If you have just matriculated and want to pursue a career in science, you need to have a scientific aptitude. This is according to Preenan Pillay, the head of the programme for Applied Sciences at Pearson Institute of Higher Education.
You need to be enthusiastic and passionate about solving STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) challenges applicable to the world in which we live.
The Faculty of Applied Sciences at Pearson Institute offers Bachelor of Science degrees in biomedicine and biotechnology, two areas of specialisation that offer graduates a great opportunity to contribute to society.
The biomedicine curriculum focuses on the study of the human body and human diseases, with the aim of providing a foundation for students to research and develop new diagnostic tests and methods to alleviate disease.
“If you study it, you will develop a broad theoretical foundation in human physiology, molecular biology, medical microbiology, histology, haematology and pharmacology, with an emphasis on application-based research and the use of technology,” he explained.
The biotechnology curriculum is centred on the use of microbial systems such as bacteria and viruses in developing biological methods for industrial and medical applications. Biotechnology is the merging of science and engineering concepts involving microbiology, chemistry, genetics, cell biology, bioethics, gene cloning, bioinstrumentation, bioinformatics, genomics and biometrics.
These professions are steeped in science. All learners aspiring to change the world through biomedicine or biotechnology will need three fundamentals at matric – biology, physics and mathematics.
“If you have a passion for the application of biology, then these fields are for you,” he added. “Physics and mathematics are also important and provide the critical thinking skills you will need to apply in the sciences,” said Pillay.
These two undergraduate BSc degrees open up a world of opportunity for students both locally and abroad. “Many of our students have gone on to enter postgraduate programmes at various national and international institutions. The portfolios we offer are vast and the research we involve our students in gives them the edge that is sought after at international institutions for postgraduate studies.”
According to Pillay, the scientific industry in South Africa has changed completely. He said that students now need to adopt a transdisciplinary approach. “In South Africa and many other countries, employment rates have declined. This is due to the changes brought about by the fourth industrial revolution and it is, therefore, imperative that an undergraduate curriculum allows the student to develop critical thinking skills that can be applied to any sector. This can be achieved only through undergraduate research and development.”
He said their graduates are employed across various sectors, which include the medical scientific profession, biopharmaceutical marketing, sales, academia and quality assurance.
“Our unique degrees in biological sciences prepare you for varied careers in a rapidly advancing and exciting world grounded in technology, research, exploration and innovation,” said Pillay.
With a focus on technology-enhanced, interactive lecture-led and work integrated learning, as well as directed research-based assessments, study offers an environment that combines theory, research and practical application.
“It’s not your run-of-the-mill bachelor’s degree,” he said. “Even our industry partners have told me how much they appreciate our incorporation of skills commonly found in the field of humanities and economics. This helps our students apply their knowledge and integrate in many facets of this industry.”
He advised students who don’t have a passion for STEM and learning that the sciences are probably not for them.
“This is a field which builds on a foundation of continuous learning. Be prepared to be learning for the rest of your career. That’s what it means to be a scientist,” said Pillay.
Preenan Pillay is the head of the programme for Applied Sciences at Pearson Institute of Higher Education