Soft skills have always been rated on the first priority of an employer, be it any kind of industry. Soft skills generally focus on the interpersonal skills of an individual but these days employers are more focusing on the term “Cultural Skills” and they found a huge gap in the preparedness of the upcoming workforce.

Cultural Skills focus on working in a group or team setting, demonstrating leadership qualities and recognizing an individual’s role in the organization. Research shows that companies coming for recruitment specifically looking for this kind of soft skills in the new recruitments. Recruiters mention that they can find skillful candidates but they are looking for a “Cultural –Fit” – someone who can seamlessly transition into the company and work with fellow colleagues.

A Massachusetts-based nonprofit organization that supports science and biotechnology education, released its 2018 Job Trends Forecast for the Life Science Industry in Massachusetts, presented at the Life Science Workforce 2018 Conference, hosted at Northeastern University’s Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex (ISEC). The report highlighted another year of growth in the biotechnology sector, predicting approximately 12,000 new biotech jobs by 2023. But, interestingly, the conference also highlighted a large gap in the preparedness of the workforce – a lack of “cultural training” among new applicants.  (Education, 2019).

Biotechnology jobs require a lot of hard skills just to get into a specific job. Whether it is scientific skills, research skills, technological skills – these skills are always a prerequisite. But apart from that, there are certain skills which are required essentially if someone is looking for some advancement.

Soft skills are such skills that cannot be taught rather they need to be learned gradually and these skills help to make all the difference down the road. Everyone knows this fact, yet ignores it and later realizes that it is true somewhere down in their career. Following are a few soft skills which an individual needs to focus on further advancements:

  • Find the edge of your comfort
  • Turn theory into practice, practice into performance
  • Review the tapes
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Collaboration
  • Diversity of thought
  • Complex problem solving
  • Time management
  • Communication

Soft skills are really the skills that deal with people. Don’t forget that it’s people that run industries.

Nanotechnology involves itself with the process of creating materials, devices, and systems by manipulating matter at the nanometre scale (1-100 nm). The subsequent application of the materials in the nm scale can be in diverse interdisciplinary fields such as physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, agriculture, etc. The emergence ‘nano-world’ dates back to 1959 when physicist Richard Feynman, postulated with the concept of the nano and articulated “There is plenty of room at the bottom” at a conference of the American Physical Society. Materials of Nanometre scale, i.e., nanomaterials exhibit a large surface-to-volume ratio that leads to an exponential increase in their reactivity. The delocalization tendency of valence electrons participating in chemical bonding varies with the size of the particles. The structure may also alter with the size. These alterations may culminate into variations in the size-dependent physical and chemical properties such as magnetic and optical properties, melting point, specific heat, surface reactivity, bandgap, etc. Nanomaterials are typically classified into four types based on size – 0D, 1D, 2D, and 3D nanomaterials. For 0D nanomaterial, all its dimensions lie within the range of the nanometre scale. A huge boost in manufacturing of nanomaterials has come up, such as quantum dots. 1D nanomaterials have a single dimension that does not conform to nanometre scale range. A large range of 1D nanomaterials includes nanowires, nanorods, etc., which have found its use in various fields. 2D nanomaterials comprise of two dimensions which are not in the nanometre scale range. This class of nanomaterials typically include nanoplates and nanosheets. On the other hand, 3D nanomaterials are generated by the combination of the other three nanomaterial types and exhibit important applications as catalyst and battery electrode materials (such as nanoflowers, nanoballs). Most extensively studied among the nanomaterials are the nanoparticles (NPs), which are composed of three layers: a surface layer (which can be functionalized with a variety of small molecules, metal ions, surfactants and polymers), the shell layer (harbors chemically different composition from the core) and the core (constitutes the central portion of the NP and usually referred to as the NP itself.

Biotechnology is an area of advanced research. Benefits of biotechnology can also be seen in medical institutions. This field in biology is extensively used in pharmaceutical products and medicines, human therapy, engineering, science and technology, agriculture and many more. Gene therapy is the most successful result of biotechnology research use to cure aids and cancer. It is proven to be a great solution to mankind struggles by considering cell biology as an important research area.

Cell biology provides us an understanding of how a cell works, from bacteria to mammalian cell. Cell division is crucial in Biotechnological studies when monitoring growth of Cancer cells for therapeutic purposes. This field is becoming increasingly important in efforts to better understand complex biological behaviors.

The eukaryotic cell division is a complex phenomenon comprising of two key events, duplication of the entire genome and equal segregation of the duplicated genome into two daughter cells. These events are highly regulated so that replication occurs only once per cell cycle which is further essential so as to restore the genomic integrity of cells and prevent uncontrolled cell growth (Cancer). Deregulation of replication factors leading to loss of genomic integrity is seen in many cancers. Role of micro-RNAs in the regulation of DNA replication and cell cycle, indirectly in cancer, is being explored by various research groups worldwide.

