Future Galileos and Marie Curies are taking shape right now in the dynamic, research driven institutes offering the intensive five-year integrated MSc programme, says Prachi Rege.
German rocket scientist Wernher von Braun said, "basic research is what I`m doing when I don`t know what I`m doing." So, what is it that drives one to embark on this arduous journey? Is it the curiosity of the unknown or the creation of new knowledge?
For Priyanka Meena, who is pursuing Chemistry at the Centre for Excellence in Basic Sciences (CBS), Mumbai, it is purely “the love of the subject.”
Meena left the opportunity to join the elite IIT-Kurukshetra to step into the unchartered territory. "Advantage of this course is that it is research-based right from day one," she says.
It is for the very reason that Navin Kumar, 21, signed up for Math research at CBS. The youth from Darbhanga, Bihar, who is now into his ninth semester, says, “I was sure about pursuing a course in Math.”
Like Meena and Kumar, several youngsters are now seeking to delve into research in the hope that like Braun, the father of the Saturn V rocket that sent the Apollo 11 crew to the moon, they too would one day stumble on something path-breaking.
Their dreams may well come true thanks to the five year integrated MSc programme offered by many institutes in the country post class 12th.
In Mumbai, there is the CBS. Launched in 2007, the Centre was set-up as a joint collaboration between University of Mumbai and the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE).
It offers the integrated MSc in Physics, Maths, Chemistry and Biology. Around the same time, National Institute of Science Education and Research (NISER), Bhubaneswar, also launched the same programme.
Just like the IITs, which create techno wizards and IIMs that produce corporate leaders, this programme too envisions creating scientists of caliber.
"We want to do our bit in exploring the research talent," says SN Chitre, chairperson, CBS. "Through the programme we aim at building scientists for the country," explains Subhasis Basak, Reader F, NISER.
The selection procedure is elaborate. Students have to clear the National Entrance Screening Test (www.nestexam.in) with a score of 96 out of 200. Post the entrance test they undergo counselling.
The competition is fierce considering that the seats are limited in number. Out of the 500 shortlisted candidates, CBS admits a maximum of 35 students per batch; NISER takes in 60 each year.
Once selected, a student qualifies for the Department of Science and Technology: INSPIRE Fellowship. INSPIRE fellows get a stipend of Rs. 5000 per month.
But there is a catch here.
"To avoid disqualification, students need to maintain their Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) of six every semester," explains Jacinta D’Souza, Reader F, who teaches and mentors Biology students at the CBS.
Every summer, students have to participate in projects related to their area of study. "This helps them to explore their area of interest at a young age," she adds.
The integrated MSc course gives students an opportunity to learn from and interact with the best faculty in town. "I don`t regret not getting into IIT-B anymore. At CBS, I am anyway getting trained by IIT professors," says Kumar, who missed a chance of getting into the elite tech institute.
CBS has 15 regular faculty members. Eighty per cent of its teaching staff comprises visiting faculty, which include professors from IIT-B, Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education (HBCSE), University of Mumbai and scientists from Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) and Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC). A group of 60 professors and research scientists comprise NISER`s faculty.
The curriculum is quite flexible and the programme follows a semester system. "The subjects are designed keeping in mind the research capability that we aim to build in the students," says Basak.
Students learn all four basic sciences in the first year and choose their specialisation in the second year. They may also opt to choose an elective in the third year. So if you are majoring in physics, and are also interested in biology, you may study both the subject. "The responsibility of pursuing both subjects successfully lies entirely with the student," warns Chitre.
Opportunities abound for these graduates. They may pursue a PhD. Two students from CBS’s first batch have been accepted at the prestigious Boston and Pennsylvania Universities for PhD. NISER students are studying at the Cornell and Stanford Universities.
"Many of our students are also pursuing PhDs at elite Indian Institutes like TIFR and BARC," points out Chitre. "Biology students can also opt for a job in the biotechnology sector which is growing tremendously," states D’Souza.
One can also join the teaching field, starting off as an assistant professor at any of the institutes in India and abroad. With its research-driven content and scientific bent the programme may just get the much-awaited science Nobel winner for the country.
1) Vocational tours to different science institutes in the country
2) Not just science but sports and arts are also encouraged as part of the extra-curricular activity
3) Fees Rs. 10, 000 first semester
4) Rs. 1750 - (starting second semester) every six months
5) PhD aspirants need to appear for the Joint Entrance Screening Test (JEST).
Institutes offering the five-year integrated M.Sc. Programme
IISER Thiruvananthapuram: www.iisertvm.ac.in;
IISER Pune: www.iiserpune.ac.in;
IISER Bhopal: www.iiserbhopal.ac.in;
IISER Mohali: www.iisermohali.ac.in;
Visva Bharati, Santiniketan, http://visva-bharati.ac.in
BITS - www.bitsadmission.com
The University of Hyderabad - www.uohyd.ernet.in
Amrita School of Arts and Science- http://www.amritapuri.amrita.edu
(List is indicative)
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