These days every engineering student at least ones consider studying Biotech or Bioinformatics courses. This is definitely one of the fancy courses of study these days. I did my PhD in bioinformatics and read a lot of books to conduct an award winning research. Whenever I say I did my PhD in Bioinformatics most of young students jump and try to ask many questions related to this topic. To answer them and help others in the realistic way, I decided to write this post.
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First let me explain briefly, what you learn in these courses. Biotechnology is an interdisciplinary course comprising of subjects from electrical, electronics and mechanical engineering in application to biological research. Basic applications include pharmaceuticals, Agricultural product development, and eco friendly product development. This is how you see lots of attractive pictures of DNA strands and pictures of scientists wearing aprons and lab spectacle. These pictures can easily catch the attraction of any sincere and hardworking student.
Similarly Bioinformatics is application of information technology in biological research. This is the most attractive and fastest growing branch if Biotechnology, if considered broadly. You can see hundreds of research journals and thousands of conferences publishing research in this area. This is catching eye of computer scientists, because they love huge data sets to test their methods and biological experiments leave the biologist with huge data to be analyzed. These data take years for a human being to analyze them and there is a huge possibility of error because of time frame and human tendency to forget. As every one of us know that computers come over this drawback to human being, leaving no exception to analyze biological data. The simple process is as follows: Biologist performs experiment and gets data from it, which computer scientist analyze using computers, and finally biologist evaluates the method and proves its significance biologically. During this process Biologist should know basics of computers to us this highly sophisticated computer software. On the other hand, computer scientist should know the basics of biology to develop software that is biologically relevant. This course teaches student few topics from computer science and few from biology and finally application of each subject to others.
Wow these two courses sound really great. Yes of course no doubt about them, but is only important that the overall idea and application is great. Let’s think a little beyond course structure and curriculum. Let’s be more realistic and practical and answer the question, where do go after my graduation what job opportunities these courses have and what is my ultimate goal for this. If you answer these honestly you will get reason to join or leave this course.
First let me take the job market for these courses in India. As of now in IITs only top pharma companies take students from Biotech department. Usually there are really few and you can easily count then on fingers, for example, Ranboxy, Sipla, Glyxo and Dr. Reddy’s Labs. Miss Majumdar’s Biocon got superb hype in media recently, but unfortunately I have not seen this company going for recruitment to any of the IITs. Moreover, the total intake is 20 students with average package of 3 lakhs ~ 4l akhs per annum. Rest of the student will go for further studies, and PhD and end up in doing research that is rarely applied and used for helpful the humanity. Only United State is investing a huge amount of money in research for these areas. Therefore, getting a research fellowship in United States (US) and assistant professor’s job back home in India should not be a problem.
The figures says that India has invested Rs 400 Crore in Biotech industry, where as even medium size software companies shows more than 125 Crore as one quarter profit. When we see these figure 400 Crore don’t stand anywhere in front of local software giants like Infosys, Wipro and TCS.
These courses are definitely research oriented and need more commitment and patience. You should have high desire for human development than self. If you can see your friends make more money than you in spite of less hard work than you. And your work and scientific contributions can make you happy. I bet these are best courses where you can contribute. But remember you need to be patient for a long time to see the results may be a decade or two.
I believe I gave a clear idea of what these courses and their future are. So think about before you make a final decision. Once you are decided just keep working hard and stay focused. I wish you a great luck with everything.