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Life particle

education Updated: Mar 26, 2013 17:47 IST


The lowdown

Microbiology is the study of micro-organisms present in the environment. Earlier, it was a dormant field but recent advances in molecular biology (accompanied with new generation sequencing technologies) have brought about a revolution in this discipline. Today, microbiology has become one of the fastest growing areas of science. It has many areas of specialisation and is a booming sector with a lot of opportunities. A microbiologist tries to understand and find out what they can do to and for human beings, respectively. He/she can fit into any field ranging from biopharmaceuticals and medicines, to food and beverages, to textiles and leather, to the environment and crop health. Many microbiologists work in universities, where they teach and carry out research. While some are employed in private research institutions, foundations, health care centres and hospitals, others are in government agencies such as the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Department of Science and Technology and Department of Biotechnology

An average day of a microbiologist can be as follows:
10.30am: Plan lab experiments for the day and discuss them with the group head
11am: Arrange all lab equipment and other requirements for the experiment
11.15am: Start the experiments
1.30pm: Research on the internet
3.45pm: Back to the laboratory
5.30pm: Analyse result and record data in the office notebook. Also fill out timesheet on the intranet
6pm: Wrap up for the day

The payoff
The starting salary for a graduate/postgraduate can be anywhere between Rs. 15,000 and Rs. 20,000 per month. However, a microbiologist with a good background of molecular biology and bioinformatics may fetch Rs. 10 lakh to Rs. 15 lakh a year or even more

* Aptitude/fascination for microbes; interest in the world of microbes and what they can do for humans
* Strong analytical and observation skills
* Inclination for lab work
* Willingness to work long hours
* A good background of computers

Getting there
Study science in Class 11 and Class 12. Enrol for a bachelor’s degree in microbiology or any discipline of biological sciences. Follow it up with an MSc in microbiology. For students interested in research and enhanced career prospects, PhD is a good option. Many students prefer to do a post doc in this field and pursue research and teach at the same time. A microbiologist can enter into any discipline of biological sciences

Institutes and URLs
* University of Delhi
* University of Pune
* Panjab University, Chandigarh
* Govind Ballabh Pant University of Agriculture and Technology, Pantnagar
* Institute of Microbial Technology, Chandigarh
* University of Mumbai
* Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsa
* Annamalai University, Chidambaram

Pros and cons
* You produce value for society — applications can improve quality of human (and animal) life as well as the environment
* Relatively new discipline
* Role of microbiologists is now being appreciated in India
* Smaller student intake for MSc programmes and but more jobs relatively

There is immense scope in this field. Studying microbiology and being passionate about it will indeed ensure a bright career. A placement in a good company with a good salary is certain -- Rup Lal, professor, department of zoology, University of Delhi