Tata Institute of Fundamental Research

Degrees

M.Sc. FAQ

1. What is the eligibility requirement for the M.Sc. program? What are the selection criteria?
2. What is the curriculum for the M.Sc. program?
3. Will my options become "narrowed down" as a result of doing a M.Sc. research project in a particular field?
4. Why is it a 3-year program? What are the future prospects for M.Sc. students from this program?
5. Is housing available?
6. Can I think of the Int. Ph.D. program as an M.Sc. program (i.e. plan to submit an M.Sc. and leave in 3 years?)
7. Do you offer "M.Sc. Biotechnology"?
8. Further Questions OR Other general questions about "getting a chance to do a project at TIFR" or "general advice about the scope of research"

1. What is the eligibility requirement for the M.Sc. program? What are the selection criteria?
Your past record, your one-page write-up as well as your letters of recommendation will be considered. In our past experience, "good marks" do not necessarily make for a good research student; all students who are motivated to learn research skills are encouraged to apply. BSc-qualified candidates in any branch of biology, physics, or chemistry are welcome.
The Ph.D./ Int. Ph.D. written test will also function as the written test for our M.Sc. program. The procedure for appearing for this test will be available on our website and on the NCBS website in September each year. The test will be held at centers all over India, held on a specific Sunday in December, for admission the following July. The test consists of multiple-choice questions covering *basics only* in physics, chemistry, math, biology. There is no guide book and no syllabus. No special knowledge or preparation is required. Revise your basic that is all.
The Interview will be based on whatever your BSc background is in, or whatever area you are most interested or most comfortable in.


2. What is the curriculum for the M.Sc. program?
Our M.Sc. students experience a unique curriculum that changes their outlook on what science has to offer. Rather than getting "narrowed down" as some people fear, learning how to do research in a particular field gives you the ability to understand and read research papers in any other field. Research work means a training of the mind, so you will learn to ask precise questions about any problem at hand. Your research project will be carried out under guidance of one of the Faculty members in our Department. You will learn how to do experiments; how to plan an experimental approach; how to interpret your data; how to troubleshoot problems. Typically, the research projects our student's work on result in publications in International Journals.
Coursework: 12 credits of required coursework.
Journal Clubs and Seminars: These are ongoing series throughout the year that will open your mind to cutting edge research all over the world. The "Research Methodology" course will teach you the techniques used in all types of work, so you can understand the Journal Club and Seminars.
Meetings: Periodically, you will have the opportunity to attend meetings at other Institutes in India, and present your work there. In the past year our students have attended meetings in Kanpur, Banglore, Pune, and Delhi as part of their curriculum.


3. Will my options become "narrowed down" as a result of doing a M.Sc. research project in a particular field?
Our M.Sc. students are assigned to a laboratory based on their interests. During the interview we spend a good deal of time trying to ascertain what area the student is interested in working in, or we help them clarify their interests. The goal is to have students who are happy to have joined our program, rather than to take in good students and force them into something that they are not happy to do!
How will this help your future career? ANY good Ph.D. program in India or abroad encourages candidates with diverse backgrounds to apply, and welcomes this diversity into their Ph.D. student pool. Biology is perhaps unique in that background in any area is easy to acquire at any stage, without specific prerequisite courses at the BSc or M.Sc. level. After a research training in any area in Biology, students can read, understand, and even switch to any other area in Biology. Examples of this are so numerous, that in more progressive countries, switching from one area of Biology to another is the norm, rather than the exception. Students with backgrounds in e.g. Microbiology can do an M.Sc. in Neurobiology, which does not in the least hamper their chances of getting accepted to Ph.D. programs in, say, Immunology. What selection committees (including ours) ask at the Ph.D. Interview level is "How well do you know what you have been studying before?". This is an extremely good indicator of how you will do at whatever area of biology you want to pursue, rather than a one-track background in that area. Our Ph.D. program has in the past offered admission to students whose previous training was in Physics, Engineering, Medicine, and Dentistry. Therefore it is simply not true that doing research "narrows you down". Rather, it broadens your abilities and your interests in a way that traditional courses do not, since typically courses treat science as a "finished product" to be learned, rather than an ongoing process of discovery to be understood. Doing research allows you to participate in the discovery, and you will never look at science the same way again.


