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Human Resource Development

Bioinformatics is an emerging interdisciplinary area of science and technology encompassing systematic development and application of IT solutions to handle biological research problems. The area requires highly trained human resource to deal molecular biology issues with the application of computer and software tools. The present crisis is non availability of sufficient manpower for teaching as well as for perusing R&D activities in bioinformatics in combination with Experimental Biology. The department had realized this problem and therefore had introduced several long-term and short-term educational activities to address this gap. The details are as follows.

(i) M.SC. and M. Tech. Cources in Bioinformatics

Five Universities namely 1) JNU, 2) Pune University, 3) Calcutta University, 4) Pondicherry University, and 5) MKU were running a one year advanced post graduate diploma courses in Bioinformatics. A total of 100 candidates are being produced per annum through these courses. The first two universities mentioned above namely JNU and University of Pune have upgraded their diploma courses as Post graduate courses namely M.Tech. in Computational and systematic biology and M.Sc. in Bioinformatics respectively, during the year. The MKU and Pondicherry University along with Anna University have also been proposed to start M.Sc in Bioinformatics on consortium basis so as to share the faculties and resources through video Conferencing and virtual class room approaches from this academic session.

(ii) Ph.D. Programmes in Bioinformatics

The COEs of BTISnet including the super computing facility at IIT, Delhi are running Ph.D. programs in Bioinformatics as the demand is very high for the high end human resource in Bioinformatics & Computational Biology. The first batch of Ph.D. students of JNU and Pune University would be coming out this year.

(iii) Short Term Training Programmes

In order to provide exposure and hands on experience for the researchers, faculties, and students about Bioinformatics tools and resources and to encourage them to use these for speeding up of their R&D activities, the BTISnet centres have organized 130 short-term training programs and over 2000 researchers have been trained during this year.

Bioinformatics National Certification (BINC) Examinations

India has made major strids in Biotechnology and Bioinformatics. The industry growth in these areas is spectacular. The growth can be better if India is able to create high quality human resources and provide industry relevant training. Last few years several private institutions and universities have started Bioinformatics courses and training programs at various levels. The quality of the training given in these institutions and universities is not in the uniform level. This has created two main problems, mainly the industry is not getting the desired quality manpower which is affecting their growth in terms of carrying out contract research as well as the development of bioinformatics software tools and generation of IPR. Secondly which is rather equally important is that the young students do not find the job even after they try substantially for such training and thus the disillusionment among students and parents.

Therefore, DBT has decided to conduct national level Bioinformatics Certificate Exam to identify quality bioinformaticians. The task is assigned to Bioinformatics Centre, University of Pune. A National Coordination Committee under the Chairmanship of Prof. Ashok Kolaskar was formed with the experts from Jawaharlal Nehru University, Madurai Kamaraj University, Anna University, West Bengal University of Technology, Pondicherry University, Institute of Bioinformatics and Applied Biotechnology, Bangalore; Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore; Bose Institute, Calcutta, Department of Biotechnology, University of Pune, etc.

The test was designed in three parts. The first part of the test was fundamentals through objective type question paper, second part was to test the knowledge of Bioinformatics through short answers and third part was the practical on the computers. The syllabus was designed by the experts and kept on the web at least four months in advance with model question paper and all the details as to how the examination would be conducted. The examination was conducted at Pune, Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai and Kolkata. In the first year, not a single student could get in the first paper more than 50% marks and thus no one qualified out of 314. However, the examination conducted on 24th & 25th February, 2007, 26 students have qualified for first paper and finally eight students have passed 2nd and 3rd papers. Thus, certificates have been offered to all these eight students. In addition, DBT has also awarded cash prize of
Rs.10, 000/- to each of all the eight students. Further, DBT provided Ph.D. fellowships to all eligible BINC qualified students.

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