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In speciality enzymes used by the brewing, detergent, pharmaceutical industries, and even in the rediscovery of an ancient technology, aquaculture - the practice of raising fish or prawn crops in a confined area.
From orchids and bananas to spices and tomatoes, biotechnology helps to produce quicker and better crops. Plantation heavyweight Harrisons Malayalam Limited which is a member of the RPG group of companies, is planning to spend Rs 20 crore over the next three years to develop a biotech division in Bangalore. There's more on the bandwagon: Hindustan Lever Limited, the UB Group, and the Godrej group, which is backing Hyderabad-based Unicorn Biotech's Rs 5-crore foray into developing new varieties of seeds, vegetables and fruit.
Unlike in the West, where a major chunk of biotech has much to do with medicinal applications, medical players in India are few and far between.
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For example, UB's Vittal Mallya Scientific Research Foundation is working on a yeast-based process to purify insulin, a drug that is used to contain diabetes, and plans to patent it abroad.
The National Institute of Immunology in Delhi has developed diagnostic kits for the medical profession, However, most entrepreneurs prefer to keep away, because developing anything for medical application is a multi-million dollar exercise, and it's easier and relatively cheaper to simply import the technology or to set up an operation with multinational money - the way Bangalore-based Astra Research Centre has done, in collaboration with Swedish pharmaceuticals giant AB Astra, for developing malaria detection kits.
Vishwanath of Monozyme India Limited, a Hyderabad-based company which specialises in the production of enzymes and diagnostic kits. Prakash goes on to add: As an undergraduate student in a field as diverse and vast as biotechnology, it is important that you start preparing for your future career in biotechnology right from the beginning of your undergraduate studies. Since this is a highly research oriented field, extra attention must be paid to internships and projects as these help build your research skills.
Where should I do my internships and projects during my undergraduate studies in Biotechnology? Choose internships based on your future goals and career plans. On the other hand, if you are interested in finding a job after completion of your undergraduate studies, then try bagging internships in pharmaceutical and biotech companies. The right internship will advance your career in biotechnology a great deal.
Universities and research institutes: Internships in universities and research institutions are anywhere from 3 months to a year long. Some of these internships are also called fellowships and you will be expected to work under a professor and contribute towards their research work. Many universities in the United States, Canada, Singapore and Australia routinely hire Indian students for internships from reputed universities in India.
Students who are keen to finding jobs in industries or companies straight after their engineering degree should try finding internships in pharmaceutical or biotech companies. Bangalore and Hyderabad are home to a lot of biotech and pharma companies and therefore a great place to try for internships.
If you are unable to find an internship anywhere, the least you can do is try your luck through volunteering. Email professors in universities and research institutions about volunteer positions in their labs. You can also work with a professor from your university as well.
If you are interested in doing your MBA straight after your undergraduate studies, then try working in healthcare consulting companies or even mainstream banking, finance and consulting companies that will give you good exposure to the business and management side of things. For more details on how to maximize your undergraduate studies for a sparkling academic profile, please read this article. For more details on the various companies and research institutions that hire biotech students for internships and projects, please refer to question 4 in this page.
What is it that I need to know before I start establishing a career in biotechnology?
Following is a set of facts about this field that every biotech student must be aware of. They are as follows Biotechnology is based on the fundamentals of the basic sciences - biology, mathematics, physics and chemistry.
Therefore, you have to be good in these fields in order to excel in biotechnology and allied areas.
If you are planning to specialize in the biological sciences aspect of biotechnology such as genetic engineering or molecular biology, then be prepared to do a LOT of intensive reading. Also, biological experiments require a lot of patience and perseverance as they are time and labor intensive.
If you are planning to specialize in the engineering aspect of biotechnology such as bioprocess engineering or chemical engineering, then be prepared to do a lot of engineering work related to mathematics and physics. Career options in biotechnology is limited in India. The number of job openings for biotechnology in India is not as high as the software and IT industry. The same applies for the pay packages as well, specifically in research institutions.
This is something that you must be very aware of before taking this course.
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There are very few core companies in India and most of them go only to prestigious institutions such as the IITs, DU for campus placements. If your college is not nationally reputed, then chances of any core companies coming for placements sessions will be next to nil. For this purpose, many students go abroad for their higher studies as the opportunities and prospects are tremendous in developed nations. In the United States, very few universities offer a course titled as biotechnology.
If you are ambitious and want to carve a niche career for yourself in biotechnology, then it is imperative that you get a PhD. Beyond that, they need a PhD to start their own research lab or lead a team of researchers, be it in industry or in universities and research institutions.
To know more about this field, please read this interview. Can you suggest added qualifications for jobs and further studies that will help me develop an edge over other applicants?
Taking advanced courses from Coursera, EdX and Udacity will help you develop knowledge and enhance your learning in different areas of biotechnology. These courses come with assignments, quizzes and projects that are equal to the american education standards and by working on the assignments and homework diligently, you will end up learning a lot in the process. If you are interested in specializing in areas such as cell biology, molecular biology, genetics etc then practice, practice and practice.
These kind of fields involve experiments that are prone to a lot of errors and to get good results, you must practice doing the techniques over and again to perfect them. So, try using your college lab during weekends or after classes to practise your experiments in order to gain expertise in various scientific techniques.
Learn how to read research papers and journals and try implementing their experiments and methods in your project.
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This will help you become accustomed to how research is carried out and will help immensely during your higher studies. Work diligently on your projects and make sure you get good results out of them. If you are unable to get an internship or fellowship anywhere, then try working with professors in your undergraduate university.
You can do an independent study with them for one full semester on a particular topic. Many companies offer these certificate courses where they train students in particular molecular biology techniques or genetic engineering techniques for about weeks for a certain sum of money. While there is nothing wrong with these type of certificate courses, 3 weeks is not enough for you to master certain biological techniques.
You will only be given an overview of the technique and a few practice sessions. For this reason alone, it is very important that you do projects in a real lab under a researcher or supervisor as this will give you the exposure and practice required to master biological experiments.
For more information on how to gain an edge over other applicants, please read this interview. What is the scope of Biotechnology in today's world? What options do I have upon completion of my undergraduate studies in Biotechnology?
Unlike software and IT industry, biotech sector in India does not have plenty of job openings due to which the career options are limited. Also, India is still in the developmental stage in terms of research and development, innovations and breakthroughs in this field.
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If you take a look at the placement statistics of many universities, you will find very few core biotechnology companies coming for placement sessions. If your college is not nationally reputed, then forget seeing any core company for placements. However, presently things are looking up and there is a lot of momentum happening in this space with more government funding being allocated to biotech, specifically in areas such as biomedical and biological sciences.
More labs and national research institutes are being set up and a lot of skilled biologists and biotechnologists trained abroad are coming back to establish their own research labs in India.