Biotechnologist Career Information
What a Biotechnologist does
You've probably heard about a Scottish scientist cloning a sheep or about the tomatoes in your salad being genetically enhanced. Biotechnology, a combination of biology, physics, chemistry, mathematics and engineering is at the centre of these and other controversial innovations. It's a research-oriented field, with applications in various areas such as medicine, pharmaceuticals, agriculture and environment.
Biotechnology is interdisciplinary, covering biomedical research, microbiology, physics, chemistry, mathematics and engineering. It is the application of biology and genetics to produce substances useful to man.
Biotechnologists are involved in gene therapy, fertility control, improving food nutritional value, reducing pollution, increasing livestock productivity, the development of contraceptives, etc. Research confines a biotechnologist's main work to laboratories.
Branches in Biotechnology such as Microbiology and Biochemistry have contributed to the development of new drugs. Many biotechnology firms team up with pharmaceutical companies to investigate treatments for everything from the common cold to cancer.
Biotechnologists work in various fields. Some of these are:
Drug Discovery - These scientists employ expertise in molecular biology, cell biology, pharmacology, and today's hot biotechnologies like gene therapy or antigens to discover new drug molecules.
Receptor Biology - Scientists here employ knowledge of multiple disciplines like Biology, Biochemistry, Biophysics, Bio-engineering, Molecular Biology, etc to research various exciting fields like protein engineering, drug delivery systems, etc.
Cell Biology - Cell Biologist carry on research in various new fields like Cell Therapy and Tissue Engineering. Cells are the engines and brains of many processes and the biologist who understands these new frontiers is a Cell Biologist.
Bio-informatics - As biotechnology or, precisely, genetics is mapping human genes, animals and plants, enormous amount of information is being generated. This information is about the nature and structure of the billions of genes that are being mapped. Bio-informatics specialists are combining knowledge of Structural Biology, Computational Chemistry, Mathematics and Information Technology to manage the huge information databases.
Bioprocess Engineering - Various products like alcohol, processed foods, vegetables, meat products, enzymes required in pharmaceutical formulations, etc. are manufactured by biological processes. There are scientists working in this area of bio-processing to solve manufacturing problems, developing new processes, and so on.
Biochemistry - Biochemists study the chemical make-up of living matter, as well as the molecular basis for the processes that occur in cells. They develop medical, agricultural, food science, pharmacological, industrial, environmental and other practical applications using their scientific expertise.
Microbiology - Microbiologists study the growth and characteristics of micro organisms, such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, moulds and parasites, as well as their interactions with the environment. They develop industrial, medical and other practical applications.
Genetics - In this field scientists conduct research into the biochemical and physiological aspects of heredity, specialising in the examination of DNA. They often concentrate on human genetics, which involves studying the biological basis for human variation and the causes of human genetic conditions. They are also directly involved in patient care, including prenatal diagnosis for genetic diseases and genetic counselling.
Sales and Marketing - Marketing and sales of bioprocessed products need special skills. Not only marketing skills, but skills in understanding and interpreting biotechnology are also needed. There are many biotechnologists who are actually working in sales and marketing.
• Various research organisations in the areas of bioscience and biotechnology under CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research), ICAR (Indian Council for Agricultural Research) and other such research organisations. These organisations are under various Ministries of the Central and State Governments.
Some examples are: Center for Cellular & Molecular Biology, Institute of Microbial Technology, Central for Plant Biotechnology, Central Drug Research Institute, National Institute of Nutrition, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, National central for Biology Sciences, Potato Research Institute, Tobacco Research Institute, etc.
• You can even find opportunities in Nuclear and Atomic research centers, Space research centers and other research organisations like BARC (Bhabha Atomic Research Center), ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation), SPIC Science Foundations and others.
• You'll get ample research opportunities in pharmaceutical companies, food processing companies, and other companies involved in bioprocess technology. For e.g., Ranbaxy, Cadila, Wockhardt, Pfizer, Dr. Reddy's Laboratory, Sun Pharmaceutical, Lupin Laboratories (Pharmaceutical companies); Monsanto, Shanta Biotechniques, Proagro, Mahyco (Bioprocess Technology based companies); National Fertiliser Corporation, Cynamid (Agricultural industry companies), Hindustan Lever, Parle Agro (Food Processing companies), etc.
