much of my work so far has been computer-based, which means that I get information about DNA and protein sequences in different organisms and then compare them to each other to see how differences between them have evolved over time. Many sequences are publicly available – you can just go online and download them! (here for example: http://genome.ucsc.edu/)
That means I don’t really have to grow any cells myself and can use data from bacteria, flies, human,…
I like learning new things (and particularly learning about odd organisms) so I’ve looked at proteins from all kinds of critters (including weird bacteria that grow at 80ºC-hot springs at the bottom of the Atlantic…)
How is this useful? Hmm… I don’t know. It’s not something I often think about, to be honest. I think discovering new things in the world around you is rewarding in itself – and many future innovations in combating disease etc. will come from unexpected angles that we haven’t explored before.