Genetic Engineering, also known as Genetic Manipulation or Genetic Modification has always been a fascinating career for students especially those who are immensely interested in Biology. Usually, students after a degree in Genetic Engineering find themselves in research labs as an engineer or assistant or in educational institutions. But, how do we define Genetic Engineering? It is a direct alteration of an organism’s characteristics in a particular way through manipulation of its DNA. In other words, it is generally employed by scientists to enhance the characteristics of an individual organism. For example, plants with a higher nutritional value or those who can tolerate exposure to herbicides are produced through Genetic Modification.
Now the question arises, how does Genetic Engineering work? You must have heard of insulin, which is naturally produced in the pancreas? It regulated the sugar level in our blood. But, people with Type 1 Diabetes have problems with insulin production, and so they have to inject insulin to control their blood sugar levels. How does this work? Scientists with the help of Genetic Engineering have used yeast or some bacteria like E.coli to produce genetically modified insulin, very similar to our own, known as “Humulin”.
Let us study the different aspects of pursuing a career in Genetic Engineering.
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Possible Courses & Eligibility Criteria
If you are passionate about how genetics and technology can revolutionize the way we perceive Medical Science, then you can go for Genetic Engineering courses like:
- Bachelor in Genetic Engineering
- BSc Genetics
- Bachelor in Biotechnology Engineering
- Master in Geotechnical Engineering and Geoenvironmental Engineering
- MSc in Molecular Biology and Genetic Engineering (by Research)
- PhD in Molecular Biology
For that, students must have Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics 10+2 or high school diploma. Besides, to study abroad, students must have a valid GRE score, proof of English-language proficiency through IELTS or TOEFL, SOP and LORs. Some universities may also ask for relevant work experience.
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Skill Sets Dominant in a Student to Become a Genetic Engineer
- Strong understanding of Mathematics and the formulas and laws that encapsulate nature.
- Good understanding of Physics as to use the formulas like two similar masses cannot occupy the same space.
- Good knowledge of Chemistry like to make long chains of chemical reactions and bonds to determine the solutions of carbons.
- Knowledge of Biology and Anatomy as to test the products on subjects or to become a Medical Examiner and analysing the cause of death.
- Ability to use CAD programmes.
- Word Processing software.
- Ability to use intense equipment like laser spectrometers, binocular light compound microscopes, highly concentrated solutions or other similar laboratory equipment.
Roles and Responsibility of a Genetic Engineer
Typically, what can you expect in a Genetic Engineering job? Genetic engineers spend their time in labs doing genetic modulations of any organism. Genetic editing or modulation in humans is though not absolutely legal, but if done on some animals or crops, can be extremely beneficial for the society; like:
- Disease resistant crops.
- Higher breeding in animals.
- Developing vaccines using dead cells.
- Finding new cures for genetic disorders.
Well, it mostly depends on your field of specialisation, which we will cover later on. But, before that, let us see what type of work every industry offers in general. Because the ulterior motive could change but the method will remain the same across the work. Typical responsibilities a Genetic Engineer or Geneticist includes:
- Conducting lab trials and researches.
- Extracting DNA and performing experiments on them.
- Documenting the procedures and results.
- Documenting the diseases and their cures.
- Checking on hereditary patterns and the scope to enhance them.
- Initiating new researches beneficial for mankind.
- Prevention of diseases using quarantine methods or isolation.
There is always a scope for selecting the specialization field after spending some time in either college or in the assistance period after college.
Typical Career in Genetic Engineering
Genetic Engineering has been predominant in various fields such as Research, Medicine, Industries, Zoology, Agriculture, etc. So, the career in Genetics is wide and quite challenging.
Graduates with a degree in Genetic Engineering can work as a researcher or a research assistant in government or private labs. If not labs, even pharmaceutical or even highly secretive operations head also hire excellent Genetic Engineers.
In research, the engineer’s work can be to extract the DNA, study or splice it or even transfuse it to another being. It is all about genetics and how one organism can be enhanced or slowed down.
Other than this, if you are an assistant you can be expected to assist the research head in following duties like:
- Preparation of slides for experimentation.
- Preparation of the organisms.
- Handling the chemicals.
- Maintaining laboratory standards.
- Keeping a journal of the procedures.
If a student is interested they can apply for the job of an Academician in universities. Genetic Engineering students in college would benefit a lot from Geneticists and professionals in the field. The degree holders have to pass a few tests and get a license then only they are eligible to be a professor.
But, the degree holder can also become an Assistant Professor and can work in the universities. The regulations to obtain a license differ from country to country.
Like in India, one can give the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) UGC NET exams after completing your PhD in Genetic Engineering or even a Masters. Universities prefer individuals holding a doctoral degree to be their professors as it is considered a higher level of respect and commendation.
Agriculture and Food Industry
As discussed above too, Genetic Engineers work on Genetics of organisms and plants and they can indeed fight crops hurting bacterias or viruses and even make a hybrid between crops. The scientists and engineers can come up with ways to fight the diseases that a crop faces in its normal fertilization period and can also eradicate them. The diseases are also transported through the vegetables that are then sold in the markets.
Animal breedings also come under this because the engineers can mix and match the genetic inhibitions of the animals to make more complex breeding that can withstand some adversities. Like two breeds of cows were bred that made a more superior species of the bovine.
Scientist in Forensic Labs or Government Agencies
Genetic Engineers can work as Genetic Counsellors or as a Medical Examiners in the hospitals but beyond that, they can become scientists in the Forensic Labs of even the FBI or other Government Agencies of any country. The forensic scientists can do:
- Blood spatter analysis.
- Handprints recognition.
- Tissue residuals in a crime scene
- Working on complex cases that are pernicious or gore for normal beings.
- Collecting DNA and blood samples from the scene.
The scientists are given labs where they do their deductions and all using lab technology like centrifuge machines, X-Ray machines, Radeon kits, etc.
The starting salary of a Genetic Engineer can be somewhere around ₹25,000 to ₹30,000 per month in India. But, its scope is more for those planning to move abroad where a degree holder can expect anywhere near $5,000 to $7,000 per month.
Being able to imagine and create an impactful solution in your mind is key to become a Genetic Engineer. So, those who plan to become a part of the life-saving community of Genetic Engineering can reach out to us. From choosing the right university abroad to helping you in your application, visa and accommodation, we can be of great help!