The various forms of science can often be divided into broad subdivisions such as life sciences, physical sciences and earth sciences. While there is a lot of overlap between the sciences, knowing the differences between each type is essential for the budding science student.
Life science encompasses anything that is living including, people, animals, plants... even things as small as bacteria or viruses.
Anatomy - Anatomy is concerned with the form and function of animals, plants, and humans.
- Cell Biology - Cellular biology is the study of the cell as a complete unit.
- Chronobiology - This field of biology examines how cyclical phenomena in living organisms interacts with the environment.
- Developmental Biology - Developmental biology is the study of the developmental process from zygote to full structure. It also encompasses embryology, which is the study of the development of embryo.
- Genetics - Genetics is the study of genes and heredity. It is often divided into several sub-disciplines:
- Epigenetics - Scientists who study epigenetics study heritable changes, such as how a given gene expresses itself, that are caused by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA sequence
- Genomics - Genomics is the discipline in genetics concerned with mapping the human genome.
- Histology - Histology is the study of the anatomy of cells and tissues of plants and animals.
- Evolutionary Biology - Evolutionary biologists study the origin and change in various species over time. These scientists look at how genetics change, species adapt, and generally seek to record a history of life on earth.
- Photobiology - Photobiology is the scientific study of the interactions of light and living things. The field includes the study of photosynthesis, visual processing, and bioluminescence, to name a few.
Botany is broadly defined as the scientific study of plants. There are several different areas of specialization.
Bryology - Bryology is the study mosses, hepatics, and hornworts.
- Dendrology - Dendrology is the study of woody plants.
- Lichenology - Lichenologists study lichens, which are symbiotic fungi that have a photosynthesizing partner.
- Mycology - Mycology is the study of fungi and other plant life that reproduce via spores and do not make their own food via photosynthesis.
- Palynology - Palynology is the study of pollen and spores. By definition, this can be in current living species or in fossil form.
- Phycology - Phycology is the study of algae.
Ecology studies how organisms interact with their environment.
Autecology - The primary goal of autecology is to study a single species within its environment. Scientists here seek to understand the behavior, needs, and natural history of the species by studying variables such as light, humidity, and available nutrients.
- Benthic Ecology - The term 'benthic' refers to the zone on the bottom of the ocean. Benthic ecologists look at what governs the biodiversity, structure, and function of the ecosystems at the bottom of the ocean.
- Conservation Ecology - Conservation science is concerned with finding ways to avoid the extinction of species.
- Ecophysiology - Scientists in this field examine adaptations of the individual to its environment.
- Ecotoxicology - Ecotoxicologists study the effects of toxic chemicals on various populations, including terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecosystems. Usually these toxic chemicals are pollutants, but sometimes they can be naturally occurring.
- Macroecology - Macroecologists look at ecology from a broader perspective, looking for generalized patterns in a large spatial scale, characterized by the search for statistical relationships to explain the distribution of biodiversity from a historical and geographical perspective. The opposite of macroecology is microecology, which looks at ecological processes on a minute or localized scale.
- Microbial Ecology - As the name implies, microbial ecologists look at the environment of microbes and how they interact with each other.
- Molecular Ecology - This science seeks to understand ecology through genetic data. Due to modern advances in genetics, scientists can quantify genetic similarities and differences in a given population and answer questions about the evolution of that population in relation to its environment.
- Synecology - Synecology focuses on the interactions between coexisting species within an ecological community.
- Paleoecology - Paleoecologists use the study of fossils to understand the ecology of species in natural history.
- Restoration Ecology - Restoration ecologists figure out how to restore sites that have been disturbed or damaged, generally by human activity.
Medicine is the science of healing and has many sub-specialties.
Endocrinology - Endocrinologists study the endocrine system and diagnose and treat diseases. This includes things like diabetes, thyroid diseases, and even osteoporosis.
- Epidemiology - Epidemiology is a branch of science that studies the cause and distribution of disease.
- Gerontology - Gerontology is the study of aging process. Scientists in this field are concerned about general health, as well as emotional well being, etc.
- Immunology - Immunology is the study of all aspects of the immune system. Scientists in this field look at things like how the immune system functions, how to boost the immune system, and the processes by which the immune system is weakened.
- Neuroscience - Neuroscientists study the structure and development of the nervous system. They are concerned both with how healthy nervous system functions, as well as how to fix issues as they arise both from birth and from trauma.
- Oncology - Oncology is the study of cancer, including how it starts and spreads. These scientists devote themselves to learning how cancer spreads and ways to stop or cure it.
- Pathology - Pathology is the study of the causes, processes, nature, and development of disease. Pathologists are concerned with learning how the spread of disease works so they can develop more effective medicines or cures.
- Pharmacology - Pharmacologists study the effects of drugs and synthetic medicines, as well as how to prepare and use said medicines. These scientists are studying how to make medicines safer and more effective, as well as develop new medicines to treat various diseases.
