Meet Saurabh Kulshrestha, the Dean for Research and Development at Shoolini University, and a renowned Biotechnology professor. Hailing from Roorkee in Uttarakhand, his subject of choice in school was Mathematics, but his parents wanted him to opt for Biology as well, so he did… and thus began his Biotechnology journey.
After doing his Bachelor’s and Master’s programs in Biochemistry from Kurukshetra University, he enrolled for a PhD program from CSIR- IHBT, Palampur. As this renowned institution had collaborations with top universities, he received his doctoral degree from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. During this time, he also learned about the opportunities of exploring Biosciences in top international universities. This led him to the University of Kentucky in the USA, where he got a fellowship, working as a postdoctoral associate for two years. Next, he landed a postdoctoral assignment at the Max-Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Köln, Germany.
Wanting to make a difference in the research landscape in India, Prof Saurabh joined the ranks of the faculty at NIT Rourkela. It was during one of his visits to Solan that he met the visionary Chancellor Prof PK Khosla. Inspired by his dream of establishing the No.1 Research University in India, Prof Saurabh joined Shoolini University in 2009. Today, he is one of the pillars of research at Shoolini.
He wholeheartedly committed himself to the cause and over the years, achieved remarkable milestones, including many research projects funded by the DST and DBT (Government of India), NMHS, HIMCOSTE and DEST.
Beyond his research pursuits, Prof Kulshrestha is deeply passionate about nurturing young researchers. He actively mentors undergraduate and postgraduate students, helping them innovate and change the world.
Let’s know how Prof Saurabh guides young researchers on their path to becoming renowned scientists.
- What educational background or degree is necessary to become a Biotech researcher?
Biotechnology programs are open to students from diverse science backgrounds, including Physics, Chemistry, Biology (PCB), and Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics (PCM). Students who have studied Mathematics and Biology in 12th grade are eligible to pursue a degree in Biotechnology. To bridge any knowledge gaps, students with a PCM background must take a remedial course in Biology, while PCB students take a remedial course in Mathematics during the first year of their Biotechnology program.
Undergraduate programs in Biotechnology generally offer two main types of degrees: BTech Biotechnology, which focuses on the technological aspects, and BSc Biotechnology, which emphasise the scientific aspects. These programs typically span four years and provide students with opportunities to engage in research activities.
At Shoolini University, BTech Biotechnology (Research) and BSc Biotechnology (Research) programs are specifically designed for undergrad students interested in pursuing a research-oriented career. Research activities within these programs typically commence in the third year and extend into the fourth year.
In addition, Shoolini University offers an exclusive Summit Research Program (SRP) for BTech Biotechnology students who aspire to become researchers. The SRP program features an additional selection process, which includes interviews conducted by our faculty members to assess the student’s research capabilities and attitudes. Once selected, students are assigned research guides in their first year, allowing them to actively engage in research work from the outset of their program. This early involvement enhances their chances of acquiring patents or publishing research papers. Several SRP students from Shoolini University have filed multiple research papers and, in some cases, even four to five patents. These achievements strengthen their prospects of securing scholarships for further studies abroad.
- What are the essential skills a Biotech researcher should have?
One of the most crucial skills for any aspiring Biotech student is proficiency in laboratory techniques. There is a growing tendency among students to rely heavily on lab attendants to carry out experiments on their behalf. This hampers their ability to learn and develop the essential skills fundamental for their growth as researchers.
From preparing a glass slide for an experiment to setting up complex apparatus, students must perform these activities themselves. At Shoolini University, practical classes create an immersive learning environment that fosters hands-on experience. Active participation in projects and other research endeavours enables students to seek guidance and support from senior students and PhD scholars, who can provide valuable insights and mentorship.
By actively embracing laboratory experience, students elevate their practical skills, expand their scientific knowledge, and unleash their true potential as aspiring Biotech researchers. Remember, true mastery of Biotechnology comes from taking charge of your learning journey and embracing every opportunity to explore, discover, and excel in the fascinating world of laboratory research.
- How important is hands-on laboratory experience? Are there any specific techniques or technologies that researchers should be familiar with?
Shoolini University stands out for its unique approach to laboratory facilities, with separate laboratories dedicated to each faculty member of Biotechnology for research and experiments. This distinctive arrangement ensures that students assigned to specific faculties can actively participate in their respective labs. Shoolini University takes pride in offering such a facility, which sets it apart from other institutions.
In terms of infrastructure, Shoolini University boasts top-notch facilities that are well-suited for Biotechnology studies. Recently, the university established a state-of-the-art Nanotechnology Centre on the campus with a Rs 5 crore grant from Vardhman industry. Furthermore, we have obtained a PURSE grant of Rs 9 crore from the Government of India, which is being utilised to enhance research capabilities and improve infrastructure.
