In-Depth Jobs

Issue no 48, 26 FEBRUARY - 4 MARCH 2022

Career Opportunities in Scientific Research

Arti S

Whatever inventions and discoveries we see before us, are results of research by one or more individuals. These inventions and discoveries relate to living processes, medicines, electricity, electronics, computers, vehicles, mobile phones and internet among others. A country’s progress is also measured by its contribution to research. Any research giving a positive outcome is beneficial for large number of people and in many cases for the entire world as we can see from the example of Corona virus vaccine.

Research in many ways is an academic stream and can be pursued both as a matter of interest and career. Every subject carries scope for research to find new vistas and for value addition. However maximum number of research happens in the world of science. This article is meant for those who are keen to be part of this world. Research can be carried out in all subjects of science. To pursue a career in research you should have interest in the subject and also in research. Popular science subjects for research include physics, chemistry, zoology, botany, biochemistry, biotechnology, pharmaceutical science, environmental science, earth science, astrophysics, genetics, dairy science, forestry, horticulture, geology, meteorology, metallurgy, space science among others.

Research Network in India

Considering the importance of research, after independence steps were taken to establish research centres in all major and many minor branches of science. A number of such institutes have now grown in size and command international recognition. We can say that our country has made huge investments to develop a research network for every stream of science. There are umbrella organizations, research establishments and laboratories.

Indian Institute of Science (IISc): Bengaluru based Indian Institute of Science, established in 1909, is a premier body for scientific research, not only in India but also in the world. It has been recently ranked as the world’s top research university in terms of Citations per Faculty in the latest QS World University Rankings. Three years ago it was notified as Institution of Eminence Deemed to be University. It also tops in global rankings.

Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR): CSIR has been established to provide cutting edge research in diversified areas of science and technology. With a network of 37 laboratories spread across the country, it has a patent portfolio of more than 1100 unique patents. CSIR has a number of scholarship schemes and it also coordinates for research scholarships, fellowships and awards offered by institutes outside India. As of now about 3460 scientists are working under CSIR supported by about 4350 scientific and technical personnel.

Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR): ICAR is engaged in promoting agricultural research, education and extension activities for productivity enhancement and diversification of Indian agriculture. It is the apex body for coordinating, guiding and managing research and education in agriculture including horticulture, fisheries and animal sciences in the entire country. It has hundred plus institutes and 71 agricultural universities in the country. The council has played a leading role in ushering Green Revolution and developments in agriculture in India through its research and technology development.

Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR): TIFR is a research organizations under the Department of Atomic Energy It is also a deemed University awarding degrees for master's and doctoral programs. The Institute was founded in 1945 and carries out basic research in physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, computer science and science education. The main campus is located in Mumbai, with centres at Pune, Bengaluru and Hyderabad

Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO): Who doesn’t know ISRO. It is the agency responsible for India’s space odysseys. It has centres at Chandigarh, Jodhpur, Udaipur, Ahmedabad, Mount Abu, Bhopal, Mumbai, Hasan, Bengaluru, New Delhi, Sri Harikota, Port Blair, Tirupati, Nagpur, Hyderabad, Shillong, Kolkata and few more places.

Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO): DRDO was established to provide cutting edge research and development in defence technologies and instruments and has now grown into a network of more than 50 laboratories which are continuously involved in developing aeronautics, armaments, electronics, combat vehicles, engineering systems, instrumentation, missiles, advanced computing and simulation, special materials, naval systems etc. DRDO has indigenously developed Agni and Prithvi series of missiles.

National Research Development Corporation (NRDC): Established in 1953, NRDC is engaged in promoting, developing and commercialising technologies, inventions and patents and processes developed by various research and development institutions, universities and laboratories. It has built an extensive network of bodies engaged in research. NRDC is well recognised as a large repository of technologies relevant for almost all industrial segments.

Given below are the names of some wellknown government research institutes coming under CSIR or ICAR /other bodies or working independently in various domains of research.

·        Indian Association for Cultivation of Science, Jadavpur

·        Institute of Minerals and Materials Technology, Bhubaneshwar

·        Institute for Life Sciences, Bhubaneswar

·        Indian Institute of Astro-Physics, Bengaluru

·        National Dairy Research Institute, Karnal

·        Transnational Health Science and Technology Institute, Faridabad

·        Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, Kolkata

·        Indian Institute of Toxicology Research, Lucknow

·        Central Institute of Chemical Biology, Kolkata

·        National Institute of Plant Health Management, Hyderabad

·        National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad

·        Central Scientific Instruments Organisation, Chandigarh

·        Institute of Serology, Kolkata

·        Institute of Microbial Technology, Chandigarh

·        Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune

·        Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh

·        Jawaharlal Nehru Aluminium Research Development and Design Centre, Nagpur

·        Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad

·        National Institute of Animal Biotechnology, Hyderabad

·        Indian Institute of Geomagnetism, Navi Mumbai

·        Microwave Tube Research and Development Centre, Bengaluru

·        Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory, Hyderabad

·        National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi

·        Science and Engineering Research Board, New Delhi

·        Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Scientific Research, Bengaluru

·        National Institute for Cell Sciences, Pune

·        Institute of Minerals and Materials Technology, Bhubaneshwar

·        Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai

·        National Geophysical Research Institute, Hyderabad


Where to pursue Research

Those who are interested in pursuing Ph.D. for research in a science subject has option to seek admission in any of the following:


Universities: Almost every government university/ agricultural university provides opportunities in scientific research. Reputed private universities with proper credentials may also be considered


Indian Institute of Technology (IIT): There are older IITs (such as IIT, Kanpur, Mumbai, Khadagpur, Madras) which have been involved in research in engineering and scientific subjects. Various new IITs too are equipped with such research facilities.


