I had an interaction with one of the diligent student of dept. Of Biotechnology, IIT Roorkee. Her name is Shreya Nahata, she is passing out this year(2016) as an M.Sc. graduate, she did her B.Sc. in Microbiology from the University of Delhi. As a Khorana scholar, she interned at the University of Pennsylvania in the year 2015.  Shreya was among top 10 students of Delhi University during her graduation and she is currently the topper of the class (4th sem results yet to be declared). I got a chance to discuss various topics which include her area of research, academics, social, development and strategic plans. The detailed documentation of the conversation is written below:

Shreya currently works as Biomodelling scientist at Cellworks Research India Pvt Ltd.

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Q.1 How have your academics and research been so far? And what are the future plans in such an offbeat, unconventional and interesting area?

Answer: Biotechnology fascinated me right from my high school. I had chosen PCM with Biotechnology in my intermediate. My academics has been sound so far, I was in top 10 students in DU during the graduation and also, my CGPA is the highest in the class here. My area of interest is bioengineering.

Q.2: What is the possibility of research in the area of biotech? Kindly talk in reference to funding availability at international level and India both.
Answer: Biotechnology is the essential part of human life and has a wide area of applications which is directly related to humans which are the main reason the funds for research in this sector is available in bulk. Although due to lack of quality outputs the industries do not fund biotech research in India but if we talk about the USA or Canada the fund is available in good amount. I think the condition will improve in India gradually.

Q.3: What are the new trends and potential emerging areas in biotechnology and where India stands?
Answer: The main emerging field in biotechnology is the computation biology where the scientists are trying to simulate the things on computers/software. The computational biology will find the solution of the tumor & cancer etc. Also, we are moving towards personalized medicine from the old era of generalized medicines. The concept of chip integration of body cells is coming into the market which will facilitate the research without harming animals. The concept of DNA on chip and digitization of biological processes is the trending field in the biotech.

Q.4: What are some good qualities of the University of Pennsylvania that IIT Roorkee should adopt in order to improve the institute?
Answer: They have a huge number of industry collaborations which facilitates their research. The university has many Special Interest Groups (SIGs) related to different areas of research which are somewhere missing here. Their course structure is application based. IIT Roorkee should encourage industry based courses and the efforts should be put in collaborations with the industries.

Q.5: Comments on IIT Roorkee’s foreign university collaborations and their attitude to enhance it. Also, suggest a couple of ways to improve the same.
Answer: IIT Roorkee administration is ignorant towards the foreign university collaborations. I feel there is a lack of efforts from their side otherwise, it is not a big deal because every year many students go for research interns in various reputed institutes of the world.  The suggestion for increasing collaborations can be like the student who is going for research intern can invite the Professor here to deliver a lecture and the concerned department can ask for signing for some MoU which can result in a permanent relation with that institute. Also, if Adm. is too busy with other works then a student body can be formulated which will look after it under the guidance of some faculty who is willing to work in this field.

Q.6: Indian parents thinks the best age for the girls to get married is 20-24 years. Considering it a social problem, without blaming the mentality of people, What are your thoughts on higher education opportunities for the fellow girls in India?
Answer: I can understand the problem and it is there. A female student can also be pursued Ph.D. after marriage as well. It is easy to pursue Ph.D. in case of dry labs(where the work is on computer based), but in case of wet labs(where one has to experiments all day e.g. biotech lab), It is difficult to manage I like the concept of married hostels in our campus, there should be more marriage hostels in other universities too. Also, I do feel a need of change in mentality and encourage female students to pursue Ph.D., but it is a time taking the process and the results can only be seen in the long run.

Q.7: What are your observations in curriculum demands(how much one has to study/work to pass the courses) in Delhi University, IIT Roorkee and the University of Penn.  respectively?  
Answer:  Yeah, there is a clear difference in demand of the curriculum and hence in productivity as well. The curriculum at DU is not at all demanding, it does not make students involved into the subject hence they are limited to writing exams and a learning is lacking. Although the efforts have been made to make 4 year UG course but it was scrapped later on. Also, IIT Roorkee has somewhat better and among the three the UoPenn is the best in the area of curriculum demand.

Q.8: What are your suggestions to juniors in three statements?
i) One should explore the each and every campus groups/activities present in the campus in order to find out the area of interest.
ii) One should read, read and read. The reading is the must for the development of one’s mind. Books are the best friends, one should love them.
iii) The term like ‘passion’ does not exist. We should learn the attitude to feel the pain of failures and should rise again after each failure to defeat the challenge.

Q.9: IITs are being set-up in order to increase inter-disciplinary innovation and research work. Kindly point out a couple of areas in biotechnology which are the intersection of the engineering branches e.g. Electrical, Electronics, Mechanical, Material Science etc.
Answer: There are various interdisciplinary areas in biotech in which the UG students from any dept. can work. The some of the examples are:
i) Genome Chip : Electronics + Material Science + Biotech.
ii) Biomedical Instrumentation: Electrical Engineering + Instrumentation Engineering + Biotech.
iii) Computational Biology: Computer Science + Biotech.
iv) Manufacturing of human cell chips: Mechanics Electrical +Electronics + Material Science +Biotech.

Q.10: IIT Roorkee hostel rules are strict and there are restrictions on students while in some of the other institutes which fight for ‘freedom’ it is not there. What is your take on this?
Answer: Some of the rules should be strict and they may not look us better but may be good for us but I feel there should be a thorough discussion on every rule and Adm should be open to making amendments. I think the comparison should be done on the basis of productivity, data and output result. If allowing the research girls all night out is producing better research then it should be allowed if not then it should not be, as simple as it is.

I’m thankful to Shreya for her opinions, discussion and this much of knowledge. I hope this conversation will help fellow junior students and me at various stage of life.