We can now make, just from a digital signal, the flu virus in about ten hours. And instead of having to physically send the flu isolate around the world, we just send a digital signal and can rebuild it. And we’ve had a real-life example of that with the H7N9 outbreak in China. A team of Chinese scientists sequenced the virus that was causing the infections there, (and) posted it on the internet. At the request of the U.S. government, we downloaded it and in ten hours made the virus. And for some time, our synthetic virus was the only source that the CDC and the U.S. government and Novartis had for starting to understand the virus and develop a new vaccine towards it. And now we have one of these units in North Carolina at the Novartis facility, their new vaccine facility, so all that has to be sent there is a digital signal describing the new sequence. The technology we have there will rapidly make the virus and it can start into production. (VenterNPR, 25Oct13)
— J. Criag Venter, NPR Science Friday

Biology Specialty Areas: biologists investigate life. Prior to the development of high speed microscopes, biologists primarily focused their attention on characteristics they could observe with their unaided eyes. As microscope technology improved, many researchers shifted their attention to the study of cells. (Recently) scientists have invented new tools that allow us to study groups of "genes" and groups of "proteins." (Brooker, 13) The DNA “code script” (the “genetic code”) has come to dominate biological science, so much so that biology in the twenty-first century has become an information science. (Venter, 5) 


Behavioral Genetics: a field of study that is concerned with the genetic basis of behavior. It is a central belief of this approach that differences in the genetic constitution of human beings can account for much of their variation and the differences in how they respond to their environments (Cardwell, 29) Considers nervous system function and variation, including the hard-to-define qualities of "mood" and mind. (Lewis, 150)

Bioethics: a branch of applied ethics that studies the value implications of practices and developments in life sciences, medicine, and health care. (MeSH) A field of study that addresses moral issues and controversies that arise in applying medical technology. (Lewis, 2)

Bioinformatics: the generation and mining of computerized databases of hereditary information. (Batiza, 1) The science of using computers and sophisticated mathematics to sort and analyze large amounts of biological data. (GNN) A field of biology concerned with the development of techniques for the collection and manipulation of biological data, and the use of such data to make biological discoveries or predictions. This field encompasses all computational methods and theories applicable to molecular biology and areas of computer-based techniques for solving biological problems including manipulation of models and datasets. (MeSH) Also referred to as ‘computational biology.’

Biotechnology: body of knowledge related to the use of organisms, cells or cell-derived constituents for the purpose of developing products which are technically, scientifically and clinically useful. (MeSH) The use of biological organisms and processes to provide useful products in industry and medicine. (Batiza, xxii) Use or alteration of cells or biological molecules for specific applications, including products and processes. Includes “genetic engineering” and genetic modification which refer broadly to any biotechnology that manipulates DNA. (Lewis, 372)

Cell Biology: the study of individual cells and their interaction with each other. (Brooker, 61) The internal workings of cells at the microscopic and molecular level. (NCIt)

Comparative Genomics: the science of comparing the genome sequences of humans and other species in order to discover similarities and differences in biology. For instance, scientists who study evolution might compare the genomes of humans and chimpanzees, while scientists who study the bacterium E. coli might compare strains that harm humans and those that do not. (GNN)

Cytogenics: the study of inheritance at the level of the chromosome. (Bynum, 292) The study of the structure, function, and abnormalities of human chromosomes.area of genetics that links “chromosome” variations to specific traits, including illnesses. (NCIt) Study of chromosomal abnormalities and their effect on “phenotypes.” (Lewis, 236)

Developmental Genetics: understanding how "gene expression" controls the process of development. (Brooker, 391) Branch of genetics primarily concerned with how genes control or regulate differentiation and growth. (NCIt)

Digital Biology: proteins and other interacting molecules in a cell viewed as its 'hardware' and the information encoded in its DNA as its 'software.' All the information needed to make a living, self-replicating cell is locked up within the spirals of its "double helix." (Venter, 47)

Environmental Genomics: the study of communities of organisms in nature using the tools of genomics. Sequencing the DNA of microorganisms found in a liter of ocean water is an example of environmental genomics. (GNN) Also referred to as ‘community genomics.’

