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Molecular genetics

Researcher icon on blue background with text Molecular genetics

 

Molecular genetics is the study of the processes whereby biological information is stored, copied, repaired and decoded to create protein and other molecules within cells and tissues.

This influential area of bioscience contributes significantly to expanding our understanding of biology and allows us to develop bespoke diagnosis, treatment and disease prevention for each patient based on their own genetic make-up.

In the case of a patient like Mr Zemlinksy who is suffering from the effects of a stroke, changes will have taken place in his DNA or gene expression. Molecular geneticists can now investigate these changes and use this knowledge to tailor treatments to individuals.

Researchers in this area investigate how the genome and genes function at a molecular level. Some key areas of research include:

  • the genetics of disease
  • clinical application genetic diagnosis
  • gene therapy
  • genetic engineering
  • bioinformatics
  • genomics.

Molecular genetics is a thrilling subject to study. It’s about unlocking the secrets of how our DNA, genes and genome control all living processes, which helps us to better understand human biology in health and disease.'

Professor Guy Tear, Molecular Geneticist

 


Qualifications

To work in an area related to molecular genetics you will need to have completed a BSc degree in Molecular Genetics, Genetics, Biomedical Science or a similar subject. These courses will normally require you to have studied chemistry and biology at A-level or equivalent.

To become a researcher in molecular genetics, you will also be expected to have undertaken a PhD, where you will learn additional research skills as well as broadening your knowledge about your research area of interest.

As well as these qualifications, it is important for molecular geneticists to be inquisitive and analytical as well as having a strong eye for detail, the ability to handle numbers and a strong interest in biology or health.

Career opportunities

Having studied Molecular Genetics you will be trained in experimental techniques including gene cloning and molecular biology and large-scale data analysis. These skills provide career opportunities in a wide range of areas including:

  • research science
  • bioinformatics
  • genetic testing and diagnostics
  • drug design
  • therapeutics
  • forensics
  • clinical genetics
  • biotechnology
  • genetic counseling
  • animal conservation
  • plant breeding.

The general principles and techniques of molecular genetics apply throughout biology and medicine, so the skills and experience gained from studying this area can also be applied in the wider fields of biomedical science and the growing area of genomic science.

Top tip

If you’re interested in a career in molecular genetics, it’s a good idea to find out more about the subject by searching for articles about genetics, DNA or the genome project. For example, look at magazines such as Scientific American, New Scientist, the science pages of national newspapers or websites such as Inside DNA.

You could also visit university webpages and open days  to find out more about how the subject is taught. It might also be useful to get some laboratory experience to help you decide whether a career in research would be right for you.

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