MicroRNAs are a class of endogenous small non-coding RNAs with 20–25 nucleotides in length. These miRNAs are present ubiquitously in animals, plants, and viruses, suggesting that miRNAs may be of significant evolutionary importance. By down-regulating gene expression post transcriptionally, miRNAs play important roles in nearly all biological processes, such as developmental timing, cell proliferation, apoptosis, stem cell maintenance, differentiation, signal pathway, and pathogenesis including carcinogenesis.

The number of individual miRNAs expressed in different organisms is comparable to those of transcription factors or RNA-binding proteins (RBPs), and many are expressed in a tissue-specific or developmental stage-specific manner, thereby greatly contributing to cell-type-specific profiles of protein expression. The nature of miRNA interactions with their mRNA targets or say putative protein targets, which involve short sequence signatures, makes them well suited for combinatorial effects with other miRNAs or RBPs that associate with the same mRNA. With the potential to target dozens or even hundreds of different mRNAs, individual miRNAs can coordinate the over-expression of proteins in a cell hence leading to control cellular growth and giving cancer a better treatment approach.

The field of deciphering the letters of life, i.e. whole or complete genome sequencing not only paves the path for gene discovery and characterization (functional genomics) but also provides raw materials for analyzing the evolutionary history of an organism (molecular phylogeny). The genome sequence provides a bird’s eye view of the information needed for understanding the biology of organisms.  In 1974, two methods of DNA sequencing were independently developed. One team, lead by Maxam and Gilbert, used a “chemical cleavage protocol”, while the other, lead by Sanger, designed a procedure similar to the natural process of DNA replication. Even though both teams shared the 1980 Nobel Prize, Sanger’s method became the standard because of its relatively easier protocol. The first DNA sequence was obtained, of 12 base pair overhang of bacteriophage λ, using laborious methods based on 2-dimensional electrophoresis on cellulose acetate and DEAE cellulose paper. After this sequencing genomes has become easier as automated techniques have been developed from BAC shotgun sequencing to Next-generation sequencing (NGS) methods and technique.

All initial plant genome projects utilized the Sanger sequencing platform of dideoxy sequencing and either large insert clones such as bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) clones that were subjected to shotgun sequencing or by direct whole genome shotgun sequencing (WGS). Since 2007, methods for sequencing plant genomes have evolved rapidly. This is due entirely to advances in next-generation sequencing (NGS) platforms in terms of throughput, quality, and read lengths. Major sequencing platform include Sanger Chain (termination/dideoxy sequencing), 454 (Pyrosequencing), Illumina (Sequencing by synthesis with reversible terminators), SOLiDTM (Sequencing by ligation in color space), Pacific Biosciences (Real-time single-molecule sequencing), Ion Torrent (pH detection),10X genomics (microfluidics-based platform for generating linked reads) and  nanopore sequencing technologies. The ability to determine the physical organization and expression patterns of genes from many plant species will allow the best leveraging of available resources through comparative genome analysis. For instance, the availability of the Arabidopsis genome sequence has greatly enhanced our knowledge of the entire complement of genes expressed by a typical flowering plant helped in map-based cloning in tomato on the basis of chromosomal synteny between the two species and facilitated functional analysis of tomato genes. Thus, translating the strings of A, G, C and T into an understanding of the various genes that make up the genome, how different genes are related, and how the various parts of the genome are coordinated. and ultimately how the genome works is still an open question and has given rise the various subfields of genomics such as transcriptomics, proteomics, functional genomics, and bioinformatics.

With the increasing population, the problem of waste management is increasing. The waste produced is not only damaging the landscape but is seriously affecting human health. Transmission of diseases through microbes and pollution are common problems associated with the improper handling of waste.

Flies, mosquitoes breed over these sites and cause diseases like malaria, dengue, and feco-oral diseases. In order to combat the problem of waste, we have to start with the roots, the reduction in generation of waste through recycling, reusing the materials. The solid waste consists of unwanted and useless solid material generated from human activity in different sectors like residential, industrial, commercial, healthcare.

Depending on the source, solid waste can be categorized into industrial, biomedical and municipal solid waste. The industrial waste includes the toxic, hazardous waste which could be inflammable and cause a serious threat to the environment if left untreated.

Biomedical waste includes the waste generated from hospitals, clinics, dispensaries, veterinary hospitals, etc., which include human anatomical waste, animal waste, soiled waste of plasters, waste sharps, discarded medicines, toxic chemicals, etc. The waste generated from households, communities comes under municipal waste.

