Life Beyond IITs: 4 Premier Institutes in India for Pure Science & Research

When we hear of science as a career, we immediately think of engineering or medicine. Limiting our understanding of science to medicine and engineering is a folly, and we ought to know that Science is much more than that. All that happens in the world, whether it is plants making their food through photosynthesis, or the change of seasons due to earth orbiting the sun, every phenomenon can be explained by science. It is for this very reason that young minds are often enthralled by the idea of studying science, as they know it is the only way to uncover the mysteries of our planet as well as others.

As appealing as it may sound, most students opt out of studying pure science as they shift to more professional courses such as engineering, medicine, aviation, etc. Many factors contribute to this paradigm shift, such as shorter duration of these courses, placement opportunities after completion of the course, and higher pay packages, etc. This trend is slowly changing, and a lot more students are now choosing to study sciences as they are.

Now that students realize that there are many opportunities in the field of research in sciences, many of them are turning to pure sciences.

Let us explore the top institutes for pure science in India, and the courses and opportunities they offer.

1. Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore

IISC is a top public institute for research and higher education. It was set up in 1909 with the help of Jamsetji Tata, which is why it is also called the Tata Institute by locals. IISC, Bangalore is the first Indian institution to be featured in the top 10 ranking in the UK’s Times Higher Education Ranking 2016-17 for Best Small Universities. (8th Rank)

Courses Offered

The institute offers a 4-year B.Sc. (Research) in Physics, Biology, Mathematics, Materials, Chemistry and Earth and Environmental Sciences. Apart from this, the institute provides opportunities for masters and research programs ranging from Molecular Biophysics, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences to Astronomy and Astrophysics.

How to Get In?

IISc takes admissions based on National Level Examination Scores such as the JEE Mains and Kishore Vaigyanik Protsahan Yojana for their undergraduate program (both held after class 12th). For postgraduate courses, admissions are based on scores obtained in GATE (Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering) and JAM (Joint Admission Test). The institute accepts only 120 students for the B.Sc. program.

Opportunities Ahead

A B.Sc. in research opens up the opportunity to apply for a master’s program in top universities in India as well as abroad. Students also become eligible for a Ph.D. in the US without a master’s degree. A few organizations that hire research scientists from this premium institute are WalmartLabs, IBM Research, Mphasis Innovation, Honeywell, Airbus, St. Gobain, Tejas Networks, etc. In the public sector, students have the option to work with organizations such as Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, Aeronautical Development Agency, Gas Turbine Research Establishment, Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology, National Geophysics Research Institute, etc. These programs also lead to the road of academics and research as teaching faculty at premium universities across the world.

2. Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Multiple Locations

The IISERs are the premier institutes for research in India. They have been declared “Institutions of National Importance” by an Act of Parliament. There are seven campuses spread over the country in locations such as Kolkata, Maharashtra, Mohali, Bhopal, Thiruvananthapuram, Tirupati and Berhampur.

Courses Offered

The institute offers a 5-year BS-MS program which is their flagship program. It covers a comprehensive syllabus of areas such as Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Biology, along with a few other subjects such as Earth and Environmental Science, Humanities, etc. Apart from this, the institutes also offer integrated MS-Ph.D. and independent Ph.D. programs in Science.

How to Get In?

Students who have cleared class 12th and have secured the Kishore Vaigyanik Protsahan Yojana (a scholarship to encourage students to take up sciences and research careers) fellowship are eligible to apply. Even students who have cleared the JEE Mains examination can apply, and admissions are based on their ranks (students in the merit list of IITs are eligible for admission). The IISERs also conduct a separate entrance test for students who wish to apply directly to any of the campuses. Students from different boards have different eligibility cut-offs for admission. The total no. of seats for all IISERs for the BS-MS program is 1285. For Ph.D. admissions, national level exams such as UGC/CSIR-JRF, GATE, JEST, and NBHM are held.