National Institute of Technology (NIT): NITs are established at Surathkal, Warangal, Kurukshetra, Tiruchirapalli, Rourkela, Warangal, Nagpur among other places and have their offerings


Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) at Pune, Mohali, Bhopal Berhampur, Tirupati, Kolkata are comparatively new establishments but have made a good mark in research.


National Institute for Pharmaceutical Education and Research has centres at SAS Nagar, Guwahati, Ahmedabad and conduct research in pharmaceutical science. Besides there are a number of other institutes.


Entry to a career in Research: In most of the cases research is associated with a Ph.D. qualification. To obtain a Ph.D. the usual path in our country is to qualify in the University Grants Commission- National Eligibility Test (UGCNET) conducted by the National Testing Agency and then seek admission for research in universities with Junior Research Fellowship. In normal times UGCNET is conducted twice a year and those about to appear in the final year of their postgraduate course or have completed the course are eligible to apply for this test.


A GATE score may be a requirement for pursuing research at some institutes. Department of Science and Technology, Government of India had launched INSPIRE fellowship scheme. This fellowship is meant for pursuing Ph.D. Similar fellowships are provided by the Indian Council of Medical Research and Department of Biotechnology, Government of India.


Kishore Vaigyanik Protsahan Yojana (KVPY) is a programme launched by the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India to encourage students of basic science subjects to pursue research based careers in science. Fellowship and contingency grant are provided to the selected students called KVPY Fellows, up to the pre Ph.D. level or 5 years whichever is earlier. Summer camps for the KVPY Fellows are also organized at prestigious research and educational institutions in the country

Standard selection procedure for KVPY comprises of aptitude test and interview. Aptitude test is conducted under three streams. In Stream SA, students enrolled in XI Standard and having secured a minimum prescribed marks (as per their category) in aggregate in mathematics and science subjects in the X Standard Board examination are eligible to appear for Aptitude test. Stream SX is for Students enrolled in XII Standard/ (+2) in Science subjects whereas Stream SB is for students enrolled in the 1st year of undergraduate program in Basic Sciences namely Physics/Chemistry/Mathematics & Biology. There is an exclusive website for KVPY where all the eligibility norms are explained. The fellowship of the selected students is activated only if they join eligible courses in science.

Those who identify their aptitude for scientific research early will find the scheme highly supportive.

The other way is to join a Ph.D. programme conducted by a research institute. There are a large number of institutes, mostly in government sector including those listed above that issue notices for admission to their Ph.D. programmes. Recently Regional Centre for Biotechnology, Faridabad and National Institute of Virology, Pune announced the new session of their Ph.D. programmes. University Grants Commission (UGC) has established Inter-University Centres (IUCs) for providing state-of-the-art equipment & facilities for the benefit of researchers working in different universities.


Research based career positions There are various ways in which you may get entry into research based careers in science. The major ones have been explained with real cases.


Technical Assistant: Few organizations, mostly laboratories in government sector, offer the position of technical assistant to first class science graduates having 1-2 years professional experience/ qualification. These technical assistants provide help in carrying out the research. Institute of Microbial Biology, Chandigarh has announced the process to select Junior Research Fellow and Research Associate.


Scientist B: Engineering graduates and postgraduates in science with a valid GATE score can look forward to work as Scientist B in government institutions like Bureau of Indian Standards.


Scientist: To work at the position of scientist you normally need to have a Ph.D. in a particular stream of science


Senior Scientist: For the position of senior scientist, requirements are same as that of scientist. However you need to have 2-3 years’ experience. You may join this position through lateral entry or through promotion within the organization. For principal scientist minimum required experience is of 3 years postdoctorate. Senior Scientists may get promoted to principal senior scientist.


Fellows’ position is for veterans in research. Few institutes take scientists on rolling basis which implies that candidates don’t have to wait for particular vacancies and applications can be submitted round the year. Nuclear Power Corporation of India has a scheme of Stipendiary Trainee/Scientific Assistant


Scientific Officers are also recruited in organisations like Department of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India. Many of the private sector companies spend substantial amount on research and development to come out with new variants of their products or value added products. Such research is also considered useful by them to reduce cost, to improve shelf life of products and to improve feel and look of their offerings. These companies very well know that investing in research will ultimately improve their competitiveness. Developed nations are fairly advanced in the matter of scientific research. They attract large number of people from India and other parts of the world to work in their research centres. Various research scholarships/ fellowships are also available to researchers in such countries.

Based on one’s experience one may work as a research guide to Ph.D. students. A research career requires intrinsic motivation, dedication and curiosity. You need to have high degree of patience considering that it may take long to find the outcome or reach completion of project. In many cases a team of scientists are involved in one project, so being a good team player is also necessary. (Listings given here are indicative and not exhaustive)

(The author is a Mumbai-based career counsellor. She can be reached at ) Views expressed are personal