To solve the problem of waste in India, some measures have been taken by the Government, like the Swacch Bharat Abhiyan by Prime Minister, NarendraModi. Segregation of waste at source, door-to-door collection, transportation, pre-treatment of the infectious waste and final disposal are some of the major points to be focused on in the proper disposal of solid waste.

The segregation of waste into categories of biodegradable, non-biodegradable, hazardous, infectious at source by the person generating it can help reduce the number of persons coming in contact with the waste. The waste should be transported to incinerators, compost pits and landfills by covering the waste in different colored bags. The incinerators and landfills should be located far away from the residential areas as it can cause damage to the people living nearby.

The landfills should not be left uncovered, as it can cause flies, mosquitoes in the surrounding area which can be the cause of the spread of various diseases. It is also important that the landfills should not contain toxic and hazardous chemicals as they can enter the ground water table through seepage of rainwater.

The municipal waste can be disposed off in the communal pits which are located nearby, as it mostly consists of organic waste. Vermicomposting can also be an alternative method for the treatment of organic waste. It provides manure which can be used by farmers. Organic waste convertors, which are self-sustainable, are readily available in the market of various quantities which has numerous benefits like manure production, gas production which can be used for cooking purpose.

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Biotechnology has given rise to biofuel. The use of limited resources has forced us to think about the optimum utility of renewable resources for human consumption across the globe. Biodiesel is one such fuel that illustrates the importance of a renewable source of energy. Biodiesel is an alternative renewable fuel that is produced from vegetable oils, animal fats, spent frying oils and microbial oils.  Greases and Jatropha are also sources of biodiesel and constitute non-edible sources.

A major challenge in using non-edible sources, however, props up in the form of utilization of large scale land, which can cause scarcity of agricultural land for edible crops. To circumvent this problem, microalgae have been used to create biodiesel. Microalgae have high photosynthetic efficiency and can grow in diverse environmental conditions that include high salinity, toxic metal content, presence of toxicants and high CO2 concentration.

Moreover, microalgae can grow in non-arable lands like sea coasts and deserts. The growth of microalgae in water is controllable and non-potable water can also be used. Most microalgae like Scenedesmus and Chlorella have short life cycles, usually less than 24 hours and they have high oil productivity per hectare. Many species of microalgae have been identified to be sources of renewable fuel. Groups from diverse parts have engaged in the development of renewable fuel.

It has been seen that the addition of iron to growth medium under nitrate limitation was found to enhance the crude lipid content of Chlorella to 56.6%. Biodiesel is produced by the synthesis of fatty acid methyl esters – FAME, that involves a transesterification reaction between fatty acid and alcohol.

This step is known to be economical but generates industrial waste that is a hazard.  In this method, pre-extraction is carried out of the oil from the raw material. Nowadays, In situ transesterification has been developed as in this method the pre-extraction and esterification are combined in a single step. The production of industrial waste is countered in this method. Thus, with research and innovation in biotechnology, humans are better equipped to face the challenges of the future.

The horizon of excellence was visible as Chandrayaan – 2 lifted off successfully to explore the moon, representing the scientific exuberance that India has in its armour. More interestingly the passion for scientific excellence has spread to many Indians and in the spectrum of areas available, Biotechnology is one that is booming. The aspirations of people are many and one of them is the development of insect-resistant crops.

The hard work of a farmer is at risk of loss when insects and pests attack a crop. The dedication with which crops are cultivated has now been supported robustly by the utilization of Bacillus thuringiensis bacterium. This bacterium which has a size of one or few microns i.e. one thousand of a millimetre has been effective in battling insects that spoil crops. This bacterium is abbreviated as Bt. It has been applied for the betterment of crop productivity by expressing its biological trait as well. The bacterium could be used as an inhabitant of the soil. First discovered in Japan in 1901 and subsequently in Germany in 1911, the bacterium has been used for a century. These bacteria can be used as a liquid spray or their genes can be introduced into a plant for expressing proteins that help a plant to survive. This microorganism has a gene, Cry1Ac, that produces a protein that targets the digestive tract of harmful Lepidoptera moths and caterpillars but is not derogatory for humans or harmless animals.  The gene that produces such a protein has been cloned in seeds of crops, making them resistant to attack by insects that feed on them.  Bt cotton in India and Australia have been blockbuster success frontiers that have caused the good output of the product. Before the inception of Bt cotton, the pink bollworm wreaked havoc in Indian fields but now that problem has been countered. Corn borers caused so much damage to corn in the 1960s, that they were labelled “ billion-dollar pest”. Bt has been the tool of choice to evade this menace. The other advantage is that this technique reduces the use of other topical insecticides that are harmful to human health. To summarize, Biotechnology has been a great provider of protection to agriculture and in boosting productivity.