Microbiologists study organisms. Many of these are extremely small and require magnification to be seen by the naked eye.
Aerobiology - Aerobiology is the study of airborne biological particles and their movement and impact on human, animal, and plant health. These scientists are largely concerned with pollen and fungal spores and how that affects the health of people who are pollen-sensitive.
- Bacteriology - Bacteriologists study bacteria. The discipline has a variety of applications including the development of drugs to treat bacterial infections, as well as the development of vaccines.
- Molecular Biology - Molecular biologists study the molecular processes behind the transcription of RNA and how that transcription gets turned into protein. This science overlaps heavily with biochemistry and genetics.
- Virology - Virology is the study of viruses. The goal of these scientists is to discover the mechanisms by which they work, and how to treat them.
Zoology, in short, is the study of animals. This not only includes things like how they are classified, but also animal physiology, development, and behavior. Sub-branches of zoology include:
Carcinology - Carcinology is the study of crustaceans.
- Cetology - Cetologists study whales, dolphins, and porpoises.
- Entomology - Entomology is the study of insects.
- Herpetology - Herpetology is the study of amphibians and reptiles.
- Ichthyology - Ichthyology is the study of fish.
- Malacology - Malacologists study mollusks.
- Mammalogy - Mammalogy is the study of mammals.
- Ornithology - Ornithology is the scientific study of birds.
- Primatology - Primatology is the scientific study of primates.
- Parasitology - Parasitology is the study of parasites, their hosts, and the relationship between them.
- Protozoology - Protozoology is the study of study of protozoans.
Physical sciences apply to those things that are not living.
Astronomy is the study of space, such as planets, stars, and other, non-Earthly phenomena.
Aeronautics - Aeronautics is the science of flight. Scientists in this field study how airplanes fly with the goal of building better, faster, and more efficient models.
- Astrobiology - Astrobiologists, in short, study life in the universe. Questions they want to solve include things like whether there is life elsewhere besides earth, what conditions are required for life to exist, and what are the extremes of the conditions that are necessary for life?
- Astrochemistry - Astrochemistry is the study of the chemical elements found in space. One thing astrochemists are working towards is finding carbon-based molecules that may hold the clues to how life started.
- Astrodynamics - Astrodynamics is the study of orbital trajectory, or rather, how things fly in space. These scientists solve problems like how to send a satellite into orbit and how to get it back to earth safely.
- Astronautics - This discipline is all about designing and sending space vehicles into space. While astrodynamics concerns itself with how to keep them in orbit, or predicting an orbit, astronautics is concerned with the actual design of the vehicles.
- Astrophysics - Astrophysics is a branch of space science that applies the laws of physics and chemistry to explain the birth, life, and death of stars, planets, galaxies, nebulae, and other objects in the universe. NASA notes that the goals of the astrophysicist are to discover how the universe works, learn how the universe began, and search for life on other planets.
- Forensic Astronomy - Forensic astronomers use astronomy to help solve crimes or to testify in civil cases. Anytime testimony may be needed about the position of the moon during an incident, or the position of other celestial objects, the forensic astronomer is called in.
- Space Archaeology - Space archaeology is a field that combines archaeology with astronomy. Scientists in this field focus on finding artifacts and generally look to preserve heritage through what they find in space. However, another interesting application of space archaeology is finding artifacts on earth using instruments from space.
- Space Medicine - Space medicine is concerned with how to keep astronauts healthy in space. One of the primary goals of space medicine is to counter effect the results of weightlessness in space on the astronaut's body.
Geologists study the earth - its materials, processes, and history. These scientists might look at climate change or work towards advancing technology that predicts earthquakes. They may also work to find the best place for a mine, how to find water underground, or similar technologies.
Geochemistry - Geochemists study chemical elements in rocks and minerals, as well as the movement of these elements into soil and water systems. They might use this data to help scientists understand how the earth is changing, help companies use natural resources, or even help oil companies know where to drill for oil.
- Geophysics - A geophysicist is someone who studies the Earth using gravity, magnetic, electrical, and seismic methods. They might help companies understand where to build large structures like dams, or they might spend time indoors making computer models. Their work is broad in scope and can include marine, seismic, and a variety of other sciences.
- Mineralogy - As you might guess, mineralogists study minerals. Since minerals occur naturally all over the earth, there are a wide variety of things that mineralogists can do, including working in a museum, working for universities in continuing research, and even working for private mining companies.
- Petrology - Petrology is the study of rocks. There are three main subdivisions of petrology, each corresponding with the type of rock that's being studied (igneous, sedimentary, metamorphic).
- Sedimentology - Sedimentologists study sediment (sand, mud, and dirt) and how it is deposited. Those who study sedimentology are especially concerned with finding petrol in sedimentary rocks or fossils. However, there are many other varied applications. It is related to stratigraphy, which studies rock layers and how they shift and move.
