|Prof VS Rao, President, NIIT University|
It is indeed time for the country to move beyond the obvious, sought-after and thus-far, most advocated path of pursuing a career only in medicine or dental college and fast realise that the pot of gold does not glimmer only at the end of the MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) rainbow!
The numbers speak for themselves, really. A whopping 11.5 lakh aspirants registered for the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET), held in 2017. Last year, NEET was conducted in two phases and the total number of candidates stood at 7.5 lakh. At the same time, the number of seats in medical and dental institutes across the country stands at a mere 56,000. Given that 2017 saw a huge increase in the number of candidates appearing for NEET, securing admission in a medical or dental college will, without a doubt, only become tougher in the years ahead. What becomes of those candidates that do not make the cut? How are they to make peace with the fact that they have missed their chance at a coveted medical or dental seat?
The answer is simple, actually. It is not the end of the world and neither does it mean that their dream can never be fulfilled. Instead of being disheartened, it is time to look ahead and realise that there are a whole host of opportunities available, apart from medical and dental education. Besides a professional course in Allied Health services, pursuing specialisations like microbiology, botany and biotechnology can also open up lucrative alternatives. As a matter of fact, until very recently, it was unfathomable for a biology student to even think of a career in areas like technology and engineering. However, NIIT University (NU), has changed the game and has gone so far as to introduce an integrated Master’s Programme for biology students that have been clubbed with computer science. With more and more start-ups setting base in India, the demand for knowledge in both biology and computers together is expected to rise. And this is the reason behind NU’s focus on a 4-year Integrated Masters Programme in Computer Science along with the BTech Biotechnology programme.
At NU, the Biotechnology programme is curated to enable students to develop a robust theoretical knowledge base, while at the same time, keeping in mind, the business needs of the biotech sector in the country. Students are competent in biotechnology through training in the areas of Microbiology, Biological Chemistry, Analytical Techniques, Molecular Biology and Bioinformatics. The Biotechnology course in NU, is unique in that it integrates theoretical knowledge with hands-on practical experience. The four year course focuses on Molecular Genetics, Industrial Biotechnology, Plant Biotechnology, Food Biotechnology, Environmental Biotechnology, Computational Biology and Bioinformatics.
The Four Year Integrated M.Sc. programme in Computer Science at NU for the biologist is designed to provide students an overview of computing, an understanding of the concepts, principles and skills in their application and extension, and a practical experience in computing, as applied to biology. The M.Sc. Computer Science Programme at NU uses the university’s four core principles: Industry-linked, Technology-based, Research-driven and Seamlessness, as its foundation to develop collaborative opportunities in biology and computer science. Keeping with our core principle of seamlessness, and being aware of the changing nature of jobs and workplaces, at NU, we recognise that school students need to be given the flexibility and support to change their career choices and the four year integrated M.Sc. Programme in Computer Science is designed to address these very needs.
What sets the NU course apart is the fact that it is constantly evolving – being consistently mapped against the rapidly changing needs of the industry. Going forward, the course will emphasise text and data mining tools within biotechnology as these tools use specific algorithms that go through scientific research to provide relevant insights. This, in turn, will increase R&D efficiency by shortening the scientific literature research process, allowing for the development of new hypothesis & discoveries and bring down research costs significantly.
Often students complete a course and find that they do not have the necessary skill sets to operate in the industry. At NU, we are committed to preparing our students with the required technical and analytical skills that enable them to have potential employment in industry, education, research and management. Alongside, we equip students with an adequate background of Biotechnology, Engineering, Humanities, Social Sciences and Management, allowing them to play an effective role as a productive member of society.
On completion of the Biotechnology programme at NU, students have several lucrative career options before them – be it a research scientist, forensic DNA analyst, clinical researcher, microbiologist, marketing manager, science writer, bioinformists, quality control officer or production in-charge in food, chemical, pharmaceutical, aquaculture & agricultural companies such as Hindustan Lever Ltd, Thapar Group, Indo-American Hybrid seeds, Biocon India Ltd, Bivcol, IDPL, India Vaccines Corporation, Hindustan Antibiotics and other Pharmaceutical companies. Additionally, the Integrated MSc programme enables students to work in IT organisations such as IBM, Microsoft, Accenture, Tata Consultative services etc. as Data Specialists, Software Development Engineers, Web Designers, Digital Marketing Specialists and SEO Specialists, among others. Those students who choose biology-related concentration areas such as Bioinformatics and Computational Biology can work in both IT and Biotechnology, Pharma, Healthcare and allied companies in cross-functional roles such as Bioinformatics Analyst and Computational Biologist. They would be part of interdisciplinary teams consisting of molecular biologists and biomedical scientists working towards collaborative innovation, targeted analytics, and the development and deployment of nextgen solutions and platforms in areas such as drug discovery, drug delivery, genome sequencing, etc.
NU is dedicated towards forging strong industry linkages as one of its core principles. This ensures that the University is connected with the best organizations and institutions, and is the primary reason for the exceptional placement of 97.3% last year. We strongly believe that skills and knowledge are the key drivers of socio-economic development in a country. Therefore, our commitment to scaling up Next Gen skills training efforts, starting at the university level, are targeted to meet the needs of future employers, so as to drive economic growth.