is multi-dimensional and includes biological interactions among species.”

A tree of life has branches showing how diverse forms of life, such as bacteria, plants and animals, evolved and are related to each other.

Much of the Earth’s biodiversity consists of microbes, such as bacteria, viruses and fungi, and they often interact with plants, animals and other hosts in beneficial or harmful ways.

Forms of life that are linked physically and evolve together (i.e. are co-dependent) are called symbiomes.

Prof. Bhattacharya and his colleagues from the University of Colorado, Boulder, Rutgers University, Chicago Botanic Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Microbiology, Sun Yat-Sen University, and Wuhan Institute of Virology, propose a new tree of life framework that incorporates symbiomes: SYMPHY (short for symbiome phylogenetics).

“The idea is to use sophisticated computational methods to paint a much broader, more inclusive picture of the evolution of organisms and ecosystems,” the researchers explained.

“Today’s tree of life fails to recognize and include symbiomes. Instead, it largely focuses on individual species and lineages, as if they are independent of other branches of the tree of life.”

“We believe that an enhanced tree of life will have broad and likely transformative impacts on many areas of science, technology and society. These include new approaches to dealing with environmental issues, such as invasive species, alternative fuels and sustainable agriculture new ways of designing and engineering machinery and instruments enlightened understanding of human health problems and new approaches to drug discovery.”

“By connecting organisms to their microbial partners, we can start detecting patterns of which species associate under specific ecological conditions,” Prof. Bhattacharya added.

“For example, if the same microbe is associated with the roots of very different plants that all share the same kind of habitat, then we have potentially identified a novel lineage that confers salt and stress tolerance and could be used to inoculate crop plants to provide this valuable trait.”

“In general, any question that would benefit from the knowledge of species associations in symbiomes could be addressed using SYMPHY.”

“We’d actually have trees interacting with trees, and that sort of network allows you to show connections across multiple different organisms and then portray the strength of the interactions between species,” he said.

The scientists are calling for funding agencies to support a working group of diverse researchers who would propose plans to create the new SYMPHY system.

“What we wish to clearly stress is that we are not engaged in Darwin-bashing. We consider Darwin a hero of science,” Prof. Bhattacharya said.

“New technologies have brought radical new insights into the complex world of microbial interactions that require a fresh look at how we classify life forms, beyond classical two-dimensional trees.”

“We should also aim to unify systematics research under the SYMPHY umbrella so that departments with different specialties, such as zoology, botany, microbiology and entomology, work together to portray how biotic interactions impact species evolution, ecology and organismal biology in general.”


Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Extended Data Fig. 1 Structure determination and representative views of the E2

a, A crosslinked transfer complex was prepared by incubating ABP (200 μM) and E3 (MYCBP2 RCR) (50 μM) for 4 h at 30 °C. Complex formation was assessed by SDS-PAGE (left). The stabilized transfer complex was purified by size-exclusion chromatography (right). b, Domain architecture of MYCBP2 including the catalytic RCR machinery. c, The RCR machinery is in stick representation RING domain (blue), linker helix (purple), helix-turn-helix (green), TC domain (orange), mediator loop (brown), E2 (mauve) and Ub (gray). The mesh represents a simulated annealing composite omit 2|mFo|-|dFc| electron density map contoured at 1.0 σ. d, As above except the mesh represents the experimental 2|Fo|−|Fc| electron density map contoured at 1.0 σ. e, Close-up view of the three-way crosslink between E2 C85, RCR C4520 and the Ub carboxy terminus. The mesh represents a simulated annealing composite omit 2|mFo|-|dFc| electron density map contoured at 1.0 σ carved around the mediator loop G4515 – D4529, E2 residues C85, and the crosslink. f, As e except the mesh represents the experimental 2|Fo|−|Fc| electron density map contoured at 1.0 σ. g, Close-up view of the Ub-esterification site, in the apo-structure the esterification site is occupied by a Thr residue due to crystal packing. The mesh represents a simulated annealing composite omit 2|mFo|-|dFc| electron density map contoured at 1.0 σ carved around E4534, F4570 – F4573, H4583, F4586 and an ordered water molecule. h, As g except the mesh represents the experimental 2|Fo|−|Fc| electron density map contoured at 1.0 σ.

