Consistent with the enormous importance of microbes in the field of Biotechnology, a new course "Microbial Biotechnology" was introduced at Panjab University from July, 2008 under the aegis of "Centre for Emerging Areas in Science and Technology". This course, over the years, has evolved and transformed into a full-fledged independent department of the University. Currently, it is running in the CIL building of Panjab University, Chandigarh. It is being shifted to the new Hospital Building in Sector-25, South Campus - Panjab University, Chandigarh. The course is targeted to attract students who would like to pursue career of working at the interface of Academia and Biotechnology Industry. The curriculum has been designed with the aim of preparing students for taking up translational research, developing entrepreneurial skills to ultimately groom them into an industry ready human resource. The department has developed active Industry-Academia interaction with the ultimate aim of taking forth the biotechnological innovations from lab to Industry. The course has 20 seats. The course has received overwhelming response from the students since its inception as can be gauged by the continued full strength and the filling of seats in the first counselling for admission.
Currently department has four regular and one INSPIRE faculty member. The skill sets and expertise available are diverse and complimentary. It includes experience in cutting edge translational research in various thrust areas of Biotechnology such as Antimicrobials, Probiotics, Microbial Enzymes/ Biocatalysis, Fermentation Technology, Scale-up of Bioprocesses, Microbial Biofilms, Bacterial-Fungal Interactions, Vaccine Development, Cancer Biology, etc. Besides having a number of national and international patents, the faculty members have more than 150 publications to their credit, in reputed international journals with cumulative citations of more than 4500. The department also invites faculty members from other departments of Panjab University as well as other institutions in and around Chandigarh from time to time to enhance and enrich the learning experience of students. Furthermore, department strives to organize at least one National or International conference every year to provide exposure to students of the world around them ensuring their readiness to the occasion.
Microorganisms are organisms that are too small to be seen by an unaided eye. It includes bacteria, fungi, protozoa, microalgae, and viruses. Microbes live in familiar settings such as soil, water, food, and animal intestines, as well as in extreme settings such as rocks, glaciers, hot springs, and deep-sea hydrothermal-vents. The wide varieties of microbial habitats reflect an enormous diversity of biochemical and metabolic traits that have arisen as a result of genetic variation and natural selection in microbial populations during the long evolutionary history of Earth.
Historically, humans have exploited some of this microbial diversity in the production of fermented foods such as bread, yogurt, cheese, sirca etc. Some soil microbes release nitrogen that plants need for growth, while others emit gases that maintain the critical composition of the Earth's atmosphere. Microbes play vital role in various biogeochemical cycles that maintain the balance of elements in different ecological niches on earth sustaining the higher organisms in those niches or in short sustaining 'the Gaia'.
Microbes, at some instances, may challenge our food security by infesting the food-producing plants and animals causing direct yield-reduction or make them unusable through production of toxins while at the same time other microbes may help us secure it. The microbes living in/on our bodies or the human micro-biome help us digest food, ward-off colonization/ attack of pathogenic invasive organisms, and are also engaged in modulating our immune system in the give-and-take of the natural disease process.
A genome is genetic material of a particular organism, in totality. Genomes differ greatly in size and sequence across different organisms. Obtaining the complete genome sequence of a microbe provides crucial information about its biology, but it is only the first step towards understanding a microbe's biological capabilities and modifying them, if needed, for the benefit of mankind (e.g., agricultural, industrial, medical, bioremediation etc.). Microbial biotechnology, enabled by genome studies, has the potential to bring windfall of breakthroughs such as improved vaccines and better disease-diagnostic tools, improved microbial agents for biological control of plant and animal pests, discovery of novel bioactive compounds, development of new industrial catalysts and fermentation organisms, development of new microbial agents for bioremediation of soil and water contaminated by agricultural runoff, industrial waste or from other human or geological activities.
Microbial genomics and microbial biotechnology research is key to take the giant strides needed to attain food safety and security, environmental upkeep and keeping 'the Gaia' healthy for human survival and sustenance besides paving the way for small-giant strides that would lay the foundation of a better tomorrow in the form of making available improved biotechnology products, processes and a greener technology (e.g., value-added products, human nutrition and functional foods, plant and animal, waste removal, biogeochemical engineering).
Microbial Biotechnology department envisions to bring about the actual definition of the subject through its teaching program with an emphasis on training the curious, inquisitive, determined, bearers of tomorrow to take the right step in the right direction at the right moment and contribute to the overall growth of a truly interdisciplinary approach to cater to the need of Biotechnology Industry in the Country.
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