The World of Pure Science
Professor Sumantra Shona Chattarji
Neurobiology of Learning and Memory
National Centre for Biological Sciences
1.Why do you think there is still a huge trend for engineering and medical?
This works two ways as students who have opted for a science stream with an aptitude for mathematics go into engineering and the rest go into medical. But from experience, I’ve seen how this one way of streamlining a student’s career choices can create problems as they eventually realise that their passion lies in the opposite and are unable to go into the other field due to the lack of knowledge and understanding in that field.
2.What is pure science?
The boundaries of science are diminishing in today’s world. There are conventional fields like physics, chemistry and mathematics on one side and biology and biological sciences on the other side. Pure science mainly deals with understanding the fundamental nature of concepts. It deals with mechanisms, mysteries of nature etc. People further take this understanding and translate it into an application. That is what pure sciences – or basic science – deal with.
3. What is the scope for pure science?
The scope in pure sciences must be divided into two categories – on a career-oriented/financial option and a scope for personal growth and satisfaction. It’s purely based on an individual’s preference. It can depend entirely on what they want to pursue. There is freedom to research and alter concepts. It’s all about finding your place. The future lies mainly in the South-Asian countries. But the biggest drawback has been the fact that people pursue studies in this field just for the sake of getting a certificate and later, a job. The lack of interest has been haunting this field. But with the coming of IISERs, a new sense of awareness has been thrown on to the field and people are beginning to catch on. Learning science is best with hands-on practical experiences, which is what IISER provides. They give the student a taste of everything and then lets the student make a decision for themselves. Besides this, St. Xavier’s, St. Stephens etc. are all making resurgences in this field. The scope in India is limited only due to the lack of institutes. The Indian system of education has to nurture the talent pool that we have in order to get the most out of this field.
4. Is it better to pursue an Under Graduate degree from abroad?
It depends. There are a few colleges in India which provide quality education in this field, like IISER. Due to the lack of opportunities and systematical method of education, people mainly go abroad. Courses outside India provide flexibility to mix and match courses and understand the field a little better. However, the skills provided in the course is not all that different than in India, but the options are fewer. This leads to a large number of competition for the course. But getting a degree, which has a little bit of theoretical science is a good thing in a field like Biology. The UG programs must be looked at as a stepping stone and after building a base, you can decide what you want to specialise in.
5. Where does India lie in terms of research?
India has caught up quite a bit in terms of research especially in the last 10-15 years. The government has been funding projects with value for the project. As a result, a lot of folks have returned to India to continue with their career in pure sciences. The problem lies in the infrastructure. Government colleges are in shambles.
6. Which are the best colleges in India?
IISERs are the best colleges one can find in India. Besides this, IISC, St. Stephens, St. Xaviers, Presidency College, MSU Baroda, MKU are all prominent colleges in India. From South India, we have mainly VIT. Shri Venkateshwara College of DU has a solid department of neuroscience as well.
7. What is the admission procedure to these colleges?
Most colleges look at marks while applying for admission. Besides this, most colleges have an entrance exam on the basis of which candidates are eliminated and the remaining candidates are selected for face-to-face interviews. Universities such as IISc , IICER and BITS carry out aptitude and entrance tests. Besides this, students are also given opportunities to apply for fellowship programmes in the same field through these campuses.
8. What is your one advice to students pursuing a career in any field?
Take time in deciding and settling down on a field of your choice. Second chances are hard to come by in a country like India and hence, a student must follow their heart and choose what he/she believes is right for them. Also, do sufficient research in the field of interest that you want to go into. Students miss out on the opportunities available to them due to their lack of knowledge about what they want to do. The limited exposure in the education system usually leads them to pursue a particular and established career option. In the end, I just want to say, “Find your bliss” and stick to it and you will succeed in your life in the long run.