Extended Data Fig. 2 Superposition of apo-MYCBP2 (PDB 5O6C), E2

a, Apo-MYCBP2 residues Asn4379-His4638 were aligned with bound-MYCBP2 residues Asp4387-Asn4636. The RCR, E2 and Ub are in cartoon representation: Coloring (apo-MYCBP2/bound-MYCBP2) zinc ions (light gray/gray), RING domain (light blue/blue), linker helix (pink/purple), helix-turn-helix (light green/green) and tandem cysteine domain (yellow/orange). In the apo structure, 8 residues from the mediator loop are disordered and are represented by a black dashed line. The E2 is colored mauve and Ub is gray. MYCBP2 Residues Ala4518, Gly4527, Cys4520 and Cys4572 are in ball and stick representation. In the bound-MYCBP2 structure E2 residue C85 and the engineered crosslinker are in ball and stick representation. b, Closeup of TC domains, in the E2

Ub bound structure the eight mediator loop residues, that were disordered in the apo structure, adopt a helical conformation in the E2

Ub:RCR transfer complex. c, Closeup of RING domains, in the E2

Ub bound structure the RING domain has twisted towards the linker-helix this results in a 3.0 and 4.1 Å shift of Zn 2+ 1 and Zn 2+ 2, respectively. d, Representative view of the E2

Ub-MYCBP2 transfer intermediate. e, Representative view of the E2

Ub-MYCBP2 transfer intermediate colored by B-factors (blue thin-cartoon lowest B-factors to red thick-cartoon highest B-factors) indicates that ubiquitin and the mediator loop are the most disordered components of the complex. f, SDS-PAGE gel of purified ABP-MYCBP2 complex and ABP-MYCBP2 complex recovered from a crystal drop containing the productive conditions (0.85 M sodium citrate, 100 mM sodium chloride, 100 mM Tris-HCl pH 8.0). The ABP-labelled transfer complex is stable during crystallization. Experiment was repeated twice with similar results.

Extended Data Fig. 3 Data collection and refinement statistics.

Crystallographic data were collected from a single crystal.

Extended Data Fig. 4 Mutational analysis of E2-E3 Ub transfer was determined by single-turnover isopeptide formation in the context of an RCR C4520K mutant.

To decouple E2-E3 Ub transfer (what our structure is reflective of) from subsequent relay and substrate esterification, we devised a robust assay that results in transfer of Ub from E2 to a dead-end product. To achieve this, we mutated the upstream Cys4520 residue to a lysine (Cys4520Lys). We found Ub was transferred to the lysine forming a stable isopeptide adduct. a, Activity was efficient and only E2’s previously shown to support MYCBP2 E3 activity supported isopeptide bond formation 25 . Experiment was repeated twice with similar results. b, A subset of hallmark interactions involved in closed E2

Ub stabilization are maintained (coloring as Fig. 2a). c, Representative replicate from single-turnover E2

Ub isopeptide assay used for quantification presented in Fig. 2c (also see Methods). d, The majority of mutants were also tested with wild type MYCBP2 in multiple turnover threonine-discharge assays (Extended Data Fig. 5), which yielded similar activity profiles. However, one exception was with E2 mutation D117A. Whereas D117A was fully active with MYCBP2 WT, it was completely inactive in C4520K isopeptide formation. This is reflective of this residue having a lysine-specific role that is redundant with native MYCBP2 E2-E3 transthiolation. e-h, Kinetic analysis for E2 active site residues (n = 3 independent experiments performed with identical purified proteins). Blue squares and black circles correspond to experiments where E3 was added or withheld, respectively. E2 reloading was blocked by addition of E1 inhibitor and depletion of the E2

Ub species was quantified. i, Observed rates of single-turnover Ub discharge (kobs) from experiments e-h. Observed rate constants were obtained from the one-phase exponential association equation using the routine within Graphpad Prism. Assays were carried out in triplicate using identical purified proteins. The 95 % confidence intervals for kobs are presented. ND* indicates that rates of Ub discharge in the presence of E3 were indistinguishable from background E2

Ub hydrolysis. Observed rates for native transthiolation activity determined from experiments presented in Extended Data Fig. 5 are also tabulated.

