Biology aspirants at School level:
While the interest in studying biology at School level starts with understanding cells, both plants and animals, it takes a peak during the study of human system. While traditional zoology, botany and physiology creates the base for understanding biology, advancements in the form of microbiology, immunology, biotechnology, recombinant DNA technology etc. paves the path of inquisitiveness among the biology lovers at the school level. This lead to the selection of medical or non-medical biological subjects as career option for the aspirant biologists.
Exploring the less known world:
Microbiology has always been frontrunner among the choice of such biology-aspirants for their studies at undergraduate level beyond medical education (Refer: https://adamasuniversity.ac.in/microbiologyplus-the-most-promising-career-path-beyond-medical-education/ ).
‘Knowing the unknown and seeing the unseen” has been the trend of human acumen since the inception of human race. Microbiology stimulates this, with the challenge of finding novel microorganism (bacteria, virus, protozoa, algae etc.) and a plethora of their magnificent properties. Till date the share of known microorganisms has not even reached 1% posing immense prospect for the future. The microbial world extends from the hottest region of the world to the coolest, from the top of the Everest to the Mariana trench and from the gut of human to the solar panel. Diversity of microorganisms holds the key and charm to study the subject.
Knowledge, Skill and Competency development:
Striking balance between diversity as well as specialization is important during the selection of stream/ subject to be opted for career. The three major focus on the 3-4 year undergraduate degree as well as 1-2 years of post-graduate degree lies in the development of theoretical knowledge, technical skills and more importantly competency as life-long learner. Studies in microbiology provides a well-balanced blending of these enhancing theoretical knowledge to strive for innovation, hands-on skills to work in an industry/ research as well as gain like skills and competency to remain relevant and updated despite rapid technological evolution.
Studies in microbiology at undergraduate as well as post graduate level is generally divided into several courses as mentioned in the following:
- Fundamental Courses: Bacteriology, Virology, Biochemistry etc.
- Advanced Courses: Immunology, molecular Biology, microbial genetics etc.
- Applied Courses: Food and Dairy Microbiology, Medical Microbiology, Agricultural Microbiology, Industrial Microbiology etc.
- Skill Enhancement Courses: Quality Control & Quality Assurance, Vaccine Technology, Bioinformatics, Intellectual Property Right (IPR) etc.
Most academic institutions follow a Choice Based Credit System (CBCS) to design their curriculum of Microbiology. However, a few institutions also offer ‘Outcome Based Education’, a student centric educational model employed to maximize learning outcome of the enrolled students.
Infrastructure, facility and Instructors:
Studies in microbiology require sophisticated instruments, well-equipped laboratories and well trained instructors to create a strong base for the students. Unfortunately, many institutions lack these facilities and treat it alongside other conventional subjects. The major requirements in supporting all round development of a microbiologists includes (not limited to):
- Laboratory Facility (Basic): Laboratory with Bio-Safety Level: I (BSL-I)
- Instruments (Basic): Microscope, Autoclave, Laminar Air Flow, Centrifuge etc.
- Instruments (Sophisticated): -80°C freezer, Phase contrast microscope, UV-Vis Spectrophotometer, HPLC etc.
- Facility: Animal Cell Culture, Plant Tissue Culture, Animal House etc.
- Co curricular Facility: Tinkering Lab, Incubation Centre, Fabrication Lab etc.
technicians trained in microbiology. However, most of the institutes run the UG and PG program in microbiology employing faculty members from other domain of biology (e.g. botany, zoology etc.) not having requisite exposure and expertise in the core domains of microbiology. The emergence of microbiology as a specialized field of biology also demands the involvement and guidance of personnel from the field of microbiology for proper dissemination of knowledge and skill of aspirant microbiologists. People having relevant industrial exposure adds on significant weightage in terms of leveraging benefit to the students.
Despite of the abundance of open source information and higher digital access/ literacy, career path remains unclear to most students at the entry level to graduation. Over rated courses, glorified outcome and rationalizing odd success stories make students a victim during admissions. The following career path of microbiologists are stated to uncover the potential strength as well as challenges to be faced:
- Teaching: ‘Teacher shapes the future of the coming generation’ This still motivates a lot of students to take up teaching at various level viz. school, college or university as their preferred profession. Microbiology graduates are not only eligible to appear for most of the school level recruitment process (e.g. School Service Commission, WB) they find it ease during exam and highly relevant during teaching. Joining colleges (both govt. or private) after the completion of M.Sc. in Microbiology is a lucrative option while clearing NET (National Eligibility Test)is highly competitive. Teaching at university level having independent research career, guiding Ph.D. students is also highly sought after career.
- Researcher/Scientists: Most of the students of microbiology aspire to pursue Ph.D. on completion of their M.Sc. and conduct research for creation of knowledge towards human and societal development. There are plenty of research institutes, universities offering position of Junior Research Fellow (JRF), Senior Research Fellow (SRF) in the domain of microbiology (e.g. IISER, IIT, Bose Institute, NIBMG, IACS, IICB etc.). Research funding is mostly obtained from government through Department of Science & Technology (DST), Department of Biotechnology (DBT) Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) etc. The researchers receive good amount of fellowship during the PhD tenure, through these schemes. After completion of PhD, students join institutes as senior researchers or scientists. Alternatively, they continue their research as Post-Doctoral Fellow in India or Abroad. The offer of fellowship at this level is attractive and often higher than the salary offered through regular employment.
- Industry: While knowledge is created at the university level, its implementation is seen in the industry. There is a boom of biotechnology and allied industries that require trained microbiologists at various level. UG level students are employed as Trainee, laboratory technicians etc. in the Quality Control, production department. While students completing M.Sc. are recruited as QC executive, microbiologists etc. Students having Ph.D. are mostly employed in the R&D division. It is to be emphasized that all pharmaceutical, food, biotech industries have definite requirements of microbiologists as a part of regulatory compliances. Hence, there lies a constant need of microbiologists at various industries.
- Entrepreneurship: The present generation of students have found a suitable solution to the problem of unemployment by the creation of start-up employing their domain knowledge or interest. Several innovative ideas in the form of product or service has led to the development of enterprise making the students ‘job creators rather than job seekers’. Microbiology has enough scope of developing products related to medical, agricultural and also of inter-disciplinary nature that can be nurtured in the incubation facility in creating a start-up. The Govt. is constantly encouraging such activities with various financial and regulatory support through creation of proper start-up ecosystem at the higher educational institutions.
Thus, Microbiology offers enough scope of quenching thirst for knowledge, ignition towards innovation and having a successful career. However, the success highly depends on the quality of training obtained during academic tenure and perseverance.