Bruce Milthrope, dean, Faculty of Science, University of Technology, Sydney, speaks on why more Indian students should pursue science as a field
What is the purpose of your visit to India?
We are here to conduct a science road show to highlight the exciting potential of studying science and also to showcase the variety of careers a science student may opt for, leading to many interesting and rewarding job opportunities. Gained from 20 years of studying and teaching science, I am sharing my experiences with high school students while explaining what they will learn if they choose to study at our university in Australia. I also conduct some practical experiments which highlight how much fun and how interesting, science can be.
When most students in India are taking up the lucrative field of management, do you think science can draw them in?
Science is not just a field of study - it is a way of viewing the world. Science provides students with more than knowledge; it equips them with transferable skills in analysis, critical thinking, communication and project management. This will ensure science graduates are well regarded by employers throughout their careers, whether seeking a role in research, government, education, business or creating entrepreneurial endeavours. A science degree is an excellent choice for long-term career prospects, and we know graduates are very successful across a range of interesting careers.
Most students also switch fields when it comes to post graduation, like engineering students pursuing an MBA. What do you think needs to be done to prevent this switch and encourage scientifically charged brains to stay in the stream?
Understanding that there are exciting job opportunities and rewarding careers will encourage students to study science. We can also encourage them to undertake research degrees by building strong relationships with businesses and industry to allow students to get the best of all approaches.
At UTS, we have a practical approach that works hard to develop its substantial links to industry. The fact is, we need science-literate graduates in all walks of life (industry, finance, business, government and politics) to respond to the challenges that are ahead. We should also allow combined degree option for science students. This allows them to graduate with two degrees, in a shorter timeframe, giving them innovative and broad career choice. For example, if you combined a major in chemistry and marketing in a Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Business, you can become invaluable to pharmaceutical companies, where you will have the option of following a career in business, product development and research. We need all these approaches and broad science knowledge to prepare for future challenges.
You mention subjects like molecular biology, cell biology, structural biology and bio engineering as emerging specialisations. Can you advise students on benefits of taking these up? Also, what are the job opportunities available? What is the pay package for those who pursue these subjects like?
India's 12th Five-Year plan has set a strategic goal of expanding the available pool of research scholars and scientists at all levels in biological and interdisciplinary fields by 3 to 5 times. Students who major in biotechnology can be employed as biotechnologists, microbiologists, food producers and scientists, technical officers, cancer researchers, secondary school teachers, academics or lecturers, gene therapists, embryologists, molecular scientists, microbiologists, geneticists and biologists.
Students who complete a Bachelor of Biomedical Science can become medical lab managers, cytologists, biochemist microbiologists, research associates, agricultural, medical and science technicians, secondary school teachers, cancer researchers, gene therapists, embryologists, disease diagnostic technicians, biological oceanographers, microbiologists and technicians, geneticists, biologists or pathology medical practitioners.
Salaries are attractive, and according to the 2013 Australian Graduate Survey, the average salary of a science postgraduate student was A$90,556, while the average salary of a science undergraduate was A$49,963.
What would you advise young aspirants of science on pursuing research as a career?
Ensure you have a good knowledge of physics, chemistry and mathematics which are 'enabling subjects'. This will allow you to have good basic knowledge to go on to the more specialised areas. Develop good study habits early, and approach your studies and research with an open and inquiring mind. Consider studying at a good university to capitalise on the growing scientific links between Australia and India and the international community. Follow your interests and keep growing your knowledge and skills through education, practical experience and research.
What are the global trends in the field of science? Is it a popular study choice?
Forty per cent of the Indian science graduates are now working internationally. Austrade has been expanding the connections in research and development, technology transfer and commercialisation between the two countries, demonstrated by the recent Australian Innovation Showcase in India. Students should also be excited about the Indian government's plans for 2017 to create more than 100,000 additional positions for researchers and scientists. In addition, the focus on the 'Make in India' programs is building India's position as a manufacturing hub - this will bring opportunities for science and research graduates, as well as in engineering, IT and business.
Do you think India lacks in innovative curriculum when it comes to study of science? What can be done to change or better the current scenario here?
Creativity is important in all fields. I can't comment specifically on the Indian curriculum - that is best discussed with local universities and educators. However, globally and in Australia, there is a growing demand for creative innovators in some of the biggest companies in the world, from sectors as diverse as automotive, retail, consumer products and government. We now offer an exciting new degree called the Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation which provide graduates with a range of thinking strategies from different disciplines to stimulate problem solving and new opportunities. The Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation degree can be combined with a Bachelor of Science degree.