The famed National Institute of Virology (NIV), located on the eastern outskirts of Pune, is one of the major institutes under the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India. It is a unique institute that is affiliated to Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) for its prestigious M.Sc. in virology. It is the only government institute in India that provides this course.

Dr. D. T. Mourya, the NIV director, maintains, “There are many private institutes that offer M.Sc. in virology. However, NIV is undoubtedly the best. The institute has unparalleled infrastructure and its course quality is beyond doubt. The institute has been carrying out research studies in the fields of modern virology and immunology,

Dr. D. T. Mourya, the Director of NIV

advanced electron microscopy, diagnostic development, vector biology (from field studies to molecular genetics) and animal experimentation. The institute also has a Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) facility and a dedicated interdisciplinary team of more than forty (40) scientists. Recently, a BSL-4 facility has also been set up at NIV. Hence, the institute offers a global environment for teaching and practical training in virology”.

Dr. Mourya added, “Virology is an important interdisciplinary discipline that integrates both basic and applied aspects in the areas of infectious diseases and public health. Viruses have constituted the major tool for research studies in molecular and cell biology and immunology.  Therefore, the courses offered in virology also strengthen the development of biotechnology.  The same can be said about bioinformatics as well. The study of viruses have contributed to the growth of bioinformatics, be it in the field of evolution, protein structure or protein-protein interactions”.

“When it comes to the placement scenario, about forty-seven (47) percent of the students who have passed out recently are involved in their doctoral studies, thirty (30) percent are in foreign universities and a good number have been employed by good laboratories and similar organizations in India and abroad. However, we shall do our bit in ensuring a greater number of campus placements,” said Dr. Mourya.

Prof. Vikram Ghole, a faculty member at the institute, said, “National Institute of Virology is more of a government research centre that allows students to know the importance of research in science. Unfortunately, the quality of higher education today is judged in terms of placements and jobs. This has had an adverse impact on research. However, research is primordial to the development of education in any country.”

Prof. Vikram Ghole, Faculty Member at NIV

Ghole added, “NIV stands out for its research contributions to science – biology in general and virology in particular. I firmly believe that genuine research studies with viable results constitute the only way for a society to grow. All the faculty members at NIV are actually scientists, who have special expertise in their respective fields. Another unique aspect of this institute is the fact that the number of scientist faculty members at the institute is double the number of students.”

Sheroshri Bhattacharjee, an NIV alumnus who passed out in 2017, said, “The whole experience of being a part of National Institute of Virology was fantastic. Every year, only twenty (20) students get selected for this course. Hence being one of them was a matter of pride.”

Sheroshri Bhattacharjee, an NIV Alumnus

She added, “I was always inclined towards research and it was a great opportunity to learn from such a reputed institute. If anyone wants to pursue research as a career, NIV is the right place to do so. With its outstanding infrastructure and amazing laboratory facilities, NIV provides a stimulating experience to the students of virology.”

Sheroshri added to the perspective and said, “As a research Institute, we get to go through a number of research papers thereby opening up a whole new horizon. However, sometimes we do comprehend the disadvantages of studying at a research institute and not a college. Also, the pressure is a lot more than general colleges. One can pursue research after post-graduation. Also, one can look for jobs especially at the pharmaceutical companies.”

Rohit Sorkhel, a second-year student of M.Sc. at NIV, said, “It feels fantastic to get selected for a highly specialized course in the only government institute in India that provides post-graduation in virology.  The laboratory facility is excellent and we get a chance to experiment with live viruses as well. Most of the students passing out of NIV opt for a PhD and I too am in the same league.”

Rohit Sorkhel, a Second-Year Student of M.Sc. at NIV

He added, “After post-graduation, one also has the opportunity to open his/ her own research centre. Coming from Kolkata, it is a fantastic experience to be in Pune. The city ambience is good and is congenial to education.”

Sorkhel went a little further and said, “Virology is a lesser known field in India. There are both pros and cons of doing research in virology. A researcher might get infected by viruses and certain infections have no cure at all. However, if one is passionate and careful enough, he/ she can open newer vistas in the field of biology through persistent research studies.”

NIV seldom remains in the limelight. This stands in stark contrast to some of the other nationally reputed scientific institutes. Since only twenty (20) students get selected every year, the institute doesn’t really resemble a usual college. In very simple words, NIV is an institute where one can directly learn from the practitioners of science.

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Reporting by Preeti Singh
Special Correspondent, Pune