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Breathing new life into biology

education Updated: Jun 09, 2010 09:56 IST
Neera Bhalla Sarin
Neera Bhalla Sarin
Hindustan Times
hthorizons

At a time when part of the world has achieved unprecedented economic prosperity, to a large extent due to advances in the sciences and their applications, we face a complex combination of daunting challenges: the deep poverty amid plenty, the widening economic and educational inequality within and between nations and overexploitation of limited biosphere resources. It is today more clear than ever before that the worldwide mobilisation of efforts is urgently needed in order to make this world liveable for all, now and in the future.

How can unexpected human suffering and uncontrolled environmental degradation be avoided? How can modern science be mobilised to address these situations?

This will have to be done by targeting and exploiting our science resources – primarily the human talent, much better. Science-based development is not easy to achieve. It cannot be imported as a package, but must always be based on in-house skilled manpower, including scientists, engineers, medical staff, technicians, teachers and counsellors.

Research areas are continuously changing according to scientific and social development. Present trends are in the direction of integration of traditional scientific disciplines and real life applications of research. At the moment, for example, new applications of research show great promise for increased productivity in fields like agriculture, forestry, sericulture, horticulture and related industry (the agro-industrial complex), and of course the discovery and delivery of new drugs, promise cues for curing serious diseases

Basic research plays a special role; not only does it provide a foundation for applications, it may also in itself be considered applied when practised at universities where it provides an essential background for student learning in both basic and applied fields. Hence, basic and applied researches go hand in hand; both are needed to provide a solid science foundation for development. Furthermore, recent technology development has in several cases been based directly on basic research outcomes, for example in connection with molecular biophysics applications, systems biology and bioinformatics, nanotechnology, materials science and several others "molecular technologies". Since competitive technologies today tend to be research based, the needed manpower must be trained in research.

Biology today is hardly recognisable as the subject that biologists knew and taught till two decades age. A lot of progress has taken place in biology along with technical advancement. Sophisticated tools and techniques and instrumentation are now available which help in solving the most exciting problems in the areas of modern biology. These includes nanotechnology, stem cell biology, molecular biology and recombinant DNA technology, proteomics, genomics, metabolomics, bioinformatics and genetic engineering, to name a few. This is why, bright students, who have an innovative mind, want to satisfy their quest for knowledge and also make a good living by choosing science as a career option. Apart from regular study programmes being offered in botany, zoology and home science at the undergraduate level, there are courses in biosciences, anthropology, microbiology, life sciences, food technology, sericulture, biochemistry and biotechnology in several colleges and universities.

A Bachelor's degree in any of the areas in biological sciences will open up a plethora of options for the future, as mentioned below:
Teaching: a) TGT: This can be taken up at high school level after doing BEd
PGT: A Master’s degree is required for teaching up to class XII in schools.
College teaching: A PhD degree is almost a must
Teaching in universities: Post-doctoral research experience required.

Research: This can be pursued after a Master’s degree in any field. The importance of research has already been emphasised. Improved incentives and facilities are available in many universities and institutions which match those being provided in many foreign universities. At some places, the facilities are even better under one roof in our country. A lot of government support through the University Grants Commission, Departments of Science and Technology and Biotechnology and Environmental Sciences, Indian Council of Agricultural Research, Indian Council of Medical Research, and Council of Scientific and

Industrial Research has helped in the advancement of high quality research in our country. Support from these organisations has helped to retain the talent within the country and curtail brain drain. Since a renewed interest in science as a vehicle for development has appeared in the international community, talented scientists are being identified and nurtured.

Technicians: Undergraduate degree is required
Technicians form an important backbone of all research institutions, universities and industry. Sri Venketeswara College at New Delhi offers a Postgraduate Diploma in Biochem. Techniques. This enables the students to go for jobs in universities/ institutions/ industry.Marketing: It is open for graduates, postgraduates and PhDs. The highest degree can lead to a CEO's position in good companies at a later stage of your career.

Counsellors: Science graduates and postgraduates can go into the area of counselling students in schools.

MBA: This is considered very prestigious and also trendy these days. Science graduates can go into regular MBA programmes. There is also MBA in biotechnology offered by the University of Pune (PUMBA).

Bureaucrats and government officers: Many science graduates aspiring to become bureaucrats take the civil services examination. There are others who go into Agricultural Research Services or find placement in government offices like in the ministries for science and technology, environment, forestry, horticulture, and biotechnology, University Grants Commission, NCERT, AICTE, ICMR, ICAR etc.

NGOs: Graduates and postgraduates in biological sciences can also join non-government organisations.

Media: Graduates or postgraduates, who have a flair for writing, can pursue a career in science writing. It could mean writing books, or articles for newspapers and magazines.

Business: Graduates, postgraduates as well as PhDs can set up businesses, utilising their expertise in tissue culture, sericulture, molecular biology and biochemistry.

They can also become event managers for organising national and international conferences.

Since there are so many fields open to biological sciences graduates, postgraduates and PhDs, many bright students with innovative mind and a zeal to work hard are encouraged to take it up as a career option.

Institutes at a glance
Many campus and non-campus colleges offer the traditional courses in botany and zoology. Besides this, there is a list of specialized courses offered by specific colleges as listed below:

BSc (Hons) Anthropology

. Hans Raj

BSc (Hons) Biochemistry
. Daulat Ram
. Deshbandhu
. Institute of Home Economics
. Shivaji
. Sri Venkateswara

BSc (Hons) Biomedical Sciences
. Acharya Narendra Dev
. Bhaskaracharya College of Applied Sciences
. Jamia Millia Islamia

BSc (Hons) Microbiology
. Gargi
. Institute of Home Economics
. Ram Lal Anand
. Swami Sharaddhanand
. Bhaskaracharya College of Applied Sciences

The author is professor of plant development biology and transformations, School of Life Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University

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