A geneticist is a biologist involved in the study of heredity and genes. This field of study is known as genetics. This includes aging, disease, and gene mutation. There is also environmental genetics where the geneticist examines how various environmental factors affect the genes to cause disease or helps with adaptation to the environment. Genetics include understanding how genes are activated, mutated, inherited, and inactivated. A geneticist can be employed as a lecturer or scientist. They can perform research on genetic processes or to develop new genetic technology that can benefit industries such as agriculture or medicine. There are also some geneticists who experiment in model organisms such as zebrafish, rodents, or humans to analyze the data and interpret the hereditary patterns for various biological traits.
When studying the inheritance of biological traits, geneticists can focus on the population, molecular, or organism level. There are some geneticists who specialize in genetic disorders. Environmental geneticists, however, deal with epigenetics. Epigenetics refers to the process where parts of the genome can be switched “on” or “off” depending on the external environmental factors. Although there are many traits that have been set in stone, there are also some that are more flexible. For example, although there are many individuals with a predisposition to a certain disease, not all of them will develop the disease. However, the development of the disease can be affected by diet, lifestyle factors, stress, and more. Environmental geneticists play a critical role in analyzing how these interactions work.
In ecological genetics, geneticists in this field try to understand how genetics help in adapting to changing environments. These geneticists use population genetics to help improve management, conservation, and genetic betterment of the species. A good example would be estimating the survival and reproduction rates of a community or species. Using their knowledge of genetics, they help identify species that are at risk and increase genetic diversity. There is also some research on genetically engineering plants that can cope with demands such as increasing population or food crises, and adaptation to disease and climate.
Despite having various specialties, most geneticists perform many similar tasks such as conducting research on gene expression. Notes such as laboratory records on procedures, methodology, and results should also be kept. Lab results can be reviewed and analyzed using mathematical and statistical methods. Geneticists can keep up with new methods and scientific literature by learning about results, tools, and new procedures that are being developed. This new information and knowledge can then be utilized to help improve on their own research. To fund research projects, geneticists also attend fundraising events and write grants. Research results are often shared through professional conferences and publication in academic journals.
Workplace and Salary
Geneticists usually find employment in government agencies, hospitals, and university laboratories. These jobs can be found nationwide. There are also employment opportunities in private sectors. Depending on the location and type of employment, the salary of a geneticist can range between an estimated $35,000 to $125,000. Based on the National Human Genome Research Institute, it has been reported that the average income for environmental geneticist is about $58,000 annually.
Geneticists can also opt to teach in academic positions or go into theoretical or applied research based on their area of specialization. They can evaluate, test, and diagnose individuals who have genetic mutations, genetic risks, or hereditary conditions. They can also serve as a resource to help patients who have genetic complications by working together with other medical professionals. Although various jobs may have different tasks, some of the following responsibilities still fall under their scope of practice:
• Assessing and consulting patients who have potential mutations or genetic risks
• Testing for hereditary or genetic markers for various mutations and risks
• Reviewing research and literature to stay up to date in their field
• Counseling patients who have risks or predispositions to genetic mutations
• Counseling patients who have abnormal test results and screenings
• Help to determine the best course of action
• Consult with other professionals such as community partners, physicians, and advocates to help in increasing awareness and educating the public
• Assisting peers and colleagues with research endeavors
• Assisting with maintenance and support to meet the health and safety requirements
Senior geneticists tend to have more responsibilities such as managing a lab or team. It may also include meeting with policy-makers, advising other researchers or agencies, creation of scientific reports, engaging in the design of studies or analysis, organization of public outreach programs, overseeing team budgets, mentoring, and more.
It has been predicted that the demand for geneticists will have little to no change. This means that the competition for basic or entry-level research positions will be strong. Growth may occur if there are advances in hyper or data computing that allows the analysis of large ecological or genetical datasets. There may also be more opportunities for environmental geneticists if there is increased interest or expanded focus in the environment or medical aspects of genetics.
1) Geneticist. Wikipedia. Accessed 7/2/2019. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geneticist
2) What is a geneticist? Environmental Science. Accessed 7/2/2019. https://www.environmentalscience.org/career/geneticist
3) Geneticists. Genes in Life. Accessed 7/2/2019. http://www.genesinlife.org/testing-services/working-healthcare-professionals/geneticists