University & Degrees

Strands of science!

5 mins
January 17, 2022
In this article, we're discussing the S in STEM - if you didn't know, STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. STEM is a booming field, with loads of job opportunities and grants available that mean you can study and get paid at the same time! Today, we're talking about science - there are loads of different types of science, from forensic to sport and social. We're going to do our best to put all the sciences under a microscope, so you can figure out if it's right for you.

What is science?

First of all, what is science? Science is the pursuit and application of knowledge; it's about understanding the natural and social world using evidence. That sounds pretty complicated, but science is essentially wanting and trying to understand how things work by using a methodology; these methodologies can include observation, evidence, experimentation, drawing conclusions, or testing things out.

There are loads of different subsections of science (as we'll get into!), but each attempts to understand and build on our existing knowledge through some (or all!) of the methodologies listed above.

What is computer science?

Whether we like to admit it or not, computers are a huge part of our lives. Many of us spend a big chunk of our day using computers or computer software, from social networking to office applications and online shopping. It comes as no surprise that computer science is all about information - how to present, store, communicate, manipulate, understand and make use of it.

Although it may not seem like it, information is a very valuable commodity, and there's a vast industry dedicated to developing cutting edge insights: this could be anything from how to generate adverts specific to your interests or identifying trends in financial markets. It's a computer scientist’s job to develop new ways of thinking about information and how/what we can do with it. At its most basic level, computer science is about understanding, analysing and designing information processing systems. This complex process involves mathematical analysis, engineering, psychology, and ethical considerations.

What is social science?

In its broadest sense, social science studies societies and individuals' relationships within those societies. It seeks to understand the way people behave and how that can influence the world around us. It sounds a bit vague, but as with any science, the more we know about it, the more applications it has - whether that's government policy or the way businesses hire people. Social scientists research the whole span of human behaviour, from economics to education and geography.

Some social science research uses large scale research projects; these follow many people through their lives over many years, and the results can help everyone, including governments, businesses and charities. The studies can help explain how society changes and the impact on individual lives. Some examples of long-term studies include what impact smoking during pregnancy has on the development of children and the effects lowering the legal drinking age could have on education. As you can probably tell, social science has loads of real-life applications - if you study social science, you could go into policy development, healthcare or social work.

What is political science?

Political science is a social science that dates back thousands of years to old Greek philosophers (ever heard of Plato?!). It literally means the study of the state and its institutions. This sounds pretty dull, but political science is actually fascinating: it looks at governance, international relations, social policy, history, and theories and concepts surrounding these. The ways that countries interact is interesting, complex, and an essential factor in shaping the impact of politics on ordinary lives around the world.

By pursuing political science, you'll develop a detailed understanding of the reasoning and actions behind government actions. There are loads of career options available, from journalism to building international relations.

What is biomedical science?

If you're interested in science, chances are you've heard of biomedical science - but what is it, and how is it used? In short, biomedical scientists are responsible for driving advancements in the medical field, and they use scientific research to improve human health. Part of their job is to:  

  • analyse medical data to investigate causes of disease
  • design studies to test and develop new treatment plans
  • develop social programs that improve the health of the population.

Biomedical scientists usually work in labs conducting research and carrying out tests; this involves working with computers, microscopes and other advanced lab equipment in day-to-day work. To be a biomedical scientist, you don't need a PhD, instead, you can do a biomedical science degree - if you like tech and want to help people, biomedical science could be for you!  

What is data science?

Data science is a field of study that combines mathematics, programming skills, statistics and data analysis to extract value from data. Data scientists conduct research and collect data to understand a unique event or set of circumstances. There are two different ways in which scientists collect data:

  • Primary Data Collection - when there has been no previous research on the subject of interest, scientists create primary data by hosting interviews, surveys, and experiments. For example, if you want to find out the average time taken by factory workers to travel to work in the morning, you could carry out a survey asking each worker how long it takes them to commute.
  • Secondary Data Collection - scientists also like to save time by using data already recorded by somebody else. Researchers can find secondary data in censuses, public records, and newspapers. For example, suppose you want to find out the average size of households in Manchester: you could find the information on the city's census records.

What is sports science?

We may look at our sporting heroes and think they are the healthiest people ever, but in actual fact, sport at an elite level puts a whole load of strain on the body. No wonder they need teams of physios and nutritionists around them!

Sports science is the study of physiology, psychology, biomechanics, nutrition, and understanding the social role of sport and exercise in our lives. Sports scientists want to know how the human body performs under different levels of pressure and how our body reacts to the strains we put on it, whether that's in elite athletes or everyday people.  

What is forensic science?

There are loads of forensic scientists in shows we watch on TV, but what does it actually look like in real life? Well, any scientific process used in or as part of a criminal investigation is considered forensic science. Forensic science covers cutting-edge analysis of a crime scene right through to examining a body after death. Forensic science also encompasses lab work (like DNA profiling) and fingerprint analysis.  

What is life science?

Life science is a vast field of study, and we mean vast! There are over 8.7 million species of animals alone, and life scientists also look at human beings, plants, bacteria and viruses!

Many life science researchers specialise in one class or organism. Some specialities such as botany (the study of plants) have even more subspecialties. Below we've listed a whole load of life sciences so you can understand the field a little better!

  • Entomology studies insects, spiders, myriapods, worms, snails and slugs.
  • Ecology studies the interactions between organisms and their environment, like the food chain.
  • Botany studies plants, fungi and algae; some botanists specialise in biochemistry.
  • Zoology looks at the animal kingdom - from behaviour to breeding and migration patterns.
  • Microbiology looks at single-celled organisms like parasites, bacteria and viruses.
  • Cell Biology looks at even smaller things - the living systems that exist within individual cells.
  • Physiology focuses on how living organisms stay alive/survive in all conditions.
  • Genetics looks at how traits are passed down and how they adapt to suit the environment.
  • Epidemiology looks at the life cycles of diseases, how they reproduce and affect humans.
  • Palaeontology studies dinosaurs and how they might have lived.
  • Marine Biology looks at life in the oceans - everything from sharks to fish to coral and algae!

Interested in getting some science work experience?

We’ve been through quite a lot, so if you’ve made it this far - congratulations! Also it looks like you really have a passion for science! Why not browse some of the science programmes we have here and start gaining great work experience.

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