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Future in Life Sciences

Q: I am studying in Class XII and interested in biology. What are the opportunities in biology?

— Urvashi Yashpal

A: Biology is the study of the natural world and all the organisms inhabiting it. Many students are afraid of taking up biology because they think it's about smelly labs and test tubes. But students of biology can become doctors, biotechnologists, scientists, clinical researchers and environmentalists. Biology opens up myriad opportunities and is an exciting and rapidly changing subject, with many applications in fields such as conservation biology and molecular genetics. It has undergone tremendous expansion in recent years, and fields such as molecular genetics, neuroscience, biotechnology, evolutionary biology and ecology hold a lot of promise. These developments will have a considerable impact on fields such as medicine, environment and agriculture. Plant protection, forestry, epidemiology, applied entomology and ecology are other interesting areas. Biology also has several branches such as anatomy, astrobiology, biochemistry, biotechnology, bioinformatics, botany, cell biology, ecology, developmental biology, evolutionary biology, genetics, genomics, marine biology, human biology, microbiology, molecular biology, palaeontology, parasitology, physiology and zoology. With rapid progress in biological sciences, there has been a blurring of the distinctions between disciplines.

Gateway to tech success

Q: What is the Graduate Aptitude Test (Gate) all about? For how many years will the score be valid ?

—Arav Baijal

A: This year the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi has been given the responsibility to conduct the exam . While the online exam is on January 29, 2012, the offline exam will be on February 12, 2012. The deadline for online applications is October 17, 2011.

The Gate 2012 results will be announced on March 15, 2012 on the Gate websites of the IITs and IISc. The Gate score is valid for two years from the date of announcement of the result.

The Gate exam consists of a single paper of 100 marks. It is a three-hour test with 65 objective type multiple-choice questions. There is a general aptitude component of 15 marks as well. To know more about the test you can visit: www.gate.iitd.ac.in/ GATE

Recession no bar for US study

Q: I want to do masters in either communication or journalism in the US. Which are the colleges I can apply to? Is it advisable to go to the US next fall as the country is going through a recession?

—Mannika Biswas

A: American universities offer a masters degree in communication studies and journalism. So what’s the difference between the two? While journalism is the practice of investigation and reporting of events, communication studies encompass a wide range of topics and contexts ranging from face-to-face conversation to speeches to mass media outlets such as television broadcasting. The top universities where one can apply for a masters programme are Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, New York, University of California, Berkeley, Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Evanston, University of Missouri’s School of Journalism,Columbia, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Journalism programmes broadly have three branches — magazine, newspaper, or broadcast (TV & radio). At the masters level, courses are less about the theoretical aspects of journalism and more about the tricks of the trade. The masters programme at the Columbia School of Journalism includes courses such as personal and professional style, covering ideas and the deadline in depth. Do keep in mind that a masters course is quite expensive, almost prohibitive by Indian standards. The one-year programme at Columbia costs a hefty $75,000 (about Rs 35 lakh), which covers tuition and living expenses. Also, many of them prefer a couple of years’ work experience in the field.

With the US economy on a downward spiral, do keep a couple of things in mind. First, understand the impact the recession has on jobs and hiring outlook in your desired field. By and large, advertisers and traditional mainstream media tend to reduce hiring during recession but that doesn’t mean they don’t require skilled, qualified and motivated professionals. Be prepared to work hard and do well both in academics and internships to improve chances of landing a job. Second, during a recession most universities actually see an increase in applications — with people wanting to ride out the tough times and improve skills, thereby making themselves more employable. As a result, getting admission into top programmes actually becomes harder. Last, the recession has a definite impact on funding, aid and scholarships, especially for international students. Most international students look at scholarships and grants to fund education. But don’t let the prevailing economic scenario stop you from applying in the first place.


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