Karachi, one of the largest metropolises of the world, consists of a diverse populace, migrating from different areas to seek employment. Despite this variation, they have certain similarities. Some of it includes parents’ desire for their children to become doctors, engineers, businessmen or other highly paid professionals, and provide for their family. One of the consequences of such expectations is ‘diminishing of research trends’. Fewer research institutes provide research related programs and are unaware of such fields as Biosciences and Physics, among others. The result is that even the educated lot ask questions when someone shows interest in joining one of these fields.
In Karachi, very few institutes are currently offering BS Biosciences. Thanks to them, people are getting an idea about new emerging fields within Biosciences. Institutes that are currently offering undergraduate program for Biosciences are ‘Muhammad Ali Jinnah University’ (MAJU) and ‘Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology’ (SZABIST).
Muhammad Ali Jinnah University (MAJU), P.E.C.H.S
Dr. Muhammad Kamran Azim, a former member of International Centre of Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS), is the Dean of Biosciences department at MAJU. The course structure of BS Biosciences is described on their webpage. The interdisciplinary fields are much more specific for this program than the one at SZABIST.
Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology (SZABIST), Clifton
Like MAJU, the Biosciences program at SZABIST is in its infancy. It was established in 2011, headed by Dr. Bushra Saeed, and shortly succeeded by Dr. Kashif Ali. The Biosciences program started with undergraduate studies (i.e. BS Biosciences). This program consists of forty-five courses divided in four years. The selection of major is between Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, depending on the choice of students in the batch. Internship of about six to eight weeks is a ‘must’ as per the requirement for BS Biosciences. Furthermore, the final year project is another requirement (in addition to course completion and internship). The projects are assigned in groups. Advisors are available to guide students in conducting research.
As its first batch passed out, SZABIST started offering Master’s degree in Biosciences (i.e. MS Biosciences). This program is for two years, consisting of eight courses plus thesis or two additional electives. The first year consists of core subjects and the last year comprises of electives and thesis or two courses.
As an undergraduate student of Biosciences at SZABIST, there is time to learn, not just between the lines, but further through engagement in society and other co-curricular activities. SZABIST Biosciences Society was created in 2013 by the first batch of students. Field trips were conducted to different places, such as the English biscuits factory and National Center of Proteomics (NCP). Apart from such activities, on 2014, two groups from this institute participated in Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute (GIKI) competition, of which, one group ‘Darwin’s finches’ won first prize.
Barrett Hodgson University (BHU), Korangi
BHU is offering BS Biosciences program and starting their services this fall. Furthermore, the institute is offering other bio-related fields for undergraduate studies, such as ‘Environmental sciences’, ‘Biomedical engineering’, and others.
Other Bio-related institutes
Apart from undergraduate program in Biosciences, several universities have been established which provide programs for bio-related disciplines till PhD.
University of Karachi (UoK) and extensions, Gulshan Iqbal
UoK does not offer BS Biosciences. Rather, it offers BS / M.Sc. (4 years), MS / M. Phil (2 years) and PhD (3 years) in Biochemistry, Botany, Zoology, Pharmacy, Microbiology, Biotechnology, Genetics , Marine Biology, Physiology and Food Sciences. The admissions start in winter and during spring/ summer for M.Phil/PhD. They arranged Karachi University Book Fair (KUBF) during the year’s beginning.
International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS)
The institute is headed by Dr. Atta ur Rehman. ICCBS is known for M.Phil / PhD in molecular medicine, and offers many other programs. Furthermore, the institute offers summer internships for final year students of BS (Biochemistry and fields related) and MBA. For MBA students, they provide ISO training. Moreover, a four month training program for advanced diagnostic tools in clinical labs is offered, one after the other.
National Center for Proteomics (NCP)
NCP offers M.Phil / PhD program in Biochemistry with research in proteins. The major research that is being conducted in this institute is on snakes and scorpion venom (collected from interior Sindh). Furthermore, NCP conducts two training events per year which comprises of lectures and hands-on lab training (3 days event). They also offer internship programs for graduate and post-graduate students. Lastly, they provide hands-on training for each individual if he or she needs to practice such techniques. In addition, they award certificates for these trainings. Cost of training depends on the procedure you learn.
Dr. Abdul Qadir Khan Institute of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering (KIBGE)
KIBGE, as the name suggests, is related to biotechnology. They also provide M.Phil / PhD programs. The research conducted is mostly on medical and agricultural biotechnology. Joint projects can be conducted through collaborating with institutes, such as, you can performed study from your institute with them through collaboration..
Institute of Sustainable Halophyte Utilization (ISHU)
As the name suggests, this institute collects salt-tolerant plants across Pakistan to investigate common biomarkers among these plants which help them grow on saline soil. Furthermore, ISHU modifies crop plants, such as maize, to withstand harsh conditions. The institute focuses on production of biofuel and medicines from halophytes. To understand the mechanism behind salt tolerance, ISHU conducts genomic, transcriptomic, proteomic, as well as, metabolomic based studies. Like other departments, this centre too offers graduate and doctorate programs. You can also collaborate with their institute for research.
Agha Khan University (AKU), National Stadium
AKU offers MBBS program in Karachi (in addition, Studies of Islamic civilization in London). However, AKU offers PhD in Biosciences (Biochemistry, Immunology, Pathology and Microbiology). The focus of research in AKU is mainly related to cancers, which includes, glioblastoma, oesophageal cancer and oral cancer, infections, and paediatrics. Most of these studies are of epidemiological nature. Good news for F.Sc. and A level students you can benefit from AKU by volunteering.
DOW University of Health Sciences (DUHS), Ojha Campus
DUHS offer M.Phil/ PhD in Genetics, Biotechnology, Pathology, Pharmacology and Molecular Biology. The interesting thing about DOW is that they also conduct sessions called A.R.M (Advance Research Methods) every Monday morning at 9 am, where scientists and students present their research studies.
D.H.A Suffa University (DSU), Defence
DSU offers PhD in Computational Genomics (for those having a concrete base for Computer Sciences). They even provide Bioinformatics as major in Computer Sciences undergraduate program.
In short, there are very few institutes which are offering BS Biosciences in Karachi till now. But there are a lot of institutes working diligently in the field, and we hope to see more of them in future.