Opportunities Ahead

A BS-MS degree from IISER opens up doors for further research and entering into Ph.D. programs in top universities in India and Abroad. Pharmaceutical Industries hire graduates for their Research & Development divisions. A few companies hiring students from IISERs are Ranbaxy, Dr. Reddy’s, L’oreal, Unilever, etc. At the doctoral level, students can join any CSIR Labs (Council of Scientific and Industrial Research), through the CSIR-NET examination and continue their research in Cellular and Molecular Biology, Drugs Formation and Implication, Electrochemical and Electronics Engineering, etc. Students interested in giving legal advice to companies regarding their patents (a company’s right to exclude others from selling, using or copying their invention) can take the Indian Patent Agent Exam. Teaching and writing for scientific journals is also a popular choice for students.

3. Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai

TIFR is one of the premier research institutes for higher education in science and mathematics. It functions under the Department of Atomic Energy, Government of India and is a Deemed University. The institute was established in 1945 under the guidance of Dr. Homi Bhabha, with help from the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust. It has a main campus at Mumbai, with branches in Hyderabad, Pune, and Bangalore.

Courses Offered

The institute offers a graduate program that leads to a Ph.D. degree, or an integrated M.Sc.- Ph.D. degree in Science Education. It covers subjects like Philosophy of Science, Cognition and Learning Theories, Methods of Science and Mathematics Education Research, etc.

How to Get In?

Graduates need to apply to TIFR either through JEST Scores (Joint Entrance Screening Test or GATE for application to Physics and Computer Science courses. For Biology, TIFR conducts the Joint Graduate Entrance Exam for Biology and Interdisciplinary Life Sciences. Final Selections are made based on the ranks in these exams as well as personal interviews. The total intake in the programs in about 30-35 students each year.

Opportunities Ahead

Since it is a highly reputed institute for research, graduates are encouraged to join either BARC (Bhabha Atomic Research Centre) or any of the CIFR laboratories across the country as scientists. Graduates also have opportunities to work for international laboratories such as Fermilabs, CERN (The European organization for Nuclear Research), etc. It is also possible for graduates to choose to work in companies in the Research & Development division, but most choose to become scientists and mathematicians with organizations such as DRDO, HAL, ISRO, BEL, etc.

4. Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (IIST), Thiruvananthapuram

The IIST is a Deemed University which functions under the Department of Space, Government of India. It focuses on study in the space sciences, technology and applications. It was founded in 2007 by Dr. G. Madhavan Nair and Dr. B.N. Suresh.

Courses Offered

The institute offers B.Tech., and Ph.D. programs in Avionics, Physical Sciences, Aerospace Engineering and allied fields. It also offers a dual degree (B.Tech. + M.Tech./M.Sc.) in these subjects. M.Tech. is provided in different areas such as Aerodynamics, Digital Signal Processing, VLSI and Microsystems, etc. to name a few. M.Sc. covers areas such as Astronomy and Astrophysics, Earth System Science, Solid State Physics, and Optical Engineering.

How to Get In?

Admissions to undergraduate courses is made through JEE Mains Examination. Admissions to post-graduate programs are made through GATE scores. Ph.D. admissions are made based on scores in GATE, JEST, and UGC/CSIR-JRF. The institute offers about 120 seats for B.Tech. and 20 seats for a dual degree.

Opportunities Ahead

The IIST was established to help prepare manpower for ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization), and students securing more than a CGPA of 7.5 can apply for a job at ISRO. Besides that, graduates can also apply to DRDO, HAL, BrahMos, etc. Graduates from Master’s also have the option of working with companies such as UTC Aerospace Systems, Team Indus, MEASAT, etc.

These are the topmost institutions for you if pure science is your passion. Other than these, a few NITs, and IITs (IIT Kanpur, IIT Bombay, IIT Gandhinagar, NIT Agartala, NIT Warangal, etc.) also offer opportunities for Master’s and Doctoral Programs.



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