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Updated: February 13, 2012 17:34 IST

Q&A: Biotechnology

Gopakumar Karakonam
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Biotechnology

I am doing my B.Sc. course in biotechnology. Kindly let me know about the higher study options and study facilities in the discipline or related subjects.

SREELAKSHMI MOHAN, E-MAIL

Biotechnology graduates have several higher study options — biotechnology itself and then bioinformatics, management, genetics, wildlife biology and conservation, and so on.

If you have mathematical skills, opt for biotechnology. Knowledge of computer science, apart from mathematics, is required for bioinformatics. Consider doing the M.Sc. and Ph.D. programmes in biotechnology, a promising multidisciplinary area. It encompasses not only biology and engineering but also subjects such as chemistry, physics, and mathematics.

Some of the fast-growing areas in biotechnology are recombinant DNA technology; microbial biotechnology; tissue culture technology and cell biology; immunotechnology; and protein engineering. Whether in fighting diseases, developing new seeds or tackling environmental pollution, the use and applications of biotechnology are basically research-oriented. Major application areas of biotechnology are in the fields of health care, pharmaceuticals or medicine, agriculture and environment, and animal husbandry.

Several university departments offer M.Sc. biotechnology programmes. After completing the M.Sc. course, try to join the M.Tech. biotechnology course by clearing the annual combined biotechnology entrance examination conducted by Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, for admission to M.Sc. biotechnology and agricultural biotechnology courses and the M.V.Sc. biotechnology and the M.Tech. biotechnology programmes at several participating universities and institutes. In Kerala, Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram will be the test centres (www.jnu.ac.in).

Those who take an M.Sc. degree with at least 55 per cent marks in biotechnology should consider going for higher studies or research programmes leading to a Ph.D. after clearing the National Eligibility Test (NET) for Junior Research Fellowship and lectureship. Those who clear this test or take a Ph.D. may opt for a teaching career in universities or colleges.

Bioinformatics

Bioinformatics, an emerging area, is a fusion of physical sciences, life sciences, and information science or technology. Computational modelling and analysis is now an integral part of biological discovery. Bioinformatics combines the tools and technologies of mathematics, computer science, and biology to understand the biological significance of data.

Some of the main areas of bioinformatics are data mining and analysis for genome projects, protein-structure predictions, systems biology, and developing computer database and algorithms for biological research. Those who have an aptitude for biology and basic knowledge of mathematics, chemistry, and computer science, along with an analytical mind and scientific aptitude, can do higher-level bioinformatics programmes.

Several universities and colleges offer the M.Sc. bioinformatics course. Normally, graduates in science and bioscience are eligible for admission.

In Kerala, a few colleges conduct the course. Among them is the Mar Athanasios College for Advanced Studies, Thiruvalla – 689 101, affiliated to Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam. Entry qualification here is a degree in biochemistry, biophysics, zoology, biotechnology, microbiology, chemistry, computer science, computer applications, electronics, environmental science, mathematics, physics or statistics with minimum 55 per cent marks in aggregate.

Selection is based on merit in the qualifying examination, an entrance test, and an interview (www.macfast.ac.in).

The Department of Botany of Union Christian College, Aluva – 683 102, affiliated to Mahatma Gandhi University, conducts the M.Sc. bioinformatics course on a self-financing basis. The two-year, four-semester course has 20 seats. Science graduates are eligible for admission. The course combines mathematical, statistical and computing methodologies to analyse and manage biological information. The syllabus covers general biochemistry, fundamentals of genetics, introduction to bioinformatics and biocomputing, enzymology, general microbiology, bioinformatics software and programming, metabolism and bioenergetics, systematic bacteriology and virology, molecular genetics, biological databases and their management, immunology, genetic engineering, computational biology, molecular modelling, computer-aided drug design, and practical classes.

Mar Athanasius College, Kothamangalam, affiliated to Mahatma Gandhi University, too offers the M.Sc. course in the self-financing mode. Selection is based on merit in the qualifying examination, an entrance test, and an interview.

Under the University of Calicut, the SAFI Institute of Advanced Studies, Vazhayur, Malappuram, conducts the M.Sc. course in bioinformatics. Those having a B.Sc. degree with at least 55 per cent marks in bioinformatics, biotechnology, biochemistry, microbiology, botany, zoology, medical laboratory technology, chemistry, life sciences, or agriculture, a B.V.Sc.&AH degree, or a B.Pharm. degree are eligible for admission. There are 12 seats. Selection is based on an entrance test conducted by the university (www.universityofcalicut. info).

The Amrita School of Applied Sciences under Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham at Clappana in Kollam offers the course.

The following universities and colleges outside Kerala offer the programme.

Pondicherry University, Puducherry (www.pondiuniv.org).

Bharathidasan University, Tiruchirapalli – 620 024 (www.bdu.ac.in).

University of Pune, Pune (www.unipune.ernet.in).

Bharathiar University, Coimbatore (www.b-u.ac.in).

CMS College of Science and Commerce, Coimbatore (www.cmscbc.com).

Institute of Bioinformatics and Applied Biotechnology, Bangalore

(www.ibab.ac.in).

Some universities and institutes offer postgraduate diploma courses in bioinformatics.

Genetics

It is another option which comes under the broad area of biotechnology. The biotech industry relies on the discipline of genetics to produce pharmaceutical products such as insulin and medicines.

In the medical field, genetics focusses on diseases. It strives to understand the molecular basis of disease and their cure. Genetics tests also help in crime investigations by identifying the culprits. Very few universities in India offer the M.Sc. course in genetics. Graduates in biological sciences, life sciences or biotechnology and related courses can join it.

Some of the universities that conduct the course.

University of Delhi, South Campus, New Delhi – 21

Osmania University, Hyderabad – 500 007.

Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana – 141 004.

Rajendra Agricultural University, Samastipur – 848 125.

Chowdhary Charan Singh Haryana Agricultural University, Hissar – 123 004.

Some universities and institutes offer related courses.

Department of Botany, University of Kerala, Karyavattom, Thiruvananthapuram – 695 581: M.Sc. genetics and plant breeding.

School of Basic Medical Science, University of Madras, Chennai – 600 005: M.Sc. biomedical genetics.

Madurai Kamaraj University, Palkalai Nagar, Madurai – 625 02: M.Sc. plant genetics engineering and M.Sc. microbial gene technology.

Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi – 221 005: M.Sc. molecular and human genetics.

Sri Ramachandra Medical College and Research Institute, Porur, Chennai – 600 116: M.Sc. human genetics.

The National Centre for Biological Science, Bangalore: M.Sc. in wildlife biology and conservation. Graduates in any discipline with at least 50 per cent marks are eligible for admission. Selection is based on an entrance test and an interview (www.ncbs.res.in).

The lists of colleges and courses are indicative and details of similar courses at various universities can be collected from the University Handbook published by the Association of Indian Universities, New Delhi, which is available for reference at the university employment information and guidance bureaux under the universities in Kerala.

Keywords: biotechnology

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