History is witness to the fact that since time immemorable, a huge importance has been attributed to the system of Guru shishya school of thought in our great nation. From noble kings to mere mortals, a Guru has paved the righteous and successful way for many a pupil. In continuation of the pious social and ethical practices of historic India, the glory of academics in Dr. B.Lal Institute of Biotechnology has increased tremendously with the advent of Guru Shishya Parampara (GSP) – a trend that highlights individual focus and attention given to each student by the faculty of the Institute. In this system, the GSP incharge holds together the sanctity and dedication of the student towards academics and cultural activity. The teacher makes sure that the personal problems of the students are overcome by counseling, attendance is regular, the student is understanding all subjects and feedback is taken from them.

This system creates a bond of respect tethering students and teachers and unlocks skills amidst students who bask in the aura of encouragement and support. Training is imparted to students in various colleges but GSP activity makes Dr. B. Lal Institute of Biotechnology incomparable. This institute has set the highest standards of teaching and student guidance. The teachers are constantly committed to the betterment of the students. The students get comfortable in sharing their problems with their teachers and guidance of the right kind is imparted to them.

In its illustrious journey of ten years, Dr. B. Lal Institute of Biotechnology has paved the way for countless students towards success and spiritual enrichment in life. The positive vibrations that resonate the institute, emanate. in part, from GSP. The construction of creative minds is a task to which every teacher of the institute is committed to. The guru shishya parampara has created a milestone in the development of students in all spheres of life.

The advent of biotechnology is prominent. Gone are the winds of insipid excitement and permanent are the forces of renovation that contain historic achievements. The use of microbes that have inhabited the earth for millions of years, for bioremedial techniques illustrates the fact that natural history paves a way for present development. Bioremediation of toxic metals from groundwater is an advantage that biotechnology has provided for human health. Arsenic is a toxic metal that can be removed from water by arsenic oxidizing bacteria. The bacteria are used for oxidation of Arsenite As(III) to As(V), that can be easily separated from the water. Many heterotrophic bacteria oxidize As(III)  to detoxify their immediate environment. On the contrary, some bacteria behave as agents that use As(III) as electron donors. Various molecular markers have been identified to recognize bacteria with potential arsenic oxidizing activity such as 16s rRNA, aioA, arsB and others. By oxidizing the more toxic Arsenic As (III) to less toxic As(V) and concomitantly gaining energy, such bacteria have an appreciable ecological advantage over their counterparts. The As oxidase gene has been characterized by bacteria. A study has confirmed that the As oxidase gene is a very ancient gene. In certain ways, Arra and As oxidase have been found to be similar.

Classical technologies are efficient in removal of  As(V) but not As(III). There are also cost intensive. Here Biotechnology counters the problem. Biocolumn reactors with immobilised bacterial cells have been used. A novel cost effective biocomposite- granules of cement coated with cysts of certain cyanobacteria has been studied The composite has been proven to remove 96% arsenic. Many such biocolumns or devices have been made that harness the ability of bacteria to remove As(III) and As(V). The efficiency of these has been very high. Thus techniques of biotechnology have been effectively used to clean drinking water from arsenic. Similar approaches have been taken for remediation of other toxic metals like cadmium, excessive Iron and others. Biotechnology is critically involved in the maintenance of human health.

Environmental Biotechnology is a dynamic branch of Biotechnology that deals with the improvement of the environment and microbes that remediate the problems of the environment.  This important branch of biotechnology harnesses the power of microbes to sequester toxic chemicals from contaminated sites. This field is a combination of biology and engineering.

In modern times, rapid industrial growth has led to drastic increase in pollution; Pollutants have been added to our environment in gigantic proportions by human activities. To ameliorate this problem, Environmental biotechnology is a potent tool. This field is known to include techniques like development of plants for filtration of pollutants in air, soil and water, synthesis of biofuel and optimization of sustainable process.

The benefits of environmental biotechnology have been observed in the production of biofuel from the Jatropha plant. Moreover, cotton waste has also been used to generate ethanol via fermentation. Such fuels are required very much for human activities as conventional fuels are limited in amount. Bioremediation is another critically important field that used recombinant microorganisms to clear contaminated land sites of toxic metals like cadmium, arsenic, etc. The use of earthworms for treatment of wastewater, called vermifiltration, has been effectively used.

In government organisations, jobs are aplenty for qualified personnel of Environmental Biotechnology. Their work is contributory in the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, town planning offices, sewage treatment plants, etc.  Thus a plethora of societal and economic applications of environmental biotechnology are to be made in the current time and in the future.

Listen to the expert Dr. Sonika Saxena, Vice Principal, Dr. B. Lal Institute of Biotechnology, Jaipur below!