Over the first two semesters, the students are given specific tasks aimed at developing (1) an essential primary skill-set (2) a deeper understanding pertaining to various aspects of biology based on firm experimental grounds. The range of activities includes the following: Using a broad spectrum of equipment listed below under 'facility'. Staining/identifying/observing several types of cells/tissues/microbes. Nature trails and visits to institutes such as TIFR to observe special facilities (e.g. electron microscope and NMR) Experiments in taxonomy and basic molecular biology. Microbial culture techniques. Interpreting perturbations in physiology. Isolating and quantitating various macromolecular components from plant and animal tissues. The later semesters aim at going hand-in-hand with the theory topics. In the third semester, students learn techniques in cell biology and cell culture, in the fourth semester they are introduced to rigorous molecular biology experiments plus biodiversity problems. By the time the students complete IX semesters, they would have hands-on experience in fields ranging from ecology, taxonomy, neurobiology and genetics to industrial biotechnology. This will not only give them sufficient background experience to work on a full-time project in the final semester but also amply prepare them to take up careers in either basic research or applied areas with equal ease.
The undergraduate biology laboratory is equipped with appliances of the best quality: the equipment include PCR machine, UV-visible spectrophotometer, fluorescent microscopes, cooled centrifuges, autoclaves, incubator-shakers, mini-centrifuges, laminar air-flow, horizontal and vertical electrophoresis apparatus and trans-illuminator in addition to routine instruments like pH meters, electronic balances, hemocytometers, waterbaths, ovens and a dedicated refrigerator. All these are housed in a spacious, well-lit, air-conditioned room containing specially designed microscopy tables and work benches. Compound microscopes of internationally acclaimed brand Nikon, colorimeters, sets of dissection instruments and micropipettes are provided at each work bench allowing students to conduct most of the experiments individually.
Often biology classes in Indian colleges tend to portray life sciences as a merely descriptive and qualitative subject. Modern concepts are far from this view, laying equal emphasis on quantitation. We take care that this attitude is inculcated in our students from the very beginning.
At CEBS, Biology is treated as a single entity of study encompassing all life, as opposed to the commonly encountered divide between microbiology, botany and zoology. We are well aware of the diverse backgrounds of our new students, hence the teaching methods cater equally to students who have studied biology after high school as well as those who have taken up non-biology subjects after primary school.
None of our sessions depend on readymade slides or previously recorded readings. All cell types and tissue samples to be observed or stained are prepared by students and freshly mounted on slides, and all measurements taken by running the required apparatus.
Since there are postgraduate laboratories in biology also at CEBS, our undergraduates are welcome to enhance their learning experience by interacting with the scientists and research scholars working in these laboratories. We already have several enthusiastic students from the 2nd, 3rd and 4th year integrated M.Sc. programme in Physics (which is the first subject stream started at CEBS) working on bioinformatics and molecular biology projects.
On the whole, the undergraduate laboratory is fully prepared to train well-rounded Indian biologists of the future!