In my “Get to Know Me” post, Aniekan, Arinze and Daara asked similar questions and I actually get asked this question a lot. If you ever wondered why I studied biotechnology 🧬 and what I hope to do with it? This post answers your questions. 🤗
What is this Biotechnology?
The use of living organisms or biological techniques to produce or modify an organism or a process is my simplest way of defining biotechnology. Sometimes I go further to include that it involves the genetic modification of organisms, in-vitro (outside the organism) and perhaps in-vivo (within the living organism).
The first idea I got of biotechnology was in my junior secondary three, where I was taught about genetic engineering in a basic science class and was totally mesmerized. Techniques like cloning fascinated me the most and I always imagined myself carrying it out.
Moving on with my
secondary education, I kept talking about genetic engineering and my aspiration
to become a genetic engineer/geneticist. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with
it or where it would lead me but I just knew I was in love with it.
Growing up in Nigeria, most adults wanted kids to aspire to study professional courses and I picked up medicine as that was nearly everyone’s favourite. It gradually became pharmacy, where I was determined to produce drugs that were not bitter-tasting but nice for children like me to enjoy which was all jokes to the adults, but I was serious about it.
Can you imagine my excitement when I realized that genetic engineering was just a branch of biotechnology? How there was more cool stuff for me to know and learn. It was exciting. I would say I’m a very inquisitive person, especially when it comes to topics that interest me like genetics -of course, I have to investigate.
Studying biotechnology at the university wasn’t as cool as I thought it would be. Going back to organic chemistry, taking some courses like further calculus, engineering drawing, computer programming, an architecture course and others I didn’t think were relevant, made things worse. I wasn’t getting that hands-on experience I had hoped for. Studying biotechnology was more stressful than I thought and I’m like where’s all that cool stuff I read about online?
Reality Check: I remembered that I was in Nigeria. I also realised that we needed some of these extras for the end goal (1. To graduate, 2. To be a BIOTECHNOLOGIST😎).
My internships, as well as the internet, are really powerful tools that have helped in enhancing my learning experience as it gave a better understanding of biotechnology.
Okay, so after all this, what do you still want to do with biotechnology? What can you do with it? Do you still want to continue with this path?
Definitely!! Bill Gates said Biotechnology is the future, so Duh??
But in all seriousness, Yes, I still want to continue with this path and there is so much that can be done with biotechnology. Biotech is everywhere.
I like to believe that biotechnology is as old as mankind, even though it’s a discipline that is relatively new.
Biotechnology has also been applied for thousands of years in medicine, agriculture and food production.
Before you think of cloning, come down to your everyday life in Nigeria, think of fermentation (of cassava to produce garri), wine, beer, bread, biofuels, vaccines, your medications (e.g. that flagyl you’re always misusing when you have a stomach upset), nutritional supplements, detergents, vegetable oils, fortified and genetically modified food and drinks (you buy them in grocery stores every time), and a lot of diagnostic tests you take in hospital laboratories. These are all products of biotechnology. Then we can talk about genetically modified food (GMO), therapeutic antibodies, recombinant proteins, cloning (of microorganisms, plants, and animals; definitely not humans).
Oh wow? Biotechnology is this broad?
Oh yes it is.
Remember – Biotechnology is the technological use of living organisms (ALL LIVING THINGS) to make or modify a product.
Biotech is also cross-disciplinary, so you could be an IT guy in biotechnology- bioinformatics, a statistician- biostatistics, a biochemist- check out molecular biology, a farmer- plant geneticist, a microbiologist- molecular epidemiologist perhaps??? Everyone can find a seat at this biotech table.
Okay, so I hope I have been able to convince you on how cool biotech is. Biotech is fun, biotech is cool, but biotech is a lot. You really cannot be actively involved in every single aspect.
But for me, research is definitely what I want to do, especially after working in a research institute. Although I think every aspect of biotechnology involves research, I am more excited about its medical applications.
Medical biotechnology is the use of living cells and cell materials to research and manufacture pharmaceutical and diagnostic products that help treat and prevent human diseases.
I want to produce novel drugs and vaccines that help to bridge gaps in public health especially in Africa and other developing countries with my work. I recently read on the implementation of the malaria vaccine in Malawi, with plans to implement it in Ghana and Kenya in a few weeks and this got me really excited. I want to be a part of these kinds of research teams. I have to be a part of this evolving field, which involves the science of the future and I want to make impactful contributions.
But to be a part of this field, you have to constantly study more, learn more, research more, be open to learning from anybody and I think these apply to other disciplines as well.
I hope this post sparks some curiosity as to what else can be done with biotechnology because I surely couldn’t say it all.
Thank you for stopping by, be sure to like this post and subscribe to my blog so you could get first-hand information on when next I post.