Epidemiology: the study of the patterns, causes, and control of disease in groups of people. (NCIt) The statistical study of the incidence and distribution of diseases, and the factors that cause and might prevent and control them. (Bynum, 292) Used with human and veterinary diseases for the distribution of disease, factors which cause disease, and the attributes of disease in defined populations; includes “incidence,” “frequency,” “prevalence,” “endemic” and “epidemic” outbreaks. (MeSH)

Histology: study of the “tissues” of the body using various techniques of “microscopy” and “staining” to enhance the images produced. (Bynum, 292) The study of the structure of the cells and their arrangement to constitute tissues and, finally, the association among these to form organs. In "pathology," the microscopic process of identifying normal and abnormal "morphologic" characteristics in tissues, by employing various ‘cytochemical’ and ‘immunocytochemical’ stains. (NCIt)

Immunology: the study of the "immune system." (NCIt) Immunologists examine the processes by which the immune system protects an animal from foreign matter, whether living or nonliving. (Booker, 1127) A medical specialty concerned with the hypersensitivity of the individual to foreign substances and protection from the resultant infection or disorder. (MeSH)

Molecular Biology: a discipline concerned with studying biological phenomena in terms of the chemical and physical interactions of molecules. (MeSH) A field of study spawned largely by genetic technology that looks at the structure and function of the molecules of life. (Brooker, G-23) Chiefly concerns itself with understanding the interactions between the various systems of a cell, including the interrelationship of DNA, RNA and “protein synthesis” and learning how these interactions are regulated. The field overlaps with other areas of biology, particularly "genetics" and "biochemistry." (NCIt)

Morphology: a branch of biology that deals with the form of living organisms, and with relationships between their structures. (Oxford) The structure or form of an organism. (Brooker, 391) Used with organs, regions, and tissues for normal descriptive anatomy and histology, and for the normal anatomy and structure of animals and plants. (MeSH) Adverb - ‘morphologically.’ 

Nanotechnology: the study and manipulations of “atomic” structures. (Norman, 5/26/09) The development and use of techniques to study physical phenomena and construct structures in the nanoscale size range or smaller. (MeSH) The branch of technology that deals with dimensions and tolerances of 0.1 to 100 “nanometers.” (Oxford) 

Oncology: the study of "cancer." The study of "tumors" encompassing the physical, chemical, and biologic properties. (NCIt) A branch of medicine that specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. It includes medical oncology (the use of "chemotherapy," "hormone" therapy, and other drugs to treat cancer), "radiation "oncology (the use of radiation therapy to treat cancer), and surgical oncology (the use of "surgery" and other procedures to treat cancer). (NCI3)

Physiology: the biological science concerned with the life-supporting properties, functions, and processes of living organisms or their parts. (MeSH) Study of the functions of plants and animals. (Brooker, 13) The branch of biology that studies the functions and parts of living organisms. (Hockenbury, 3) Adjective - ‘physiologic.’

Radiology: the branch of medicine involving the study of imaging technologies to diagnose or treat disease. (OxfordMed) The use of radiation (such as "x-rays") or other imaging technologies (such as ‘ultrasound’ and “magnetic resonance imaging”). (NCIt)

Radiologist: a physician specializing in the field of “radiology.” (OxfordMed)

Sensory Anthropology: new discipline focusing on how cultures stress different ways of knowing through the senses. When looking at a photograph, Americans focus visual attention on a central object, while Asians focus attention on the whole scene. (Blakeslee, 127)

Synthetic Biology: the re-engineering of biological components to provide new, designed functions. One aim of synthetic biology is to build a working cell. (Lawrence)

Systems Biology: research that is aimed at understanding how the properties of life arise by complex interactions. (Brooker, 13)

Transcriptomics: devoted to determining where and when genes are expressed. (Watson, 217)