For the first time in the 1840s, Swiss botanist Nageli discovered a thread-like structure in the nuclei of plant cells which later got to be termed as “chromosomes”. The branch of human medical science was never the same after that discovery. Cytogenetic is a branch of genetics that involves the study of chromosomes within the cell nucleus. The normal and abnormal chromosomes present in cells and their relationship to disease and human development are the area of focus in this science. Cytogeneticist studies and research insight into problems such as birth defects, fertility problems, and blood disorders, thus shedding light on their importance in human lives. In this blog, we explore the skills, courses, certifications and scope of the designation of a cytogeneticist.
This Blog Includes:
- Who is a Cytogeneticist?
- What do Cytogeneticists do?
- Skills Required to become Cytogeneticist
- Guide to becoming a Cytogeneticist
- Top Universities for Cytogeneticist Courses
- Career Prospects
- Average Salary of Cytogeneticist
Who is a Cytogeneticist?
Cytogeneticists (also known as Cytogenetic Technologists and Clinical Cytogeneticist scientists) are lab specialists who prepare, examine, and analyze chromosomes in a patient’s DNA to learn about the relationship between genetics and health. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of genetics is expected to grow faster than average with the emphasis on personalized medicine and the use of targeted therapies, which will lead to an increase in the demand for cytogeneticists. The abnormalities that arise from nondisjunction events and cause cell aneuploidy are all tested and discovered by a cytogeneticist.
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What do Cytogeneticists do?
By utilizing advanced scientific and technical applications, cytogeneticists are at the forefront of evaluating chromosomal and genetic abnormalities. Other than using digital photography and microscopy to observe and analyze DNA and genetic materials, they also work on understanding how genetics can affect a patient’s health. Taking all the above crucial activities into account, some of the main responsibilities of a cytogeneticist are:
- Collecting and sampling evidence for laboratory and clinical assessments.
- Discovering unhealthy chromosomes by studying and assisting in medical diagnosis and treatments
- Discovering genetic defects and chromosomal malformations and documenting them for future research purposes
- Communicating and discussing a successful operation with the rest of the healthcare team for beneficial outcomes for the patients
- Being a part of the scientific community and benefiting them with collaboration and research work for the greater good in the field of genetic research and medical advancements.
- Doing in-depth study on cancer research, autoimmune deficiencies and spectrum disorders.
- Undertaking medical studies and research on patients who are undergoing treatments related to gene therapy, cancer diseases, and other genetic problems
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Skills Required to become Cytogeneticist
To make a career in cytogenetics, you require a few basic skills. Further, you must acquire some industry-oriented skills during your course or work experience to grow in this field.
- Detail Oriented
- Effective communicator
- Have excellent lab skills,
- Good stress-management skills
- Have knowledge of biology, chemistry, algebra and geometry.
- Must know how to harvest and culture living cells
- Have an understanding of chromosomes, from their morphology and analysis to the different methods they can apply to visualize them.
- Be efficient in techniques like karyotyping, microscopy, slide preparation, computer image analysis and photomicroscopy in order to study cells and detect chromosomes and gene defects.
- Are required to make detailed records and notes in order to communicate with fellow researchers and physicians who require technical information or test results.
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Guide to becoming a Cytogeneticist
Step One – Get a Degree
- The basic requirement to become a cytogeneticist is a bachelor’s degree in cytotechnology, biotechnology, biology or any related science that focuses mainly on biology, chemistry and genetics from a recognised college/university. These programmes can last for a period of 3 to 4 years. Many students go on to pursue a Master’s Degree Programme which lasts 1 to 2 years.
- You can also be employed in the field if you choose not to go to medical school for a degree. One may choose to engage in this career by being involved in tech. A tech is responsible for conducting routine procedures but is not likely involved in the result analysis.
- Many programmes also contain a clinical aspect in which the student is able to gain hands-on experience while working under the supervision of a clinical instructor. They can also undertake an internship or find part-time jobs in laboratories and research facilities. Expertise is highly regarded by many employers and this would be beneficial in the process of getting a job, with the added benefit of improving their skills in the field.
Step Two – Work Experience
- Experience is highly regarded by many employers in the field of Cytogenetics. Students can participate in research projects, independent study courses and internships to gain relevant experience and necessary skills
Step Three – Certification
- The next step in your journey is to achieve certification. Many employers prefer hiring certificate holding cytogeneticists. There are some variations on the degree required to become a certified clinical cytogeneticist in different countries. For instance, in the UK, there is a specific training programme that is necessary for a cytogeneticist to get a license, known as the Scientist Training Program (STP) while in the US, a post-doctorate is needed.
Step Four – Secure a Job
- After achieving certification, you can go on looking for a job position. Cytogeneticists work in hospitals, medical clinics, educational institutions, government facilities, research facilities, public health facilities and private labs.
- With a bachelor’s degree, one can start their career in cytogenetic technology as an assistant
- Students with master’s degrees can land a job as a lab manager or supervisor, genetic counsellor or research associate at a corporate university.
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Top Universities for Cytogeneticist Courses
Listed below are some renowned universities that provide courses related to Cytogenetics.
- Northern Michigan University
- The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
- University of Miami
- University of Missouri-Columbia
- Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
- Harvard University
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- University of Cambridge
- Stanford University
- University of Oxford
- University of California, Berkeley (UCB)
- ETH Zurich
There are several interdisciplinary branches of medical science that a candidate after graduating from a cytogenetics course can pursue a professional career on. Some of the popular ones are as follows:
- Behavioural genetics
- Developmental genetics
- Human Genetics
- Medical genetics
- Psychiatric Genetics
- Population genetics
- Agricultural Genetics
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Average Salary of Cytogeneticist
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary of a Cytogeneticist in 2020 was $54,180. In India, the expected average salary is about INR 6,00,000. Clinical cytogeneticists, in general, receive around INR 24,16,961.
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