Modern cell biology is a dynamic discipline that combines the interests of a variety of scientific fields including molecular biology, biochemistry, biophysics, microbiology, physiology, developmental biology, cytology, and genetics–fields that were once almost completely independent of each other. Cell biologists are at the core of scientific research, investigating the basic structural and functional units of life: the cells that compose all living organisms.
Many different approaches are used in the study of cellular processes including biochemical and physical analysis of molecules and cells in culture, mathematics and computer sciences, light and electron microscopy, and molecular genetics.
For over two centuries cell biologists have made discoveries and created inventions that have dramatically changed our lives. It was the cell biologists’ need to see details of cell and tissue structure that led to improvements in microscopes and the ultimate discovery of the bacteria that cause tuberculosis and syphilis. Cell biologists provided the understanding of basic cellular processes necessary for the improved production of farm animals and plants, such as hybrid corn, and the elimination of the scourges of polio and smallpox. Today’s cell biologists, using a vast array of molecular, genetic, and microscopical techniques to probe the inner structure and function of cells, are providing almost daily new insights and information crucial for developing effective treatment for cancer, heart disease, AIDS, and a host of other diseases that disrupt normal cell function.