• You can work in universities and colleges either as a faculty member or as a research fellow. There are many universities, which are involved in path-breaking research in the fields of Biological Sciences. Examples are Jawaharlal Nehru University, Indian Institute of Science, IITs, Jadavpur University, Delhi University, University of Hyderabad, Osmani University, Bharatidasan University, Madurai Kamaraj University, University of Mumbai, Banaras Hindu University and others.
• If you are not too keen on research and development, you can also find marketing opportunities in any one of the companies involved in the fields of pharmaceuticals, bioprocess technology, agriculture, food processing and other related fields.
• With a degree like BTech/MTech you can get a job in the actual production process control operations in companies involved in bioprocess technology, agriculture industry and other related fields.
• It is also possible to find opportunities in quality control and analytical laboratories of the bio-process technology companies and other companies involved in related industries.
Good news for all of you who want to be biotechnologists. This field happens to be the second fastest growing employment sector after Information Technology. It, therefore, offers good career opportunities for young people. The field of Biotechnology experienced explosive growth in the '90s as scientists began to make breakthrough after breakthrough in understanding cellular and molecular biological processes.
Today, scientists use fermentation and crossbreeding - the same techniques used for hundreds of years to ferment beer and crossbreed plants to manipulate existing materials and genetically alter them. One example of this is xeno-transplantation, which uses organs from animals such as pigs, and genetically modifies them so they can be used in human transplants.
Thus, both biotech and pharmaceutical companies will continue to hire workers. With a postgraduate qualification in biotechnology you can be employed in leading pharmaceutical companies, chemical industries, as well as agricultural and allied industries.
Biotechnologists are also employed in the areas of planning, production and management of bio-processing industries, organic chemical industries, and in pollution control activities of major industries. Moreover, as a biotechnologist you can be employed on a large scale in research laboratories run by the government as well as the corporate sector.
As a biotechnologist, you could be at the forefront of solving some of the most significant problems we face today, such as world hunger and malnutrition. Whether, it is the colour of a flower or a fruit that can deliver immunisation, as a biotechnologist you can offer efficient ways to get those results.
Abilities & Traits Required
• Liking for Biology, even if you have not studied it
• An inquisitive and innovative mind
• Interest in academics and perseverance
• Systematic and methodical approach
• Objective thinking
• Ability to concentrate for long hours
• Need to enjoy laboratory work
• Good communication skills - to be able to convey your ideas to engineers, marketing folk and lawyers. You'll be constantly asked to explain your findings orally or in writing.
• A keen desire to learn
Academically, you should have a qualification in Biotechnology or other fields like Bioscience, Medical science, Physics, Chemistry, Pharmaceutical Technology, Agricultural Science, Veterinary Science, Medical Biology, Bioprocess Engineering and other related fields.
BSc Biotechnology should be supplemented with MSc for strong career prospects in biotechnology while BTech may lead directly to industrial openings. One also has the option of trying the 5 year integrated MSc Biotechnology being offered by some universities including Pune University.
One can also pursue a MBA in biotechnology after graduation or post graduation in science. This is currently being offered by the University of Pune, Department of Management studies (PUMBA)
• Research positions in a large-scale biotech company: Rs 20000 -25000 per month or more if you are a PhD
• With 3-4 years of post-PhD experience: Rs 35000-50000 a month plus other benefits
• Trainee in Research and development department (MSc.): Rs 18000 – 25000 per month
• MTech in biotechnology: Rs 16000 - 25000 a month (starting salary)
• With an MSc, in bioprocess: Rs 25000 - 35000 per month
• If you join a university department/college after MSc as a Research Fellow, you will get Rs 18000 - 25000 plus other benefits like HRA, Contingency allowance, etc
• If you join as a Research Assistant, you will get about Rs 20000 - 35000 per month as the starting salary
• In a university/college after M.Sc. as a faculty member (Lecturer): Rs 25000-35000 a month
• A BSc in Biotech/Microbiology/Biochemistry or any related subject can get a job as an assistant in the quality control/analytical department, with a starting salary of about Rs 18000-25000 a month
• If you are looking at sales and marketing you will be get Rs 25000-35000 plus travelling allowance and incentives
• After MSc, you will have to start with Rs 25000 - 45000 per month. After BTech/MTech you'll take home Rs 25000-35000 a month to begin with