Natco. I decided to pursue a bachelor’s

Natco. V Bayer. A controversial
case for many reasons but one that piqued my interest in the importance of
bioprocessing. Although the focal point of this case was the issue of
compulsory licensing, it led me to thinking about how the same product can be synthesized
in multiple ways, thus altering consequences like cost of manufacturing,
pricing and accessibility. As an amateur Biotechnologist, I explored these aspects further and realized the impact of how
innovative technologies can help us achieve these objectives, and this is where
my fascination with the field of Bioprocess Engineering started.

Biology
has always been my subject of interest. Back in college, I vividly remember attending
a seminar on the recent advances in biotechnology and bioprocessing. The
professor mentioned about concepts and technologies that simply blew my mind. To
be honest, not that I really understood the ideas he put forth, because it all
seemed so impossible to me. It only made me more curious to explore the
processes that we generally consider mundane, at a cellular level. This is when
I decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree in biotechnology.

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As
a Biotechnology undergraduate at Savitribai Phule Pune University (formerly
University of Pune), I believe the course work has provided me with a solid
foundation in science as well as engineering related subjects and various mathematical
concepts. Courses like Applied Chemistry and Biochemistry have helped me gain good
knowledge about biomolecules, their importance in metabolic and biological
processes, functions and their interactions with other molecules; while Genetic
Engineering and Genetics & Molecular Biology have been useful in
understanding the production and amplification of these biomolecules at genetic
level. The practical sessions from Microbiology and Cell Biology & Tissue
Culture have equipped me in handling microbial cultures and various tissue
culture techniques. Fermentation Technology, Reaction and Biochemical
Engineering have provided a basic knowledge about upstream processing and
courses on Bioseparations have given an insight about downstream processing. I
was introduced to chemical engineering concepts required in designing a
bioprocess in courses like Fluid Flow & Unit Operations, Heat & Mass
Transfer, Stoichiometry and Thermodynamics. A thorough knowledge about the
various parameters affecting the bioprocesses plays a critical role in scale up
studies. Bioprocess Equipment Design and Plant engineering & Project
Costing familiarized me to the model of design criteria for manufacturing
quality product. I am also convinced that I
have successfully implemented my theoretical knowledge in a laboratory
environment, as
exemplified by the fact that I have received excellent grades in the
Instrumentation & Process Control and Bioprocess Modelling & Simulation
lab. In my opinion, my undergraduate course has prepared me in all aspects to
pursue a master’s degree in Biological & Agricultural Engineering with a
major focus in Bioenergy & Bioproducts Engineering.

Further,
during my undergraduate studies, my curiosity and propensity for applied
learning resulted in my training at APT Research Foundation (formerly National
Toxicology Centre) under the guidance of Dr. Kishori Apte. ATR is a pre-clinical
testing centre. During my fifteen days training, I was thoroughly explained
about the in-vivo and in-vitro toxicity tests performed in the laboratory, as
per the OECD guidelines. The training was very helpful in understanding some
basic concepts from a final year elective course: Biotherapeutics Technology.
Seminars and presentations have always been an integral part of my
undergraduate coursework. I had given a seminar on ‘Anticancer Drugs from
Marine Source’, in my third year, with a thorough literature review about the
FDA approved anticancer drugs and potential drugs in clinical and preclinical
pipeline, their source, biosynthesis and mode of action. In my final year,
impressed by my meticulous presentation
skills, one of my professor gave me a chance to conduct a session in a juniors’
class on ‘Embryonic Stem Cells and Clinical Applications’

In
order to maintain a high regard for an all-round development of my personality,
apart from academics I encouraged myself to participate in extra-curricular
activities during my undergraduate studies. I have served as a college
representative for inter-college swimming competitions, official campus
photographer for cultural fests, photographer for the department’s newsletter
and member of the organizing committee for technical fests. I have also been
associated with CRY, an NGO in India working towards the upliftment of
underprivileged children and was awarded as the ‘Best Debut- Female Volunteer’
for my contribution in Pune’s Public Action Group (PAG).

Later,
I worked on my undergraduate thesis entitled, ‘Bioprospecting for Hydrophobins’
under the direction of Ass. Prof. Shraddha Kulkarni. Hydrophobins are small
cysteine rich surface active proteins produced by filamentous fungi, having a
plethora of applications due to their ability to self-assemble into amphipathic
membranes at an interface. The objective of my research was to isolate and identify
hydrophobin producing fungal strains from waste samples of malt processing
industry Barmalt Malting India Pvt. Ltd. Further I worked on the development of
a bioprocess for the production of hydrophobins from isolated GRAS clearing
fungal strains. And optimized the process to increase the yield of hydrophobin
production. I was fortunate enough to get a chance to present my results at two
national conferences. It was for the first time I was involved in conducting a
research. I would often wait back after classes or work during weekends,
especially to see my results. Also, I engaged myself in reading journals and
monthly magazines to keep myself updated about the upcoming technologies in the
development and manufacture of bioproducts. This eventually got me interested
in the subject.

After
a year of researching about fungal protein in a university environment and due
to my ever increasing enthrallment with these fields, I was certain that I
needed to get involved in this type of research. I was privileged to be
selected for the competitive Biotech Industrial Training Programme 2016-17 at
Praj Matrix – R Centre (Division of Praj Industries Ltd.) Pune. The
training was sponsored by the Department of Biotechnology, Govt. of India. I
worked under the guidance of Dr. Yasmin Mirza. The emphasis of my individual
project was to improve bacteriocin production by inducing UV mutation in Bacillus amyloliquefaciens. The training
introduced me to the thrilling nature of working in an industrial-level research
laboratory.

Currently,
I am working as a Biotechnologist at Praj Matrix – R Centre which is a
division of Praj Industries Ltd. Praj is one of the most successful companies
in India in the field of bio-based technologies and engineering, supplier of
ethanol plants and providing sustainable solutions for bioenergy, bioproducts, breweries
and industrial wastewater treatment. I am currently working on an antimicrobial
peptide, which is the company’s in-house product.

I
am interested in studying the fundamentals of biomolecular processes with an
engineering approach. Moreover, today the bioprocess industry is facing some
bottlenecks that gives a tremendous scope for research and innovation in this
area. With a graduate degree in this field I wish to equip myself so as to be
able to solve these real world problems.  One common bottleneck is experienced while
expanding from pilot to manufacturing scale, every step requires new controls
for effective productivity. Another challenge is to find new ways to increase
productivity, reduce costs while still ultimately develop new technologies that
enhance human life.

In
accordance with my current research interests, I think that the Biological & Agricultural Engineering
Program with a major focus in Bioenergy & Bioproducts Engineering at
Washington State University is ideal for what I would like to study. I am
particularly interested in working in the Bioprocessing & Bioproducts
Engineering Laboratory and the research of Dr. Shulin Chen and Dr. Birgitte K.
Ahring. Definitely, my interest in this program is also strengthened by WSU’s
excellence in Industrial Biosystems Engineering research and collaboration. I
am confident that the program will enhance my abilities to integrate my technical
knowledge with practical applications.

After
completing the graduate program, I hope to obtain a doctoral position at an
institute specifically examining biological systems engineering and creating
effective solutions to practical problems.  I then hope to obtain a virtuous position in
the industry, with an aim to develop robust revenue-saving manufacturing
processes for bioproducts beneficial to mankind.