4. Why is it a 3-year program? What are the future prospects for M.Sc. students from this program?
A well-rounded M.Sc. education, with coursework and research training, is our goal for this M.Sc. program. Therefore we require a 3-year commitment from students. Our M.Sc. students better their prospects considerably as a result of the training they receive. Due to the exposure to a broad range of research in biology, students are able to define their future interests very well. Our M.Sc. students typically get admission to excellent Ph.D. programs in India and abroad, on the strength of their publications and their understanding of what they want to do. Other options are jobs in the Biomedical industry, or Project assistant positions at research institutions.


5. Is housing available?
Unfortunately, we do not currently offer housing to M.Sc. students, so students have to make their own arrangements. However, TIFR does provide a generous stipend, for latest infomation visit University Cell website.


6. Can I think of the Integrated Ph.D. program as an M.Sc. program (i.e. plan to submit an M.Sc. and leave in 3 years?)
This option will not be available. Integrated Ph.D. students take time doing rotaions before they join a lab to start work. Then, they have to submit two project proposals that consume a lot of time. Finally, they are given longer (Ph.D. level) projects that do not wind up in 3 years. Therefore it is not possible to finish a project in 3 years. In our experience, students know very well whether or not they are ready to commit for the full 6 year Int. Ph.D. program. If you're not ready to commit, don't apply- the Int. Ph.D. program is not for you. If your plans are to do an M.Sc. in TIFR and do your Ph.D. elsewhere, then that's what our M.Sc. program is designed for. We provide guidance, advice, discussions, and strong support to our M.Sc. students when they are trying to decide what they want to work on for their Ph.D. and help them decide where to apply to do it. Our M.Sc. students get into top-notch programs world-wide to pursue their Ph.D.


7. Do you offer "M.Sc. Biotechnology?"
"Biotechnology" is now used as a general term for "modern biology". All Biotechnology courses in India offer a broad spectrum of interesting and modern courses in a range of topics... so the term "biotechnology" means everything and nothing at the same time!
Our M.Sc. degree is in "Biology". Our courses are listed on this website, and the research we do is also presented. Students should apply if they want to learn and do research in the areas we describe on our website.

Students who are interested in applying to our M.Sc. program are welcome to email any of our current M.Sc. students who will give you a feel of what it was like for them to move from a exclusively coursework system to a program with a strong emphasis on research. You may contact them via our web page, introduce yourself, and ask what you need to know.
If you email faculty members directly, you may not get a reply if the information you need is already contained in our website! This is not because we are not interested in talking to you, but because we get hundreds of applications, and it is not possible to answer individually questions that are already answered here.


8. Further Questions?
If you have questions that are not answered in this website, email Ms. Jagtap at shubhi@tifr.res.in for program-related questions, or email any scientist or student (via our website) for science-related questions.
If your question is useful to others, we will not only answer you in detail by email, but also put the information on the website to be available to all. If it is already answered here, you won't get a reply... not because we don't like to interact with students, but because each year we get hundreds of enquires along the lines of
What kind of research scope is there?
(see the "Faculty" link)
How to get a chance to do a project?
(see the "Open Positions" link for summer/short term positions, etc.)
Is the summer program deadline really over?
(If its after the date on the website, yes!)
Any scope to get a project here still?
(No, sorry!)

Each year, we also get phone calls and emails from bankers, doctors, collegeprincipals, professors, scientists, businessmen/women, administrative officials... on behalf of either their own sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, or their friends' sons, daughters, nieces, nephews... we even get phone calls in our homes, at night, or repeated calls throughout the working day! Usually these questions are about information that already exists on our website. For these well meaning people (and for the students/parents who may have requested them to intercede on the student's behalf) we have the following information:
a) If a student wants "general advice and counseling about careers", we encourage them to first use the internet to obtain some of the information they need. Gone are the days when "guidance" must be obtained from some older (and supposedly wiser) person. This generation of students can find much of what they need to know on the internet by doing simple searches for keywords. Look up viruses, cancer, brain, genetics, whatever topic you are interested in! Read some of the material on the internet and then, email specific people with specific enquiries, rather than general requests for advice. It will help your career plans greatly if you first explore on internet by yourself, get basic information, then ask questions.
b) Most importantly, we encourage students to make their enquiries themselves, rather than having someone else do it on their behalf. A student old enough to vote, obtain a drivers license, and even get married, should develop the independence to ask questions for himself/herself- that is the first step if you wish to enter science. Put in the effort; you will discover what it takes to frame a good and focused question- after you have searched the internet- and how to identify the right person to address it to (email only please!). Hopefully you will also discover that at least in science, the answer is the same regardless of who asks the question- it is not necessary to ask some "important" person to make the enquiry on your behalf. Also, at least in science, learning to ask the right question is itself a training experience!