“What do you want to do on completion of this course?” is a question asked by many. It’s very difficult to answer that question! It’s because there’s always a difference between what we want to do, what we end up doing and what we actually get. If you ask a kid what he or she wants to become in life, the answer will be clear (doctor, engineer or pilot) initially, but will change with time. Situations can make one change one’s goals suddenly. For instance, one might have had a childhood dream of becoming an astronaut, being fascinated by stars and wanting to explore outer space. But with time and growing levels of sense, practicality and maturity, one becomes down-to-earth and probably settles for a more attainable, softer option such as investment banking. It’s been no different for me. I have had wacky goals of becoming a teacher of social science, then an astronomer and a bike racer! J
But I gave up on those dreams, as they were not feasible to be followed considering my impulsive temperament and my awareness levels those days. I became interested in life sciences when I was in the eleventh grade (as I did well in a nationwide Biotechnology Olympiad). I decided that biotechnology would be a suitable career option for me. The thought of modifying DNA to heal the world seemed amazing to me. My dream company was Genentech, a San Francisco-based biotech firm. I thought biotechnology could make a better impact than information technology in any way. I wanted to join VIT University and pursue its well-known B.Tech programme in biotechnology. But sadly, my VITEEE-2008 rank (5327) wasn’t enough, though I had been called for counselling. I had done better in VITEEE compared to other engineering entrance exams. I was left with 2 options: To pursue a B.Sc in life sciences at St Xavier’s College, Ahmedabad or the newly introduced 5-year integrated M.Sc programme in Biotechnology offered by VIT University, Vellore. I opted for the latter, thinking it’d be an excellent alternative to the B.Tech programme offered by VIT.
Three and a half years later, looking at the final year B.Tech Biotechnology students getting placed or coming to Vellore for their reviews, I feel a better VITEEE rank would have made a significant difference. Placements are assured for B.Tech Biotechnology students, as the course is well-known and established. It’d have been really different if Maaruthy, Mayur and Anchit had been my classmates, though there’s no shortage of creative people in my class such as Deeptiman, a fellow blogger. I can’t understand why M.Sc Biotechnology students aren’t given priority for placements. I feel a plethora of subjects, ranging from modern physics to environmental health, is covered in the curriculum. But why we can’t intern at ISRO or a pollution control agency (just because it’s mentioned that M.Sc Biotechnology students are not eligible?) Not everyone can pursue a PhD after an M.Sc, owing to financial or other constraints. Pursuing an MBA after an M.Sc may raise a lot of questions, as an additional investment has to be made, for yet another Masters degree! Cognizant can hire M.Sc Chemistry graduates but why not M.Sc Biotechnology graduates (in the life-sciences department)? This was something I got to know from a classmate of mine, Kshitija. What do M.Sc Biotechnology students lack which other graduates apparently have? Nothing! It’s not industry-specific skills (M.Sc Biotechnology students have had more rigorous laboratory sessions than B.Tech students-who have readymade culture media provided for ease in performing experiments and reporting results.) It’s really sad, considering M.Sc Biotechnology students spend 5 years learning and trying to apply what’s been learnt, yet falter when it comes to employability in the global scenario.
I agree it’s a competitive world out there, where the ascent up the corporate ladder is full of people waiting to pull you down. So go ahead, do what it takes to get that dream job, as you are different from others. Looking at your CV, recruiters should feel you're different. You can be a successful person with a good job amidst a crowd of others. It is sad that engineering and medicine rule the roost as the most popular careers in India, apart from management, civil services, chartered accountancy and banking. There are other options in sectors like hospitality and hotel management, but they’re not popular owing to lack of awareness. Moreover, a doctor or engineer still commands respect in society, as pay packets are good despite the recession. I got to know from today’s newspaper that a B.Tech student of NIT-Allahabad got a mind-boggling offer from Facebook. No wonder M.Sc students turn green with envy. Now I feel it’s worth dropping a year after school, to pursue a B.Tech degree after slogging for engineering entrance tests. Siddhant (a B.Tech Biotechnology student) couldn’t pursue a career in medicine. But he decided to make the best of whatever he got. He stood first in his batch and went to Imperial College, London for his final semester project.
I hope an apparently underestimated course such as M.Sc Biotechnology gets recognized not merely in society, but in terms of employability as well. It’ll be justified if some people such as professors dare to venture into entrepreneurship and generate new avenues (in terms of employment) in different sectors for M.Sc Biotechnology students.