— Dr Rudra Prasad Saha
The recent COVID-19 crisis has freshly instilled interest among students about virology as a subject, dealing primarily with the understanding of different types of viruses, their growth and development cycles, and how they interact with plants, animals, humans, and others.
The novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2) has created awareness in the minds of people about these pathogenic viruses and the havoc they are capable of creating in our lives. There is also increased likelihood that both government and private enterprises will spend more money in this sector in the future. More funding is likely to be seen in research to combat such pathogenic viruses which in turn would create several job opportunities in the field of virology and allied fields.
Understanding of how these viruses take control of host cells are of immense importance as the knowledge would enable scientists to develop drugs or vaccines against them. Such information also fascinates students and creates interest in pursuing virology as a career.
Recent outbreaks of several pathogenic viruses e.g., SARS, Ebola, MERS, Zika, and now SARS-CoV-2 make virology one of the important fields for the students to pursue in recent times. There are always possibilities of new viruses to emerge that can infect humans, and therefore, regular research about these viruses is required to develop treatment methodologies.
Virology, as a programme, is typically not offered at the undergraduate level, but students can pursue microbiology at the UG level as it is being taught as one of the sub-topics of microbiology. Alternatively, students can also pursue biotechnology or MBBS at the UG level if they are interested in virology. At this level, students can get various jobs, such as research assistants or technical assistants in laboratories, microbiologists, etc.
At the postgraduate level, students can pursue virology, microbiology, medical microbiology, or immunology if they want to become virologists. Masters in virology or allied subjects would help a student to get various job opportunities from both industry and academia. Job opportunities like research associate, laboratory manager, quality control officer, etc, are available for graduates from these fields.
A PhD in microbiology or virology would help a student to get a principal investigator position in a research institute, a teaching position in a college or University, scientist position in the R&D centres, etc. Enormous opportunities are available in research on pathogenic viruses both in India and abroad.
Various kinds of jobs in public and private sectors, for example, hospitals, diagnostic centres, pharmaceutical companies, research organisations, government agencies, food industries, agriculture, are available in the field of virology and it is up to the students to choose which career path they would like to pursue.
In India several universities offers MSc in Virology, for example, Savitribai Phule Pune University (with collaboration with National Institute of Virology, Pune), Maharashtra, Manipal University, Karnataka, Amity University, Uttar Pradesh, Sri Venkateswara University, Andhra Pradesh, etc. Several top universities in the world also offer Virology at the graduate level including Harvard University, USA; University of Pennsylvania, USA; University of Glasgow, UK; Imperial College London, UK; University of Cambridge, UK; University of Toronto, Canada; University of Melbourne, Australia, etc. In the post-COVID era, the importance of Virology as a field is expected to increase several folds which would bring more opportunities for the students in the field of Virology.
— The author is associate dean, School of Life Science and Biotechnology at Adamas University, Kolkata