Access to high-quality equipment, top faculty, and spacious laboratories are the high points of top Biotech programs. And we at Shoolini University provide all facilities, ensuring students excel in academics and research.
- What is the typical career path of a Biotech researcher? What are the various stages or positions one may progress through?
I encourage my students to enjoy the entire academic journey — right from a Bachelor’s to a PhD degree. However, the career path of a Biotech researcher can vary as per individual interests. Many students pursue undergraduate studies in Biotech and secure fully funded Master’s admissions abroad through scholarships. And after completing their Master’s degree, they can pursue a PhD in a top international university.
During their doctorate studies abroad, Biotech researchers often earn through fellowships. Another favourable option after a PhD is to undertake a postdoctoral associate position as an independent researcher. Such opportunities are abundant worldwide, as academic careers are highly popular. Top institutions and corporate organisations readily hire Biotech researchers for higher positions within their research divisions.
- What are the advantages of pursuing postgraduate and doctoral programs in Biotechnology at Shoolini University?
Our PhD programs are renowned globally, and several factors contribute to this reputation. First and foremost is the One-Student-One-Patent Policy, where every student is mentored to file innovative patents. Secondly, Shoolini emphasises the importance of publishing in high-quality, Scopus-indexed journals. The university trains its Biotech students and faculty members to publish in Scopus-indexed journals. So, Shoolini students can be confident about engaging in high-impact research, and upon graduating from their PhD program, they will have pioneering patents in their name and valuable papers published in Scopus-indexed journals.
Graduates from our Biotech programs have been successfully recruited as professors by esteemed universities. Furthermore, outstanding students often receive positions within Shoolini itself, highlighting the recognition and value of the education provided by the institution.
- What are the challenges or ethical considerations Biotech researchers face? How does Shoolini address these challenges?
There is an abundance of opportunities, but not many students want to pursue them. Some are sceptical towards exploring prospects in non-English speaking countries in Asia and Europe, such as Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan. However, Shoolini has numerous international collaborations with top universities, and students must make the most of this opportunity.
Ethically, the most crucial aspect of research and publications is often compromised when students fabricate data to attain publications. While this may provide short-term benefits, it is disadvantageous in the long run.
- How has Biotech research evolved in recent years, and what impact has it had on the industry as a whole?
The Biotech industry is experiencing rapid growth, and the impact of COVID-19 has further highlighted its significance. Even before the pandemic, Biotechnology flourished, but COVID-19 has presented new and captivating dimensions to the field. The remarkable and commendable work conducted by biotechnologists during the pandemic deserves recognition. Typically, developing a vaccine for any virus requires 7-9 years, but COVID-19 demonstrated that this process can be accelerated and completed within a year. This showcases the power of Biotechnology.
Shoolini University is actively involved in various research aspects, including exploring the immune-boosting potential of herbal plants in India. This research aims to combat future diseases effectively. Situated in the Himalayas, Shoolini enjoys access to medicinal plants, enhancing the scope of such investigations. Additionally, Computational Biology is being utilised to study molecules capable of blocking COVID-19, further advancing the university’s research efforts.
- What are the alternative avenues for Biotech researchers seeking career growth and opportunities beyond academia or industry research?
There are several career profiles available for Biotechnology graduates. Many of them find employment in pharmaceutical companies, where they contribute to the research and development of new drugs. These roles include both production and research aspects. The popularity of patenting has also shot up, making Biotechnology students much sought-after candidates.
Another avenue for employment is in knowledge processing organisations (KPOs). These organisations value the expertise of Biotechnology students and hire them for various roles. Additionally, there are opportunities in content writing as scientific research writers, where individuals can apply their knowledge and skills to effectively communicate scientific information.
- How do regulatory policies and patent landscape influence Biotech research and innovation at Shoolini University?
Patenting has gained tremendous popularity due to its ability to turn new ideas and innovations into marketable products. At Shoolini University, we actively encourage patenting. Whenever there is a “Eureka Moment”, we guide and support students to file a patent before publishing it as a paper. And if the patent materialises and generates revenue, the student can earn a royalty from their invention!
- Any advice or tips for individuals interested in a career as a Biotech researcher?
Have a clear vision and strategically plan your four years to become a Biotechnology researcher. Take the time to understand and explore the career paths available in research and beyond and align them with your interests. Students must be open-minded and wholeheartedly embrace any opportunities that Shoolini University offers. This way, you can maximise your potential and make the most of your academic journey.