A Day in the Life of a Virologist

Virologists explore solutions for a range of biomedical problems.

Virologists explore solutions for a range of biomedical problems.

Virologists are at the forefront of immunology research and development. While duties are varied, as a virologist you can expect to be focused on one task for weeks or months at a time. Not only is it an exciting area of science, but women are being recognized more consistently for their achievements in virology. Most prominently, in 2008 Françoise Barré-Sinoussi won the Nobel Prize for her work on HIV. Careers in science are also becoming more readily available to female applicants. A 2012 study from the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology recommended that science should fill its workforce deficit by securing more female scientists.

Securing Opportunities

Virologists work in many different environments. The American Society for Virology indicates that opportunities exist in university laboratories, private health care companies, research institutions and government agencies like the Center for Disease Control. As a female, you may have to overcome some industry bias. A 2012 report from the PCAST found that lifestyle choices may influence the gender gap in scientific job placement. Be sure to focus on your capabilities and qualifications during the interview process to emphasize your commitment to the desired role.

Patience Is a Virtue

"In science you cannot predict, really, how long it will take," Françoise Barré-Sinoussi told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in October 2013. She would know -- Barré-Sinoussi has been researching a cure for HIV since the 1980s. As a virologist, you should expect that vaccines and treatments may take a long time to develop. You may work on the same type of research for months or even years.

Pen to Paper

You may be tasked with writing a grant to get funding for new virology research. Grant writing is an intensive process covered in post-graduate education, and it can make or break opportunities in the industry. Grants are often 100 pages or more, and can take several months to write. In addition to writing a grant, you will also have to defend your proposal to the board responsible for distributing funds. Virologists who work on grants regularly go on to conduct the research if the grant is approved.

Eyes on the Prize

The work can get discouraging, so it's important to remember your end goal. "The vaccine -- it has been a lot of failure," Barré-Sinoussi told ABC in October 2013. She noted that HIV researchers have made new strides exploring antibody efficiency. As a virologist, you may need to encourage yourself to try new approaches or find interim goals. "We do know that vaccine research is based on scientific rationale today, so there is hope for the future," she added. "It's achievable. For sure."

 

About the Author

Laura Kalinowski has been a professional writer since 2001. She has written for print, television and online publications, including "The Weekly Standard" and Wisconsin Public Television. Kalinowski holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

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