Biology In a Nutshell and Studying Biology: are you the right fit?

Biology may be defined as the study of all forms of Life. Biology accounts for every “miniscule” form of life; in fact, every organism, right from the measly single celled protozoan colonising the speck of dust on my laptop screen to the succulent kept by the window is a discrete entity in the eyes of Biology, with its own complex system of cellular components, aggregates, amino acids and enzymes firing signals and a cascade of chemical reactions to keep it alive. Hence, in this context, we only attempt to explore Biology and its depths- because to coherently define it would mean attempting to define all of Life itself.  

Biology is as exhaustive as it interesting. Biology students often find themselves being overwhelmed, as its demanding theoretical studies are often accompanied by field work, long hours in a laboratory and surprisingly, a fair share of analytical and statistical work (work that often involves concepts of Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry). In short, biology is not all about nature, plants and animals. It is important for students to acknowledge and understand this before making any major decisions involving choosing a stream of study.

Making the right choice: Let us understand what Biological studies entail, that is, what a Biology student typically has to deal with and the qualities they must have/acquire.

  • Studies in biology can be highly specialised, like in niche fields such as Virology, Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, et cetera. This stage typically occurs in higher studies, usually when one reaches the Masters (postgraduate) or Doctoral (Phd) stage of their academics. Working in a niche field can be immensely rewarding, given that the student is meticulous, resilient and inherently driven to achieve excellence. Conversely, students who have knack for analytical work, innovation and creative affinities can find satisfaction doing interdisciplinary work and studies.

  • Biology is also very inter-disciplinary. At the high school and undergraduate levels, biology students are often required to learn and know concepts of Chemistry (useful later while studying Biochemistry) and concepts of Mathematics, Statistics and Physics. High school/junior college students often have these subjects included mandatorily in their coursework. At an undergraduate or postgraduate level, interdisciplinary studies are vast in the field of Biotechnology, Bioinformatics and Biostatistics. Students with divergent interests, who find themselves to be proficient in more than one subject often opt for careers in these fields. It is easier to make an informed career choice if these qualities are identified and isolated early on in a student’s life.

  • Conquering fundamentals: The underlying prerequisite, as you might have gathered, to excelling in biology or any scientific field is that one must have clear and thorough fundamental knowledge of every science subject. This would also include common scientific jargon, i.e scientific terminologies.

  • Biology and Chemistry: Biological sciences are often intrinsically related to chemistry. Chemical reactions govern most life processes, and it may be safely summarised that, for most students of biology, regardless of their field there is no escaping chemistry. Early acknowledgement of this fact, followed by taking the right efforts, will save students a lot of trouble.

  • Biology and Mathematics: Mathematics might not have as important a role to play as chemistry as the subject of secondary importance, but having clear mathematical fundamentals is a must. Biology students are often required to follow their projects up with graphs, charts and a statistical summary of results. Simple conversions are another important aspect in experimentation.

  • Biology and Diagrams: It is a wide misconception that one cannot pursue biology if they do not possess good drawing skills. It is true that biology entails a lot of Visualisation tactics and skills, but it is far more important that a student can create legible, understandable diagrams. Neatness and accuracy of diagrammatic work will always conquer all other aspects and are qualities that can be learned and refined with practice. Hence, students with weak drawing skills should not be discouraged from pursuing a career in biology.

  • Keeping an open mind: High school students who meticulously study all their subjects while preserving their passion for Biology find it easier to cope with the requirements that higher studies in biology entail. Scientists and professionals in the field of biology often work alongside technicians, physicists, mathematicians and individuals from all spectra of academics. So, respecting and regarding other subjects as equally important is the healthy approach to achieving success in this field.

These tips, in summary,will be helpful in developing a healthy approach to future studies in Biology. Possessing most of the aforementioned qualities will ensure that a student has a rewarding experience with Biology. In addition, you might want to reevaluate your priorities and goals if

  • You are considering a career/studies in biology over another subject because it seems easier.

  • Your desire to avoid studying Mathematics/Chemistry/Physics overpowers your enthusiasm/love for Biology.

  • You feel incompetent to take on excessive workload or are averse to working for long hours.

  • The fact that an education in Biology might take longer than in other subjects and it often spans years, especially if one chooses to specialise in a field doesn’t sit well with you.

In conclusion, we hope that this information will provide a useful start with tackling all things Biology.

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