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A geneticist is someone who studies and works to apply his or her knowledge of genetics, a branch of biological sciences that involves heredity and natural variation in living organisms. These scientists primarily focus on the passage of traits from parents to offspring through generations, though this is far from the only area of interest. They can work in any number of fields, ranging from environmental sciences to law, and some conduct research purely for scientific gain, to add to the body of knowledge that scientists have amassed on the topic of genetics.
Gregor Mendel, a priest and scientist in the 17th century, is widely regarded as the first geneticist and is often called the "father of genetics." He is known for studying the inheritance of traits in peas, and he determined that traits are inherited based on a specific set of rules. His discoveries formed the foundation of the modern field and are widely studied in schools. Those planning to study or pursue a career in this area will undoubtedly study Mendelian genetics early on in their educations.
There are many different branches of genetics that a person can choose to go into, and each offers a unique batch of challenges and interesting subjects. Some geneticists go into agriculture and use their knowledge to try to increase crop yield and the resistance to various diseases that commonly affect valuable crops. Biomedicine applies a knowledge of genetics and of the genetic origin of some diseases to creating medicines that target the causes of such diseases and disorders. These professionals may also seek to treat genetic disorders that some people experience from birth, such as sickle-cell anemia.
Forensic scientists often use a knowledge of genetics to run DNA tests in order to verify the guilt or innocence of various suspects. A geneticist may be called to assist an archaeologist or historian in analyzing ancient organic matter. Some get into the field of bioinformatics, which combines computer science with biology, and attempt to analyze huge amounts of information, such as that in the human genome, and draw scientific conclusions from it.
The field has produced some interesting legal issues, especially in the area of intellectual copyright laws. As such, a scientist might even find work in a legal field. The ethics of genetic engineering and the legality of organizations or individuals copyrighting genes are issues of increasing prominence that invite many strong opinions.
@Tomislav - You won't believe it but they did finish mapping the 20,000 to 25,000 genes in the human DNA. I am not sure if it was solely geneticists but I do know it took thirteen years! Not quite forever but it was quite an undertaking if it took 13 years.
Although the Human Genome Project has been finished mapping the genome, the project continues to do further projects in analyzing the information they uncovered and partners with private companies to do research as well.
On one Human Genome Project site you can see all of the neat things they are looking at such as gene patent ruling laws, finding disease pinpoints in genes, and even lowering the cost in decoding a genome.
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