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Question & Answers: Career in Biotechnology

Question

I am a student of grade 11 doing the Indian CBSE curriculum. The subjects I am currently doing are Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Psychology and English. I would like to pursue my career in Biotechnology. I would like to know which are the good Universities in U.S.A. and U.K.. which offers courses in this field with my current subjects taken.Please advice me for the procedure and the preparation to be done for the admissions.

Answer

Biotechnology is at the forefront of science and technology and is a rapidly growing field, largely due to the overwhelming political interest (and investment) in biofuels and greener technology. A seemingly complex field, biotechnology at its simplest, is the practical application of our knowledge of living organisms and their components.

Though controversial in some countries, the use of biotechnology is varied and widespread with real tangible benefits such as alleviation of hunger with better crop production, elimination of life-threatening diseases and development of environmentally friendly mechanisms. However it also includes subjects such as cloning, age reversal techniques and designer babies that are still topics of ethical debate worldwide. Regardless of differences in viewpoint, biotechnology is expected to grow at a very fast pace and career prospects are expected to rise during this decade.

biotechnology

There are a wide range of institutions both in the US and the UK that offer programs in Biotechnology at various levels. In the US, most of the biotechnology companies are concentrated in the states of California and Massachusetts. Though there are several colleges and universities in the US that offer this course, I would recommend those that are located in Boston and San Francisco as these are considered to be two of the largest biotech hubs in the world. Some of the prominent names are University of Massachusetts, Northeastern University, University of San Francisco and San Francisco State University. It is also worth mentioning that there a large number of community colleges in the country that offer biotechnology majors as part of their curriculum on the associate degree programs. Not only are they affordable but also provide excellent teaching and are equipped with great learning and laboratory facilities.

Studying in the UK is also a good choice as the biotechnology sector in the country is the largest in Europe and is second only to the US in the world. University of Glasgow, University of Nottingham and University of Sheffield are just a few of the many well-known universities for this course.

A career in biotechnology is not just within the confines of a laboratory – it can range from management, marketing and research. Since the Flavr Savr tomato and Dolly the sheep that grabbed headlines in the 90s, biotechnology has been evolving at a constant pace and has extended to newer fields.

In terms of functions, the jobs can be categorized mainly into research and development, administration and business management, manufacturing and services, quality assurance/regulation and marketing and sales. The set of skills you need would depend on the area of specialization you wish to pursue. Generally, advanced Math and Computer skills, good written and verbal communication skills, attention to detail, ability to analyze and record data are important prerequisites. An academic background that includes Life sciences, Chemistry and Mathematics will be a definite advantage. Entry requirements vary by college/ university so you will have to get this information beforehand by doing a thorough research of universities at which you are interesting in doing your course. All or most of the following are generally considered during admissions -GPA, academic rigor, English proficiency scores, SAT scores. Application deadlines are usually in January or early February for the Fall intake and November for the Spring intake.

To prepare yourself for a career in biotechnology, read and learn as much as you can about this field – there is a wealth of information on the latest developments in this field available through science journals, newspapers and the internet. It would also be a good idea to establish contacts with biotechnology companies, find out about current trends and requirements, talk to professionals and also join online professional groups that will help you connect to others with similar interests and exchange information.

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