Extended Data Fig. 5 Mutational assessment of native MYCBP2 E2-E3 transthiolation activity and demonstration of attenuated E2

a, Proposed intramolecular role for Ub I36 in maintaining a closed-like E2

Ub conformation. The interaction between Ub I36 and L71 is maintained in the “closed-like” E2

Ub conformation. Superposition of the RCR E2

Ub (PDB 4AP4) complexes. The gap between Ub I36 and L71 has decreased by 0.7 Å in the RCR complex. The RCR, E2 and Ub are in cartoon representation with select residues in ball and stick representation: Ub I36, L71, R72 and the engineered linker (gray), E2 C85 (mauve), RCR K4441 (blue) and C4520 (orange). The RNF4 E2

Ub complex is in cartoon representation with select residues in stick representation: Ub I36, L71, R72 (pink), R181 (purple). b, For the selected mutants, MYCBP2 activity was assessed using single turnover E2

Ub discharge assays mediated by the presence of wild type MYCBP2 and threonine (50 mM). c, Single turnover E2

Ub discharge assay mediated by the presence of wild type MYCBP2 and threonine (50 mM) for E2 Asn114Ala and Asn114Gln mutants. Experiment repeated twice with similar results. d, Quantification for selected mutants, (n = 3-4 independent experiments performed with identical purified proteins). e-i native single-turnover WT MYCBP2 and threonine dependent E2

Ub discharge assay. Observed rate constants tabulated in Extended Data Fig. 4 were obtained from the one-phase exponential association equation using the routine within Graphpad Prism. Blue squares and black circles correspond to experiments where E3 was added or withheld, respectively. (n = 3 independent experiments performed with identical purified proteins) j, Quantification of lysine discharge assay in the presence of a transthiolation-defective RCR A4520 mutant or the canonical RING E3 RNF4 (n = 3 independent experiments performed with identical purified proteins). Although efficient lysine discharge was observed with the RCR C4520K mutant, the structural context of this acceptor lysine templates the reaction which can increase the reaction rate by multiple orders of magnitude, thereby reconciling the lack of activity towards free lysine which would be diffusion-limited 39,60 .

Extended Data Fig. 6 Consideration of crystal packing effects on adoption of the closed-like E2

a, Interface between Ub (gray), E2 (mauve) RCR (TC domain, orange linker helix, purple helix-turn-helix, green RING, blue) and two symmetry-related RCR molecules (cyan and light-blue). The side chain of Ub E18 and the first 7 residues of the RCR construct are disordered. b, Closeup of the interface between Ub, E2 and symmetry related E3. Ub K48 and R54 are in close proximity to symmetry related MYCBP2 H4599. c, Superposition of the RCR E2

Ub (PDB 4AP4) complexes highlighting the position of Ub Lys48. The altered Ub packing in the RCR complex (E2, mauve: Ub, gray) results in Ub Lys48 shifting away from E2 D42, relative to the RNF4 complex (E2 wheat Ub, pink). d, Single-turnover E2

Ub discharge and single-turnover isopeptide formation for the indicated Ub variants. The Ub E18R, A46D, R54E, and N60A mutants were discharged similarly to WT Ub, suggesting that the interface with a second copy of MYCBP2 does not exist in solution or is not required for activity. The Ub K48A and K48E mutants reduced activity, which would not be expected if the interaction with H4599 residue within the symmetry related MYCBP2 contributed to prevention of a canonical closed-conformation in solution. As K48 is proximal to the E2 it seems more likely that it intrinsically contributes to closed and closed-like activation. e, Quantification of single-turnover E2

Ub discharge (n=5 independent experiments performed with identical purified proteins) and single-turnover isopeptide formation (n=3 independent experiments performed with identical purified proteins).

