Sunday, February 15, 2009

Biotechnology courses: Already in the decline?

A few years back, biotechnology was a hot area and every Tom, Dick and Senthilnathan, who owned an engineering college, started a B.E/B.Tech/M.Tech course on biotechnology. The IITs also jumped on the bandwagon because of the money available. My alma mater, IIT - Madras, has a wonderful building for biotechnology. IISc, however, did not start such a program. Fast forward to 2008, we encounter an article in Current Science titled "Are Biotechnology courses relevant?". The article by Lakhotia says,


Innumerable private and public institutions joined the bandwagon resulting in mushrooming of biotechnology courses in every city and small town of the country...Given the high population pressure and scant job opportunities, the younger generation and their parents have been easy prey to the belief that, like the information technology, biotechnology will provide a highly remunerative career. In this mad rush, a large number of young students pay whopping amounts as fees to receive, in return, a worthless certificate giving them B Sc/ B Tech or M Sc/ M Tech degree in biotechnology.... It is high time that all school and undergraduate stand-alone teaching programmes in biotechnology bioinformatics, etc. are stopped.

Considering the tenor of the above article, I was eagerly awaiting a rebuttal. However, another article appeared in this issue of Current Science that said "The ‘Opinion’ by Lakhotia minus its pessimism is largely acceptable" and goes on to analyze why these biotechnology courses failed.

I was interested as to how the top students joining the undergraduate degree perceive the programs in biotechnology. With this objective in mind, I looked at the evolution of closing ranks in JEE and AIEEE from 2003 to 2008. There was a considerable drop in the closing ranks for Bio Technology programs of IIT Kharagpur, IIT Madras and the BTech program in Bio Science and Bio Engineering at IIT Kanpur. In 2003, the closing ranks were in the range of 1000-1500 and now it is in the range of 2000-2500 for these branches in these IITs. It is even worse in IIT-G and IIT-R, wherein civil engineering is now closing higher than that of biotechnology. Thus, if you have the word Bio attached to engineering, science or technology, it seems to be no longer the favorite among the top engineering aspirants of India.

13 comments:

Varun Murthy said...

Hopefully,everything related to "nano" wont go the same way..India really needs to take care of and nurture its Nano engineering projects. As it is,we started late..But the good thing about Nanotechnology is that it is a combination of many fields that we've got a considerably good base in : microelectronics,physics,materials,mechanical engineering etc..

Vinod Khare said...

The decline in the popularity of biotechnology courses is hardly surprising. We hardly have any jobs for biotechnologists.

Giri@iisc said...

Varun: Not many undergraduate courses in nanotechnology were started.

Vinod: I think jobs are there for properly trained biotechnologists, but not for people that are now being churned out by these institutions.

Varun Murthy said...

Yup..thats right..there were not many courses started for Nano at the undergrad level..But they were started in IITB and IISC,for the post grad level atleast.So even though we started off late,we did start atleast..which is a good thing

C-Drive said...

True. Infact, an MTech (Bio - Eng) from IIT Kharagpur was discussing my fund management strategy yesterday on behalf of Kotak! Got frustrated and did'nt have the patience to do a PhD.

I run a Career Platform along with ABLE (Association of Biotechnology Led Enterprises) called ABLE C-DRIVE - visit www.cdrivejobs.com

We are looking to address some of the challenges at the early career stage for students, scholars,etc. Would be keen to meet up with you, since I'm also based in Bangalore.

Look forward.

Shyam Suryanarayanan

Giri@iisc said...

Varun: Post graduate courses in biotech are fine. There is a thread on why an undergraduate degree in nanotechnology is bad,

http://scforum.aaas.org/viewthread.php?id=48919

Shyam: Please do drop in (sometime next week) after giving me a call (080-22932321). Maybe you can give a seminar on career opportunities for masters students.

C-Drive said...

Sounds good Giri. Will call you next week to setup a convenient time.

Shyam

chhavi said...

respected sir,
i am pursuing b.tech biotech from a private university in Jaipur. i hav plans to do research work in the field in future with IISc. But learning from ur comments i thought i should gather a second opinion about continuing with my branch in 2nd year , since i hav an option of changing it.

sravani said...

sir after going through all ur comments ...ineed a suggestion from u.presently im pursuing my b.pharmacy 3rdyear.i wannago through ms.biotechnology and also interested in the field of genetics.and also i want to pursuean intrenship in the concerned field at iisc.so please furinshmethedetailsregarding the internship and also the entrance for concerned admission because there is no gate exam from the year 2010.for pharma students.so,please furnishmethe details sir...

peterparker said...

the real reason for this thing is that now engineering has come to its saturation...all the major engineeing marvels have been accomplished..now engineering will become something like reengineering of existing things..nano technology is like studying electronics at its more shorter level..similarly bioengineering..bioengineering was never a numero uno subject in USA as well...

anusudan said...

Biotech as such is not a bad subject for people who have a intrest in it. But it require lot of patience. Its not like a IT job were after u finish your BTech you will get a good package. The condition of students in Biotech is very pathetic. Major reason is due to the mushrooming of private colleges which just give u a degree not the required skills.Students just join it by hearing the HULLLLLaaaa of it and are misguided by the infrastucture less institutes.

kamlesh Gupta said...

While I agree with what Mr. Lakhotia has to say about the biotechnology courses, we shouldn’t discount the fact that Biotechnology is still in its evolutionary stages. Only when your theory lectures are backed by practical classes and skill training that an engineering degree makes sense. However most of the engineering colleges offering B.Tech or B.Sc in Biotech lack in the latest instruments that are necessary to perform these practicals. While these colleges demand huge fees, they are reluctant to spend money on these instruments and that is why most of the graduate fleet is without what we call holistic education.

kamlesh Gupta said...

Biotechnology students still have some ray of hope as the respective sector is also considered as a growing industry. The graduates in the field can find job opportunities in pharmaceuticals, agriculture and health industry that are doing well. For more info about biotechnology education you can click here.