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Nurturing future scientists

M. Vandhana
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Strategically located, the IISERs are promoting high-quality science education and research, all aroundthe country.

Tryst with science:Students at IISER, Thiruvananthapuram.Photo: S. Mahinsha
Tryst with science:Students at IISER, Thiruvananthapuram.Photo: S. Mahinsha

With a strength of 450 undergraduate students and 100 PhD students, the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) at Thiruvananthapuram is nurturing future champions of basic science research. Established in 2008, IISER, Thiruvananthapuram, also has 50 students in the integrated MS-PhD programme.

“Strategically located in Kolkata, Pune, Mohali, Thiruvananthapuram and Bhopal, the IISERs are promoting high-quality science education and research in all parts of India,” says Professor V.Ramakrishnan, Director of IISER, Thiruvananthapuram.

Underlining the need for a better perception of the IISERs, Mr. Ramakrishnan spoke to The Hindu in detail about the admission process, courses offered in IISERs and career opportunities.

“All IISERs offer five-year integrated BS-MS dual degree programmes in basic sciences, which students can join after Class XII. Besides PhD programmes in basic and applied sciences, there is also an integrated PhD programme and a post doctoral fellowship programme,” he says.

Admission to the BS-MS dual degree programme is a centralised process with three channels of admissions. “After Class XII examination, students with Kishore Vaigyanik ProtsahanYojana (KVPY) fellowships in Class XI or XII can apply for admission,” Mr. Ramakrishnan says.

Another channel is through the IIT Joint Entrance Examination, and all students eligible for admission to the IITs with ranks in the main merit list are also eligible for admission to the IISERs. The third channel of admission is through a direct aptitude test conducted by the five IISERs. Applications seeking admission under this category must meet the criteria of minimum percentage cut off marks for eligibility. Admission to the PhD programme is based on national level tests like CSIR/UGC-JRF, GATE, JEST, NBHM etc. “Admission to the PhD and MS-PhD programmes are run independently by each IISER,” he adds. After the qualifying test, the candidates are shortlisted based on an extensive and thorough interview process, according to Mr. Ramakrishnan.

Career opportunities

Speaking about the career opportunities, he says that a majority of students graduating from the IISERs have opted to take up higher studies, for example, PhD in leading research institutions and abroad. “IISER students have gained admission to almost all the top universities around the world bringing the institutions to worldwide notice in a short time. A good number of students have also joined industries ranging from IT to pharmaceuticals, petrochemicals and paints,” he says.

“The training in basic sciences with unprecedented exposure to advanced analytical techniques and methods that the students receive at the IISERs stand them in good stead for whichever career they may choose,” he adds.

He further adds that awareness and interest in IISERs in many cases is concentrated in small pockets and urban centres in many states.“The fact that the institutes are relatively new is the main and obvious reason for the lack of wide awareness about the existence of IISERs among the general public. There is also the widespread point of view that the viable career options after doing an undergraduate course in basic sciences are limited. So even in places where there is awareness about IISERs there is some reluctance to view them as a potential option after completing Class XII,” Mr. Ramakrishnan says.

The first two years of the five-year BS-MS programme in IISERs are interdisciplinary in nature, giving students a comprehensive and broad overview of Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics and Physics. “After two more years of coursework in the subject of their choice with possible courses in a minor subject, each student rounds off his or her training with a year-long research project, working closely with the researchers in the institute and getting valuable exposure to the methods of modern science,” he says.

Around 150 students are expected to join IISER, Thiruvananthapuram, in August this year for undergraduate courses.


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