Extended Data Fig. 7 Representative electron density centered on key E2

Ub-RING interfaces and comparison with E2

a, The E2-Ub interface is centred on E2 L104, Ub L8, I44, H68, and V70. E2 (mauve) and Ub (gray) are shown as sticks, the RCR RING domain (blue) is shown as a cartoon. For clarity RCR regions C-terminal of the RING are not shown. The mesh represents a simulated annealing composite omit 2|mFo|-|dFc| electron density map contoured at 1.0 σ. b, As a except the mesh represents the experimental 2|Fo|−|Fc| electron density map contoured at 1.0 σ. c, View of the RING-E2 interface, RCR RING (blue), E2 (mauve) and Ub (gray) are shown as sticks. The RCR equivalent to the ‘linchpin’ residue (K4441) and the functionally important RING extension residue (L4426) are labelled. The mesh represents a simulated annealing composite omit 2|mFo|-|dFc| electron density map contoured at 1.0 σ. d, As c except the mesh represents the experimental 2|Fo|−|Fc| electron density map contoured at 1.0 σ. e, View of the RING-E2 interface focused on RCR residues L4392, F4394 and the interaction between E2 S94 and RING P4438. The mesh represents a simulated annealing composite omit 2|mFo|-|dFc| electron density map contoured at 1.0 σ. f, As e except the mesh represents the experimental 2|Fo|−|Fc| electron density map contoured at 1.0 σ. g, Superposition of MYCBP2 E2

Ub complexes (PDB 5EDV) highlighting the shift in E2 binding site for HOIP RING1 (E2s were superposed). MYCBP2 complex RING (blue), E2 (mauve), zinc ions (gray) HOIP complex RING1 (cyan), E2 (wheat), zinc (light gray). h, Superposition of MYCBP2 E2

Ub complexes (PDB 5UDH) highlighting a loop insertion in HHARI RING1 that prevents the closed E2

Ub conformation. HHARI His234 would sterically clash with Ub in the “closed” E2

Ub, and similarly, His234 is incompatible with the “closed-like” E2

Ub adopted in the RCR complex. MYCBP2 complex RING (blue), E2 (mauve), Ub (gray), zinc (gray) HHARI complex RING1 (light blue), E2 (wheat) and zinc (light gray).

Extended Data Fig. 8 The RCR-helix-turn-helix motif prevents binding of an open E2

a, Superposition of ‘open’ conformation E2

Ub complex (PDB 3JVZ) with the RCR E2

Ub complex. The open conformation in the HECT E2

Ub complex is incompatible with the observed RCR conformation as Ub is sterically blocked by the helix-turn-helix motif. HECT E2 (pink) and Ub (light gray) are displayed in cartoon representation. b, Despite introduction of the corresponding lysine residue into UBE2D3 abolishing its activity, we could not impart UBE2L3 activity by substitution of Lys96 to Ser, as found in UBE2D3. Blue squares and black circles correspond to experiments where E3 was added or withheld, respectively (n=3 independent experiments performed with identical purified proteins). c, The mediator loop has high sequence conservation across orthologues. The deletions in Drosophila and C. elegans relative to human MYCBP2 imply the Ub relay process is highly plastic. d, Deletion of mediator loop residue A4518 substantially impairs E2-E3 transthiolation and Ub relay. Experiment was repeated twice with similar results.

Extended Data Fig. 9 Relaxation of the E2 Ser94-RING Pro4438 interaction is crystallographically observed for RING-linked E3s (RBRs and RCR) relative to canonical RINGs.

