Becoming a microbiologist: course diversity, future prospects and challenges

2014-04-05

Himalayan News Service

Share this on:

Have you always been fascinated with microscopic life? And do you want to expand your knowledge on the understanding of microscopic organisms that possess both beneficial and harmful qualities? On top of that, if you have always desired to pursue your career as a microbiologist or work as a quality controller at food industries, researcher and so on, you could realise your dream by studying Microbiology.

Where to study?

If you wish to continue your higher studies in this branch of applied science dealing with the study of microorganisms, then currently Tribhuvan University (TU)  and Pokhara University (PU)  have been offering the courses at various levels. 

  1. Colleges offering B.Sc Microbiology degree programs in Nepal 
  2. College offering Bachelor of Science in Medical Microbiology in affiliation with Pokhara University 
  3. Colleges offering M.Sc Microbiology program in affiliation with Tribhuvan University 
  4. Colleges offering M.Sc Clinical Microbiology (TU) 
  5. Colleges offering MD Microbiology TU 
  6. Colleges offering MD Microbiology in Nepal in affiliation with Kathmandu University 
  7. BPKIHS  M.Sc Medical Microbiology 
  8. BPKIHS MD Microbiology 

Most of the colleges affiliated to TU conduct classes of BSc Microbiology though it was first introduced at Tri-Chandra Multiple Campus (TC), , Ghantaghar in 1979. 

Meanwhile, the Master’s level course was introduced by the Central Department of Microbiology, TU in 1990. However, other TU-affiliated colleges too offer this course in the Master’s level.

Pokhara University  introduced the course quite late — it has has been providing Bachelor’s in Medical Microbiology  at Noble College since 2001.

Course diversity

Microbiology, basically deals with the study of microscopic organisms — bacteria, virus, protozoa, parasites, fungi, et cetera — that are both useful and harmful, explained Professor Dr Dwij Raj Bhatta, Central Department of Microbiology, TU

However, the course has been divided into various branches — Medical Microbiology, Environment and Public Health Microbiology, Food Microbiology and Agriculture Microbiology.

At TU and its affilaited colleges, students must study all the four divisions at the Bachelor’s level while they can specialise in only one subject at the Master’s.

“The students have to study General Microbiology, Zoology, Botany, Chemistry, Biochemistry and Microbial Biotechnology, Agriculture and Food Microbiology and more at their Bachelor’s level”, shared Shova Shrestha, Head, Mircobiology Department at TC. 

But not all courses have been introduced at Master’s level in Nepal yet — while most TU affiliated colleges offer Master’s in Medical Microbiology, “one can study Master’s in Environment and Public Health Microbiology only at the Central Department”, infomred Prof Dr Anjana Singh, Head, Central Department of Microbiology.

“Most of the constituent and private colleges only have Medical Microbiology in Master’s level because of its popularity among the students,” she added.

Meanwhile, Master’s in Food Microbiology is available at National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST), , though the master’s level course for Agriculture Microbiology has not been introduced yet, as per Prof Dr Singh.

In the two-year long Master’s level, the students have to study General Microbiology in first semester, she further added. It is only from the second semester, they can choose the subject to specialise in.

On the other hand Pokhara University has categorised Medical Microbiology as health science as per Sushil Karki, Programme Co-ordinator of Medical Microbiology at Nobel College.

Furture prospects 

Ankita Belbase, BSc Microbiology Ist year student at Trichandra multiple campus plans to work in the health sector after completing her study. “Without being a doctor, I will be able to teach the doctors as a graduate of Microbiology”, Belbase shared her future plans.

But the scope of Microbiology is more than that. With the growing population and changing environment, the graduates of Microbiology can work as quality controller at food industries, researcher at labs, vaccine developer, drug developer and also work to identify the cause and prevention of epidemic as per Prof Dr Bhatta.

Meanwhile, Chandra Mani Kafle, MSc Microbiology IInd Semester student at Central Department of Microbiology TU is fascinated by the oppourtunity the course proivdes you to work at community level. “One can work in community based service after studying Microbiology where one gets to investigate about outbreak of any epidemic,” he opined.

Interestingly, around 65 per cent of graduates of Microbiology opt for going to other countries to study this subject as per Prof Dr Singh.

Rishika Pokharel, who recently passed BSc Medical Microbiology from Nobel College is one of them. “The job prospects and quality of education both are good at other countries. So, I am looking forward to pursue my Master’s level outside the country,” she revaled. 

Challenges 

Despite quite a lot career prospects in the sector, the authrities concerned are negligent about the need of microbiologists in our society as per Prof Dr Singh.  

Giving an instance of contamination of dairy products, she explained, “The contamination was caused due to the negligence in quality control on timely basis. And it is because there are not sufficient microbiologists in the bodies concerned.” 

And there are some obstacles during the teaching learning process as well. Dinesh Prasad Joshi, MSc IInd Semester student at Central Department of Microbiology, pointed out that the lack of proper exposure of students in lab and research work as well as shortage of adequate lab equipments as some challenges in government colleges. 

Meanwhile, number of students is increasing but the equipments are less which has forced the students to work in group rather than doing practicals individually. And it has affected the teaching-learning process, shared Sarita Manandhar Teaching Assistant at TC. 

However, the students and academician all are hopeful that one day the government will recognise the necessity of Microbiology for development of human kind.

Source: This article was initially published in The Himalayantimes on July 23.