An Interview with Prof. V. Verma, Dean College of Sciences & Director School of Biotechnology
picSMVDU_Faculty_Bio-Tech-2 Prof. Vijeshwar Verma is Director of the prestigious School of Biotechnology and Dean of College of Sciences. Prof. Verma is a renowned researcher in the field of Microbial Biotechnolgy and has large number of publications and patents to his name. A Fellow of Association of Microbiologists of India and Member of Indian National Science Academy Prof. Verma has spent a significant part of his career at Indian Institute of Integrated Medicine(formerly Regional Research Laboratory) -CSIR, Jammu. Prof. Verma shares his ideas & thoughts with us.

Prof. Verma, many thanks for taking time out and speaking to us. Sir, tell us a liitle bit about your Academic and Research background?

Prof. Verma: After graduating with Gold Medal from University of Kashmir, Srinagar in 1972 I was offered a position of Lecturer in state Govt. Degree College at Jammu the same year. While serving as lecturer I qualified written exam for IAS twice but could n’t get through UPSC interview. I completed my Ph.D in IIIM (former RRL, Jammu) in 1980 under the supervision of Dr. S.N. Sobti, Deputy Director in the institute after taking study leave from the state govt. Later the institute offered me the position of Scientist and thus I shifted to the institute in 1982. I was the pioneer member of the group which started a Genetic Engineering Unit in the institute to undertake research in the field of recombinant DNA in 1986. This unit later got christened as Division of Biotechnology of which I was the Chairman at the time of my taking VRS in 2007. During this period of about 25 years I had post doc experience in the field of recombinant DNA, fermentation and general Molecular Biology in various prestigious laboratories/institutes in Germany, England & France, where I learnt a lot about the subject.

Prof. Verma, Can you tell us a little bit about the field of Biotechnology and it’s constituent fields? What are the Career options for students in these fields?

Prof. Verma: Biotechnology is an amalgamation of biology and technology .It is used to describe a group or collection of technologies which capitalize on the attributes of the living cells utilizing the modern recombinant DNA techniques. However Biotechnology isn’t something new, we have used biological processes for over more than 6,000 years to achieve useful food products, such as cheeses, wine and bread & other backery products to name some household food products of common use besides, learnt to preserve dairy products. It wasn’t however until the 60`s and 70`s that we gained a better understanding of biology and reached a point where we could start to use only the very smallest part of an organism, the molecules. Biotechnology draws on the pure biological sciences and in many instances is also dependent on knowledge and methods from outside the sphere of biology like chemical engineering, bioprocess engineering, information technology and also bio-robotics. Conversely, modern biological sciences are intimately intertwined and dependent on the methods developed through biotechnology and what is commonly thought of as the life sciences industry. And as far as employment is concerned, it has become one of the fast growing sector both in India and abroad. Bio-technologists can find careers with pharmaceutical companies, chemical, agriculture and allied industries. They can be employed in the areas of planning, production and management of bio-processing industries. There is a large scale employment in research laboratories run by the government as well as the corporate sector. Biotechnology students in India may find work in private as well as government-funded institutions like universities, research institutes as faculty/ research scientists. Alternatively they may find employment in specialized biotechnology companies or biotech-related companies such as pharmaceutical firms, food manufacturers, aquaculture and agricultural companies. Companies that are engaged in business related to life sciences (ranging from manufacture & sale of equipment, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, diagnostics, etc) also consider a biotech degree relevant to their field. The work scope can range from research, sales, marketing, administration,, academics to technical support. Armed with this powerful combination of fundamental cell biology, molecular biology and applied science, graduates and post graduates in biotechnology are well placed to take up careers in various fields of their interest.

What are the efforts being made by the School of Biotechnology towards Academic excellence and Research?

Prof. Verma: At present the school offers under & post graduate and PhD programmes in Biotechnology. Recognizing the wider impact of biotechnology research and education in the current scenario we at SMVDU have placed due emphasis in the curriculum on interdisciplinary coverage in modern biology, engineering and technology, applied orientation ,quantitative approach, practical training, awareness of the broader social, economic ,environmental, ethical and managerial issues in Biotechnology. Evaluation & updating of the syllabi are also routinely followed. Our laboratories are equipped with state-of-art basic & modern facilities for teaching and research in microbial and plant biotechnology. Continued efforts are being made to establish and develop multidisciplinary research networks with scientific focus to promote coordination and sharing of research resources among other scientific institutes in the rgion like university of Jammu & Institute of Integrative Medicine (CSIR), Jammu. Besides, interaction and collaboration with other institutes like Institute of Microbial Technology, Chandigarh, Thapar university, Patiala & IIT Delhi in teaching & research has been established enabling the students & faculty to draw huge intellectual & academic benefit out the same.

What have been the achievements of the School of Biotechnology in the last few years since its inception?

Prof. Verma: School of Biotechnology was established in the year 2005 with an undergraduate programme of B.Tech (industrial Biotechnology), subsequently Ph.D and MSc. were added after I joined the school in 2007. Since then the school has an excellent record of achievements to share. Our school has been recognized as center for excellence in biotechnology research in the state. Research projects funded by various government funded DBT,DST, TRIFED ,SFRI as well as private industry like Dabur India are not only increasing the infrastructural facilities in the school but also enabling the students & faculty to generate what in technical language called “Intellectual Property Rights” in the form of publications & patents. Significant achievements by our students include placement in biotechnology industries of repute, selection for higher education in prestigious institutes in India and abroad. The school has a record of sorts when it comes to linking up with the highly recognized corporate, the industry and research institutes through MoUs and also in terms of student projects and training. Besides M/S Prathista Industries Ltd., Hyderabad has been regularly selecting our students in their various set ups in India & abroad as a campus placement activity.

What is your impressions about the students here at SMVDU and what is your advice to them for achieving success in their career?

Prof. Verma: The students admitted in various UG, PG & PhD courses of school are through all India competitive exams and thus are meritorious & sharp already. The Biotechnology field requires a lot of dedication and hard work as one has to develop Intellectual Property from the scientific & academic knowledge. My advice to the present and future students of the school is to have patience and develop the habit of putting in sincere hard work in their experimental/academic curricula to excel in the field. There is no short cut to success.

Sir, Many thanks for sparing your precious time to speak to us and for advising the students.