Interestingly, the Ser94-Pro4438 H-bond is highly conserved in solved E2-RING structures but for canonical RING E3s an idealized geometry is observed (2.3-3.0 Å). For RBR E3s that undergo transthiolation, this H-bond distance is comparable to that observed for the RCR being

0.4 Å longer. Thus it would appear that relaxation of this H-bond may be a hallmark of RING-linked E3s but the mechanistic basis for this is not clear. a, Distances between E2 Ser94 (gamma oxygen) and E3 Pro (carbonyl oxygen) for MYCBP2 relative to canonical RING E3s. b, Alignment of the C-terminal portion of the RING including the 7 th and 8 th zinc coordinating residues. The conserved proline that interacts with E2 serine 94 is shown in blue. Zinc coordinating residues are shown in red. The linchpin residue location is indicated with an asterisk. c, Distances between E2 Ser94 (gamma oxygen), or E2 Lys96 (epsilon amino nitrogen), and E3 Pro (carbonyl oxygen) for MYCBP2 relative to RBR E3s. d, Alignment of the c-terminal portion of the RING including the 7 th and 8 th zinc coordinating residues. The conserved proline that interacts with E2 serine 94 in MYCBP2 shown in blue. Zinc coordinating residues are shown in red.

Extended Data Fig. 10 Further characterization of Phr1 C4629A/C4629A mouse line.

a, Expression levels of Phr1/MYCBP2 in Phr1 +/+ (WT), Phr1 C4629A/+ (HET) and Phr1 C4629A/C4629A (HOM) mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) and neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y cells (CRISPR KO and WT) (left). An alternative in-house antibody 25 was also used to assess Phr1 expression levels across genotypes (right). b, Experimental work-flow used to generate activity-based proteomic data presented in Fig. 5b. c, Extracted proteomes from MEF with indicated genotypes were treated with a maltose-binding protein (MBP)-tagged activity-based probe. MBP tagging was necessary to discern a gel shift upon MYCBP2/Phr1 (0.5 MDa) labelling. ABP labelling was selectively abolished in Phr1 C4629A/C4629A MEFs consistent with the E3 ligase activity being disrupted. This experiment was carried out twice with similar results. d, NMNAT2 with a C-terminal HA-tag was transiently transfected into MEFs representing all three genotypes. This experiment was carried out once. e, The number of secondary branches (gray) between the primary branches (black) crossing the red dotted line were counted. Quantification of secondary axonal branches of the right phrenic nerve n number per genotype are indicated in the figure (mean ±SEM Kruskal-Wallis test followed by Dunn’s multiple comparison test). Asterisks indicate: * P ≤ 0.05.


Branches of Microbiology

By Taxonomy

  • Bacteriology: the study of bacteria.
  • Immunology: the study of the immune system. It looks at the relationships between pathogens such as bacteria and viruses and their hosts.
  • Mycology: the study of fungi, such as yeasts and molds.
  • Nematology: the study of nematodes (roundworms).
  • Parasitology: the study of parasites. Not all parasites are microorganisms, but many are. Protozoa and bacteria can be parasitic the study of bacterial parasites is usually categorized as part of bacteriology.
  • Phycology: the study of algae.
  • Protozoology: the study of protozoa, single-celled organisms like amoebae.
  • Virology: the study of viruses.

By Type of Research

Microbiology research, like other fields of scientific research, can be subdivided into the categories of pure and applied. Pure (or basic) research is exploratory and conducted in order to better understand a scientific phenomenon, while applied research is based on information gleaned from pure research and used to answer specific questions or solve problems.
Pure microbiology research includes:

  • Astromicrobiology: the study of the origin of life on Earth, and the search for extraterrestrial life.
  • Evolutionary microbiology: the evolution of microorganisms.
  • Cellular microbiology: the study of the structure and function of microbial cells.
  • Microbial ecology
  • Microbial genetics
  • Microbial physiology
  • Systems microbiology: mathematical/computational modeling of the activities of microbiological systems.

While applied microbiology research includes:

  • Agricultural microbiology: the study of microorganisms that interact with plants and soils.
  • Food microbiology: the study of microorganisms that spoil food or cause foodborne illnesses. Can also study how microorganisms are used in food production, such as fermentation of beer.
  • Medical microbiology: the study of microorganisms responsible for human disease.
  • Microbial biotechnology: using microbes in industrial or consumer products.
  • Pharmaceutical microbiology: the study of microorganisms used in pharmaceutical products, such as vaccines and antibiotics.


