Overview of Department of Biological Sciences at IISER Mohali

The Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (the IISERs) are a group of institutes set up by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) of the Government of India (GOI), to facilitate high quality science education and research in the country. The first two IISERs were set up in Pune and Kolkata in 2006. The IISER at Mohali (IISER-M) began functioning in 2007. Two more IISERs were set up at Bhopal and Trivandrum in 2008. After functioning out of a transit campus located in Chandigarh for several years, IISER-M moved into its own campus fully during the summer of 2013.

In June,2012,theinstituteorganizeditselfintoseparate departments to facilitate more effective functioning, given the growth of faculty numbers that had taken place in all subject areas during previous years. However, despite this fractionation, IISER-M’s original intent of fostering inter-disciplinary teaching and research has remained unchanged. Thus, research and teaching in the Department of Biological Sciences include all aspects of classical and modern biology, as well as every allied science that relates either nominally, or intimately, to any biological question, or pursuit.

In its educational aspects, IISER-M is modeled on the highly successful Indian Institutes of Technology (the IITs). In its research-related aspects, IISER-M is modelled on the Indian Institute of Science (the IISc), Bangalore. All five IISERs were originally set up to facilitate scientific research and teaching in an environment conducive to (and supportive of) routine, everyday interactions between undergraduate, or graduate, students, and researchers who are still extremely active and at the leading edges of their individual disciplines. This particular mode of functioning is IISER-M’s main leitmotif. It is also the main leitmotif of the Department of Biological Sciences, which currently has strengthof over 20 regular faculty members, over 80 Ph.D. students, and a total strength of over 250 including all students, postdocs, staff, and project assistants. The Department participates in three academic programs: the Integrated 5- year BS-MS program, the Integrated MS-Ph.D. program, which takes 4-6 years, and the PhD program which ideally takes a maximum of 5 years to complete. During the 5-year BS-MS program, students spend two years learning all science subjects, before choosing to specialize. Thus, although the Department aids in the teaching of the first two years, it becomes a real stakeholder in the BS-MS program mainly during the final three years of specialization, which include one (final) year of research. The Integrated MS-PhD program is offered only to select students who have completed their Bachelors’ degrees’ elsewhere. The PhD program consists of two semesters of coursework and lab exposure, followed by about four years of research.

The department manages to combine (and recombine) formidable strengths in many different areas of the biological sciences, including microbial and eukaryotic, cellular, molecular and organismal biology, biochemistry, and biophysics. As with everything else in this world, this department too is a piece of work that is ever under construction, and we intend to keep it that way-dynamic, sensitive, competent, diverse, responsive, colorful, joyous, exciting, inspiring, well-fitted-out, and populated with students and faculty who love to cooperate and create something higher, even as each individual in the department continues to plough his, or her, own lonely furrow.