What image pops into your head when someone says they’re planning to pursue biology? Undoubtedly, either a 30-year-old sitting in a mice lab or someone spending decades of their life trying to become a physician in the future. Although these avenues are rewarding, biology students often spend all of their time trying to attain this “dream job” and forget about the essence of biology itself: life as a whole.
Biology is defined as the study of living things and organisms. Living things make up every single aspect of society from economies to cultures to environments. So, it only makes sense that we study fields like economics, anthropology, sociology in tandem with biology.
Take economics for example. You may not realize it but the biology of one person can affect the economy as a whole. A person with low immunity can contract a disease and spread it to others leading to many households becoming unsustainable, a fall in GDP, and a cycle of adverse effects on the economy. In the same way, if a daily wage worker falls ill his family may not be able to afford basic necessities, making them more susceptible to further infections. We can observe this in the coronavirus pandemic. The world’s poorest cities and their informal settlements are incubators of disease transmission because of the population density and limited access to necessities. They are forced to work in order to earn a living, which will only promote the spread of the virus. As biology students, we should utilize the theories of economics and public policy to research how we can use our microbiology, immunology, and virology knowledge to help developing economies.
Living things also make up cultures that can be studied throughout a biological lens. Have you ever wondered why different ethnic groups have different types of hair? Are certain races smarter than others? While the answers lie in the study of genetics we must incorporate fields like anthropology and sociology to understand the topics to the largest extent. We can relate this to the recent Black Lives Matter movement. Biology textbooks do not address genetic rationales for human differences such as why African-Americans are over-represented as football players. As biology students, we must incorporate the study of society to truly make sense of our world and the subject we love.
This fall, I’m going to be studying human biology AND SOCIETY at UCLA because I believe, while it starts in the lab or in your textbook, it is your job to intersect it with other fields in order to make a real impact on society.