The world has come to realize the miracles of Genetic Engineering, in agriculture - higher yield and better varieties of crops, in medicine - diagnostics and cures that were only a dream a few years back. It's in the news. It's everywhere. The rapid scientific progress that led to the development of newer DNA sequencing technologies and gene editing approaches have underscored the necessity to combine the classical field, such as, genetics with fast emerging fields, like genomics and genome editing. Genetic Engineering is the backbone of biotechnology. The opportunities for a genetic engineer in clinical and applied genetics today and in the future are boundless. Started in the year 2004, the department aims to produce genetic engineers who excel in the field of genomics and gene editing. The department has brought together state of the art laboratories and a highly experienced and dedicated team of faculty. The department takes immense care to impart knowledge in a highly interactive mode, hands-on training in advanced molecular biology techniques and cutting-edge research opportunities.
The B. Tech. program in Biotechnology (specialization in Genetic Engineering) comprises foundation courses in Biology and Engineering in the first year. In the subsequent years, the students will be having advanced courses like Human Genetics, Recombinant DNA Technology, Stem Cell Biology, Immunology, and Gene Manipulation & Genomics.
Students' seminars, laboratory sessions, and assignments are designed to be highly challenging, which paves the way for the students to bring out their intellectual and interactive skills in analysing scientific problems.
SRM is the only place in India where post-graduate training in latest Genetic Engineering Technologies is provided at global standards. Specialization is offered in Human Genetics, Plant Genetics, and Microbial Genetics modules. In the MTech program in Genetic Engineering, our goal is to train our students to think broadly and critically about scientific problems. We will teach our students to apply hypothesis-oriented investigations on the heritable basis of various biological characters, gene interactions, regulation of gene expression and the molecular basis of genetic diseases. The program facilitates collaborations among research groups in the department with diverse research interests and encourages students to embark on multidisciplinary discovery. Briefly, the program offers training by integrating foundations of classical and modern genetics with focused laboratory sessions.
The department is supported by 26 full-time teaching faculty and 1 teaching associate. All the faculty members have strong expertise and research experience in cutting edge areas of Genetics. All the faculty members have Ph.D. degree and almost all faculty members have undergone postdoctoral research training in premier research institutes/ universities in Europe and USA. Several of our faculty members have very productive national and international research collaborations.
The department gives great importance to obtain externally funded research projects from India and abroad. Collaborative and interdisciplinary research is active in the areas of genomics, human genetics, bio-energy, plant, animal and microbial genetics. Faculty members are actively engaged in procuring externally funded research projects as well as internally funded pilot projects. Our faculty members have garnered extramural research funding to the tune of INR 21.83 Crores.
The department is dedicated to the impact-making biological discovery and strong excellence in post-graduate education. The department has identified few focus areas in which it possesses strong representation and leadership – Genomics, Cancer Biology, Microbiology, and Integrative Biology. Some of the key facilities available for the students are transgenic greenhouse facility, automated DNA sequencing platforms, biological mass spectrometry facility, zebrafish facility, light microscopy facility, gene pulse, etc.
Highlights of exciting research activities in the department are as follows:
We are part of Genome Asia Project and have successfully sequenced the whole genome sequence of a couple from Irula, an Indian tribal community. In 2015, our Department organized the Indian Genetics Congress 2015, that brought together leading human, plant and microbial geneticists under one umbrella. The congress was inaugurated by World Food Prize Laureate Prof. M.S. Swaminathan and Keynote Address was given by Nobel Laureate Prof. Harald zur Hausen. Every alternate year we conduct a conference on selected thematic areas of genetics. Twenty-nine M.Tech. students have gone to premier universities/institutes in USA, Europe, Singapore, and Taiwan to do their final semester project work as part of the “Students Abroad Programme”. Several of our Department alumni are pursuing their Ph.D.programs in leading national and international laboratories. At the end of every academic year, we organize “Genetic Engineering Research Symposium” wherein all the students pursuing research projects will present their work in various highly interactive sessions and best presentations will be awarded “Best Undergraduate Research Award” and “Best Postgraduate Research Award”. Every year, all the faculty members conduct workshops on their field of expertise for undergraduate students from other colleges in the region, to kindle research interest in them. The faculty members have filed several patents based on the research activities carried out in their respective laboratories.
Senior persons from Metahelix Life Sciences, The Centre for Genomic Application, Vittal Mallaya Scientific Research Foundation, and Scignom serve in our Corporate Advisory Board. Students are sent for industrial training to Biocon, Reddy's Lab, Life Line Research Centre, Reliance Life Science, Life Cell, Genome Life Science, etc.
There are immense opportunities for geneticists in the fields of basic and clinical research. Genetic engineers have scope for employment all over the world in both developed and developing nations. However, being a research-oriented field, becoming full-time researchers in public funded institutions or private companies or Professor in Universities is the most sought after career option. Another attractive career option for genetic engineering students is to opt for higher studies in genetic counseling and to become a certified genetic counselor who deals with patients and their family affected with genetic diseases, including cancer. Though genetic counseling is well developed in Western countries, with increasing awareness of genetic diseases and access and affordability to genetic testing, it is fast picking up in India as well.