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Published in the 16-30 June 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Education & careers

Careers in Biotechnology

By Ameen-E-Mudassar

The Milli Gazette Online 

Biotechnology is the science for this century. Its one of the most exciting fields today, motivating humans towards manipulation of organisms. From origins in baking & agriculture, today with the advancement in genetic engineering, its one of the most revolutionary and beneficial scientific advances. In 1997, the cloning of Dolly gave a world wide appraisal for Biotech, paving the way for more research – one of them being human cloning. 

If IT was the buzzword in the mid and late 90’s, Biotechnology (BT) is today’s most sought career. The biotechnology industry continues to flourish nationwide. Not only are the total number of biotechnology companies increasing, but employment in the biotechnology field continues to grow as well. Being a young science, with limitless possibilities, it has made the best of the brains from the high school and college to take up challenge of "manipulating molecules and genes".

What is Biotechnology?
Biotechnology is utilizing the sciences of biology, chemistry, physics, engineering, computers, and information technology to develop tools and products that hold great promise and concern. 

It’s about various technologies being applied to living cells/organisms. Hence these techniques of biochemistry, microbiology, genetics and chemical engineering make a biotechnologist explore nature and draw the best benefits. 

Nature of work
Many have a perception that a biotechnologist will be like a scientist in a white coat, make random tests, inventions, research, etc… But that’s not what actually today’s biotechnologists are doing. There are various sectors, each catering to different level of expertise, knowledge, commitment and fulfillment. A Biotechnologist can be in sales and marketing or research and development or production or quality control and assurance or teaching. 

Biotechnology in India
Being a destination for business at low investment and work by highly efficient brains, many MNC’s have established their centers in India. Not to forget is also the active participation of the Government in promoting BT. 

Today Biotechnology is concentrated in three major sectors - health and medicine, agriculture and animal husbandry and industry. We have Vital Mallya Scientific Research Foundation, Spic Science Foundation which focus on research and advancement in biotech. Many companies like Cadilla, Wipro Biomed, Lupin Laboratories and Ranbaxy have entered into biotech. We have the state government supported projects, one such being the Biotech Park in Kerala. Gene banks have been set up by government organizations. We have government bodies like National Facility for Plant Tissue Repository and the National Bureau of Plant and Genetic Resources, New Delhi which have initiated giant research programs.

All these developments have led to many laboratories coming up both in the public and private sector and creating more opportunities for today’s youth. The motivation behind this endeavor is the Dept of Biotechnology under the Ministry of Science and Technology. 

Branches of Biotechnology
Molecular Biologist
Functions in the area of genetic engineering. Genetic engineering is the application of knowledge obtained from genetics to alter the reproduction and hereditary processes of organisms. It involves cloning, in-vitro fertilization, species hybridization or direct manipulation of the genetic material itself by the recombinant DNA technique.

Plant Tissue Culture Specialist
Functions in the area of in-vitro regeneration and propagation of plantlets. A Tissue Culture specialist may also be involved in plant germplasm conservation. 

Plant Geneticist
Works to improve plants by developing new cultivars (horticultural varieties). This area of study involves hybridization, which is the crossing of two different breeds to produce a strain that combine the best aspects of both parents, but is usually more vigorous and disease resistant.
The work is generally carried out in the laboratories, as it is a scientific research oriented field. 

There are various courses offered by universities, widely being the PG courses since Biotechnology is taken up by many candidates after graduation. 
Under Graduate Courses

B.Sc.: Biotechnology / Bio physics / Microbiology / Biochemistry.
Duration : 3 years.

Postgraduate Courses 
M.Sc.: Biotechnology/ Biochemistry/ Bio physics/ Microbiology/ Marine Biotechnology / Agricultural Biotechnology

M.Tech : Biotechnology/ Bio-engineering / Biomedical Engineering / Biotechnology.

Integrated Course
A 5 year Integrated M.Tech in Biotechnology is offered by IIT’s after +12.

For BSc Courses: Pass in +12 ( with atleast 50% ) in PCM.

For MSc Courses: Bachelor’s degree under 10+2+3 pattern of education in Physical, Biological, Agricltural, Veterinary, Fishery Sciences, Pharmacy, Engineering, Technology or Medicine (MBBS) with at least 55% marks. 

For M Sc (Agriculture) Biotechnology/M V Sc Animal Biotechnology : Bachelor's degree in agriculture, horticulture, forestry, fishery, Veterinary Sciences or Agricultural Engineering.

For M Tech Biotechnology: B.Tech degree - minimum 60% marks or equivalent in chemical Engineering, Biochemical Engineering, Industrial Biotech (BE), Leather technology, Pharmaceutical Technology, Food Technology, B. Pharma, and Dairy Technology or Master's Botany, Zoology Bio-chemistry, Microbiology, Genetics, Physiology, Pharmacology and Biophysics. 

All India Biotechnology Entrance Examination
Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi conducts the Combined Entrance examination for admission to M.Sc./M.Sc.(Agri.)/M.V.Sc.(Animal) Biotech/M.Tech. Biotechnology in association with other universities in India. Candidates who have done their B.Sc in physical, biological, agricultural, veterinary and fishery sciences, pharmacy, engineering, technology or medicine can take up this examination. 

Scholarship / Fellowship 
Candidates selected for admission in participating Universities through the All India Combined Entrance Examination are eligible for scholarship. The scholarships are as follows - M.Sc. Biotechnology Rs. 400, M.Sc. (Agri.) Biotechnology Rs. 800, M.Tech Biotechnology Rs. 1800.

Education Abroad
Biotechnology is at the forefront of research in developed countries and a number of institutes offer courses, providing manpower to research laboratories and biotechnology companies which have multiplied in recent times. There are also Post doctoral Programs. The Ministry of Science and Technology awards the Biotechnology Overseas Associate ships for advanced research in molecular biology, microbial genetics, gene therapy, virology, tissue culture and so on.

Premier Institutes

  1. Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore

  2. Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi

  3. Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Izatnagar, UP.

  4. GB Pant University of Agriculture and Technology, Pant Nagar, UP

  5. National Centre for Plant Genome Research, JNU, New Delhi 

  6. National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi

  7. National Dairy Research Institute, Bangalore

  8. Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

  9. All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi

  10.  Anna University, Chennai

  11. Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani

  12. and many more…….

Personality requirements

  1. A liking towards biological science and its allied branches is a must. 

  2. Good research skills and ability to work long hours.

  3. Creativity and innovative skills which can redefine research.

  4. Patience with perseverance since, several years of hardwork is necessary for a big achievement. 

  5. Self Satisfaction, Self Confidence and Self reliance are a must. You can expect criticism, mockery and failures. But still you must stick on to your job. 

  6. Good logical and analytical skills.

  7. Good Presentation and Communication – Written and verbal skills.

Find out these !
If you like reading scientific books and journals;
If you are fascinated by the cells, molecules, tissues;
If you have the aspiration of becoming "The scientist" of the 21st century;
If you can work with patience for more than 2 or 3 or even longer days just on 1 experiment;
If you can be a self critic, self motivator and self confidence personality during failures;
If you believe insha Allah you can and you will achieve great success in your research and many more; 
Then, a career in Biotechnology awaits you!

The author is a Career Counsellor, working with M.S.W - Career Guidance and Information, Bangalore

Any queries? 
Kindly send your career queries to
MSW-Career Guidance and Information Center,
# 214, United School Building, Ilyasnagar, J.P. Nagar Post, Bangalore – 560078 Email:

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