Careers in Genetic Engineering
in Genetic EngineeringGenetic Engineering (GE) is a highly complicated and
advanced branch of science which involves a wide range of techniques used in
changing the genetic material in the DNA code in a living organism. 'Genetic
Engineering' means the deliberate modification of the characters of an organism
by the manipulation of its genetic material. Genetic engineering comes under the
broad heading of Biotechnology. There is a great scope in this field as the
demand for genetic engineers are growing in India as well as abroad.
A cell is the smallest living unit, the basic structural and functional unit of
all living matter, whether a plant, an animal, humans or a fungus. While some
organisms are single celled, others like plants, animals, humans etc are made up
of a lot more cells. For eg humans have approximately 3 million cells. A cell is
composed of a 'cell membrane' enclosing the whole cell, many 'organelles'
equivalent to the organs in the body and a 'nucleus' which is the command centre
of the cell. Inside the nucleus are the chromosomes which is the storage place
for all genetic (hereditary) information which determines the nature and
characteristics of an organism. This information is written along the thin
thread, called DNA, a nucleic acid which constitutes the genes (units of
heredity). The DNA governs cell growth and is responsible for the transmission
of genetic information from one generation to the next.
Genetic engineering aims to re-arrange the sequence of DNA in gene using
artificial methods. The work of a genetic engineer involves extracting the DNA
out of one organism, changing it using chemicals or radiation and subsequently
putting it back into the same or a different organism. For eg: genes and
segments of DNA from one species is taken and put into another species. They
also study how traits and characteristics are transmitted through the
generations, and how genetic disorders are caused. Their research involves
researching the causes and discovering potential cures if any.
Genetic engineering have specialisations related to plants, animals and human
beings. Genetic engineering in plants and animals may be to improve certain
natural characteristics of value, to increase resistance to disease or damage
and to develop new characteristics etc. It is used to change the colour, size,
texture etc of plants otherwise known as GM (Genetically Modified) foods. GE in
humans can be to correct severe hereditary defects by introducing normal genes
into cells in place of missing or defective ones.
Educational: A qualified
genetic engineer, must have a graduate / postgraduate degree in genetics or
related fields such as biotechnology, molecular biology, microbiology or
biochemistry OR a doctorate (PhD) from a recognised university, based on 2-3
years of his own research under the guidance of a professor/lecturer.
The basic eligibility criteria for a
graduate degree (BE / B.Tech) is 10+2 or equivalent examination, with Biology,
Chemistry and Mathematics as well as genetics as part of the biology OR a
bachelors degree in science or molecular biology.
Most institutes do not offer courses in
Genetic Engineering as a special discipline but as a subsidiary in
biotechnology, microbiology, biochemistry streams. Undergraduate and
postgraduate courses in Biotechnology offer specialisation in genetic
Selection to the graduate courses ( BE /
B.Tech ) is based on merit i.e the marks secured in the final exams of 10+2 and
through entrance exams. Entrance to the IIT's is through JEE (Joint Entrance
Exam) and for other institutions through their own separate entrance exams and
other state level and national level exams. Apart from the IIT's, some other
famous institutes also recognize JEE scores for selection. Selection to the
postgraduate courses ( M.Sc / M.Tech) in different universities is through an
All India Combined Entrance exam conducted by JNU, New Delhi and to IIT's
through GATE in Two year/ 4 semester M.Tech courses and through JEE in five year
integrated M.Tech courses in Biochemical engineering and Biotechnology.
Personal Attributes: To be
a successful genetic engineer, one must have sharp analytical mind, an aptitude
for research, high levels of concentration, eye for details, lively imagination,
abundant physical stamina to put in long hours of work, ability to work as a
team, moreover he should have a sound moral sense.
Job Prospects and Career Options
There is an increasing demand for genetic
engineers in India as well as abroad. Genetic engineers are mainly absorbed in
medical and pharmaceutical industries, the agricultural sector, and the research
and development departments of the government and private sectors. They can also
take up teaching as an option.
Genetic engineering involves developing
hybrid varieties of plants, making a plant disease resistant by transferring
genes from a plant that already has the characteristic, introducing Genetically
Modified foods by changing the colour, size, texture of the produce of plants
such as fruits and vegetables. GE in humans can be to correct severe hereditary
defects by introducing normal genes into cells in place of missing or defective
A team headed by Ian Wilmut and his
colleagues at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, Scotland made history when they
produced a lamp named Dolly, an exact genetic copy or clone of a sheep. This
landmark discovery of the regeneration of an exact replica of a whole animal by
transferring nuclei from the cells of that animal to unfertilized eggs of
another animal, without the help of a male counterpart, has given researches a
wide area open to be discovered. With this discovery, genetic engineering has
become globally recognized.
Genetic Engineers with a postgraduate degree can earn between
5000 Rs to 8000Rs / month whereas those with doctoral degrees can earn up to
10,000Rs/ month as a starting salary.