- Volcanology - Volcanology is the study of volcanoes. Volcanologists hope to understand why and how volcanoes erupt, how to predict eruptions, their impacts on the history of the Earth, and how they may affect humans and their environment.
Oceanography deals with the biological, physical, and chemical properties of the world's oceans. Oceanographers are concerned with both solving pragmatic problems (like how to clean up an oil spill or help an endangered species), as well as making new discoveries such as finding new species of marine life.
Limnology - Limnologists study inland water systems, such as lakes, rivers, reservoirs, streams, and wetlands. They are concerned with studying how those ecosystems interact with their drainage basins, and the discipline involves a lot of other areas of science, such as biology, chemistry, and geology.
- Marine Biology - Marine biology has a two-fold focus. These biologists study the ecology of marine organisms in the context of the characteristics of their ocean environment. In addition, some marine biologists focus on specific marine species.
- Marine Chemistry - Marine chemistry is the study of the chemical composition and chemical processes of the world's oceans.
- Marine Geology - Marine geologists study the geology of the ocean floor, paying special attention to plate tectonics and paleoceanography.
- Physical Oceanography - Physical oceanographers study the physical processes and conditions in the ocean. They look at things like waves, currents, eddies, gyres, and tides. They also study the transport of sand on and off beaches; coastal erosion; and the interactions of the atmosphere and the ocean.
Physicists study energy, matter, and their interactions.
Acoustics - Acoustics is the study of the mechanical waves in various states of matter. In other words, it is the study of sound and has applications not only in music and architecture but also for things like SONAR, ultrasound for medical imaging, and even noise control.
- Aerodynamics - Aerodynamics is the study of the motion of air.
- Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics (AMO) - AMO is the study of how matter and light interact.
- Classical Physics - Classical physics is physics that predates the advent of quantum mechanics. It is largely based on Newton's laws of motion.
- Cryogenics - Cryogenics is the study of very low temperatures and the behavior of materials at those temperatures. In large part, research is focused on how to preserve living organisms.
- Dynamics - Dynamics is the study of the causes of motion and changes in motion.
- Electromagnetism - Electromagnetism is the branch of science that focuses on forces that occur between electrically charged particles. In depth, scientists in this field study the relationship between electricity and magnetism.
- Mechanics - Mechanics is the branch of physics concerned with the behavior of physical bodies when subjected to forces or displacements, and the subsequent effects of the bodies on their environment.
- Thermodynamics - Thermodynamics is the study of the relationships between heat and mechanical energy.
- Nuclear Physics - This branch of science is aimed at understanding quarks and gluons. In short, nuclear physicists study the building blocks and interactions of atomic nuclei.
- Optics - Optics is a branch of physics that studies the behavior and properties of light and how it interacts with matter.
- Quantum Physics - Quantum physics is the branch of physics concerned with movement on the atomic and subatomic level.
In brief, chemistry is the study of matter, its properties, and how they interact with other substances or energy.
Analytical Chemistry - Analytical chemistry is the analysis of material samples to gain an understanding of their chemical composition and structure.
- Calorimetry - This is the study of heat changes in physical and chemical processes.
- Inorganic Chemistry - Inorganic chemistry is the study of the properties and reactions of inorganic compounds. The distinction between organic and inorganic disciplines is not absolute, and there is much overlap, most importantly in the sub-discipline of organometallic chemistry.
- Organic Chemistry - Organic chemistry is the study of the structure, properties, composition, mechanisms, and reactions of organic compounds. An organic compound is defined as any compound based on a carbon skeleton.
- Organometallic Chemistry - Organometallic chemistry looks at compounds containing bonds between carbon and a metal.
- Polymer Chemistry - Polymer chemistry is a multidisciplinary science that deals with the chemical synthesis and chemical properties of polymers or macromolecules.
- Spectroscopy - Spectroscopy is the study of the interaction between matter and radiated energy. It pertains to the dispersion of an object's light into its component colors.
- Thermochemistry -The branch of chemistry that studies the relation between chemical action and the amount of heat absorbed or generated.
As the name implies, Earth science is the study of Earth and neighboring bodies.
Biogeochemistry - Biogeochemistry explores the physical, chemical, biological, and geological processes and reactions that govern the composition of and changes to the natural environment.
- Climatology - Climatology is the study of the earth's climate. It is primarily concerned with understanding the impacts of climate change. Climatologists are also concerned with how to mitigate those effects.
- Glaciology - Glaciology is the study of glaciers.
- Hydrology - Hydrologists focus on studying the earth's water systems. They try to solve problems related to how much water people have, the quality of the water they have and the availability of said water.
- Meteorology - Meteorology is the study of the Earth's atmosphere and its effect on our weather.
- Pedology - Pedology is the scientific study of soil.
Many Kinds of Science
In addition to physical and life, there are also social sciences and applied sciences. Applied sciences include things like engineering and biotechnology. They are brand new sciences, but have practical applications to everyday life. Social sciences are the scientific application to the study of people and include disciplines like archaeology, psychology, and sociology.