This is an image of bacteria colonies growing on an agar plate.


3.3: The Branches of Biology - Biology

Branches of Biology
Biology, the study of life, has many aspects to it and many specializations within this broad field. Below is an alphabetical list of many of the branches of biology.


Agriculture - study of producing crops from the land, with an emphasis on practical applications

Anatomy - the study of the animal form, with an emphasis on human bodies

Biochemistry - the study of the chemical reactions required for life to exist and function, usually a focus on the cellular level

Bioengineering - the study of biology through the means of engineering with an emphasis on applied knowledge and especially related to biotechnology.

Bioinformatics - also classified as a branch of information technology (IT) it is the study, collection, and storage of genomic data

Biomathematics or Mathematical Biology - the study of biological processes through mathematics, with an emphasis on modeling.

Biomechanics - often considered a branch of medicine, the study of the mechanics of living beings, with an emphasis on applied use through artificial limbs, etc.

Biophysics - the study of biological processes through physics, by applying the theories and methods traditionally used in the physical sciences

Biotechnology - a new and sometimes controversial branch of biology that studies the manipulation of living matter, including genetic modification
Botany - the study of plants

Cell Biology - the study of the cell as a complete unit, and the molecular and chemical interactions that occur within a living cell.

Conservation Biology - the study of the preservation, protection, or restoration of the natural environment, natural ecosystems, vegetation, and wildlife

Cryobiology - the study of the effects of lower than normally preferred temperatures on living beings.

Developmental Biology - the study of the processes through which an organism develops, from zygote to full structure.

Ecology - the study of the ecosystem as a complete unit, with an emphasis on how species and groups of species interact with other living beings and non-living elements.

Entomology - the study of insects

Environmental Biology - the study of the natural world, as a whole or in a particular area, especially as affected by human activity

Epidemiology - a major component of public health research, it is the study of factors affecting the health and illness of populations

Ethology - the study of animal behavior.

Evolution or Evolutionary Biology - the study of the origin and decent of species over time

Genetics - the study of genes and heredity.

Herpetology - the study of reptiles (and amphibians?)

Histology - The study of cells and tissue, a microscopic branch of anatomy.

Ichthyology - the study of fish

Macrobiology - the study of biology on the level of the macroscopic individual (plant, animal, or other living being) as a complete unit.

Mammology - the study of mammals

Marine Biology - the study of ocean ecosystems, plants, animals, and other living beings.

Medicine - the study of the human body in health and disease, with allopathic medicine focusing on alleviating or curing the body from states of disease

Microbiology - the study of microscopic organisms (microorganisms) and their interactions with other living things

Molecular Biology - the study of biology and biological functions at the molecular level, some cross over with biochemistry

Mycology - the study of fungi

Neurobiology - the study of the nervous system, including anatomy, physiology, even pathology

Oceanography - the study of the ocean, including ocean life, environment, geography, weather, and other aspects influencing the ocean. See Marine Biology

Ornithology - the study of birds

Paleontology - the study of fossils and sometimes geographic evidence of prehistoric life

Pathobiology or pathology - the study of diseases, and the causes, processes, nature, and development of disease

Parisitology - the study of parasites and parasitism

Pharmacology - the study and practical application of preparation, use, and effects of drugs and synthetic medicines.

Physiology - the study of the functioning of living organisms and the organs and parts of living organisms

Phytopathology - the study of plant diseases

Pre-medicine - a college major that covers the general aspects of biology as well as specific classes relevant to the study of medicine

Virology - the study of viruses and some other virus-like agents, usually considered part of microbiology or pathology

Zoology - the study of animals and animal life, including classification, physiology, development, and behavior (See also Entomology, Ethology, Herpetology, Ichthyology, Mammology, Ornithology

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