A career for life: Leading Life Sciences programs for Asian students

RECENTLY, newspapers across the world splashed pictures of controversial South Korean scientist Hwang Woo-suk, flanked by colleagues, holding cloned coyotes. In other parts of the world, scientists are curing diseases and engaging oil-eating bacteria to clean up the oil spill disasters that have ravaged our oceans, seas and coastlines. While the world continues to debate the ethical issues surrounding areas such as cloning, stem cell research and GM foods, research and innovation in the Life Sciences continues to make the world a better place for all of us.

The point of mentioning these examples is to bring across the vast scope of the discipline of Life Sciences and how it manages to touch our daily lives. Although Life Sciences may seem a distant discipline, limited to the world of laboratories, experiments and looking under the microscope, the many practical benefits of this discipline have always existed and are now increasingly being felt by mankind.

Jacobs University

Pic: Jacobs University.

New discoveries and classifications of species have helped humans combat diseases. Development of new plants and animals, the cleansing of the environment, and developing new sustainable ways of living are just some of the many ways the Life Sciences have improved the way we live.

The discipline of Life Sciences involves the scientific study of living organisms such as animals, plants and human beings. While biology takes centre stage, advancements in the field mean that now the discipline is studied in interrelation with subjects such as technology, engineering, computer science and so on.

Subjects which come under this vast umbrella include anatomy, biochemistry, biology, biomaterials, neuroscience, cell biology, ecology, genetics, health sciences, evolutionary biology, immunology, marine biology, zoology, sports science, pharmacology, pathology and microbiology.

Being such a vast discipline, its scope is immense and students of Life Sciences can pursue careers in a wide range of areas. They can follow fields of biology, biotechnology or biomedicine to gain employment in pharmaceutical companies, health care, crop production, and more. They can also find employment in companies tackling energy or environment issues. The scope of a career in Life Sciences is not just limited to the government sector but has ample demand in the private sector as well.

Graduates are also welcomed in non-related fields such as communications, information services, mass media production houses, law, finance, banking, defence and security, public services and so on. Extending the scope of careers even further are those Life Sciences graduates with an entrepreneurial spirit who go on to set up companies of their own.

When selecting a university or a course in Life Sciences, there are a few things to look out for. One of the most important selection criteria is research. To study in an institute where knowledge creation is the norm and path-breaking research has been rewarded with international or national acclaim holds many pluses. The research-driven environment will ensure that the student is exposed to current developments as they happen and is able to understand the concepts.

Chalmers University of Technology

Pic: Jacobs University.

Infrastructure is another important criterion. To keep pace with the new discoveries as well as technological advancements, any institute should be fully equipped to answer to the demands of the discipline. The latest equipment will only facilitate a better understanding and help students keep pace with the latest developments in the field.

An eminent faculty with substantial paper citations and probably even patents to their credit will be a great influence to students who wish to shine in the field of Life Sciences.

The immensity of Life Sciences allows us to progress in some areas while we lag behind in many others. And, looking at the way the discipline helps improve our lives, it becomes more and more necessary to invest in research in this field. For instance, we have moved ahead by leaps and bounds in the field of genetic and cell manipulation, yet there are several areas like brain functions, aging and the immune system which still need to be investigated completely.

New fields are still being explored in Life Sciences and cellular biology, virology, structural biology, genetics, physiology and biochemistry are some of the many. And who knows, in the times to come, Life Sciences may hold the answers to our gravest of problems like energy efficient fuels, environmental pollution and cure diseases like AIDS and breast cancer.

We have selected 25 of the leading Life Sciences institutes around the world for Asian students looking to get ahead in this fascinating field of study…

Karolinska Institutet is one of the leading universities in Sweden, offering the country’s widest range of health and medical sciences programs. Confirming its seat as one of the leading providers of higher education, Karolinska Institutet is ranked among the Top 50 universities in the world by the Times Higher Education rankings. Karolinska Institutet accounts for more than 40 percent of the medical academic research carried out in Sweden. The university is one of the few in the country to cover fields such as stem cell research, clinical applications of cell therapy and regenerative medicine. Its clinical expertise in cell therapy is acclaimed across the world and has contributed leading work in transplantation medicine. Read the full profile…

Karolinska Institutet

Pic: Karolinska Institutet.

Spread across a 90-acre campus in the city of Bremen, Jacobs University is one of the leading universities in Germany offering courses in Life Sciences. It was recently ranked number one in Life Sciences in the German CHE Rankings. The university opened in 2001, as a private, independent educational institution and employs English as the primary language of instruction and communication on campus. The university has a robust scientific faculty, which includes 127 professors and nearly 250 research and instructional personnel. A healthy student-teacher ratio of 10:1 permits an enriching learning experience. Encouraging diversity and internationalization, more than 75 percent of students at the university are from outside Germany. The university offers top science programs, interdisciplinary education and early research opportunities to international students from more than 100 countries. Read the full profile…

Aarhus University in Denmark has been consistently ranked as one of the top 100 universities in the world rankings. The Shanghai rankings placed it at 86th and QS World University Rankings positioned it at 79th this year. With some of the best researchers, staff, infrastructure and industry-academic partnerships, Aarhus opens up a world of opportunities for its Life Sciences students. The university has two Nobel Prize winners to its credit, and with more than 38,000 students and 10,000 staff Aarhus University offers a young and inclusive atmosphere where learning is an enjoyable experience. Read the full profile…

Rutgers – The State University of New Jersey is one of the leading national public research universities in the US. Founded in 1766, the university is committed to the professional and personal development of its students. Rutgers is also the eighth oldest institution of higher education in the US and a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU). With more than 58,000 students from 125 countries, and 13,000 staff and faculty, the university buzzes with life, activity and energy. A healthy student-teacher ratio of 14:1 allows personal attention to each student’s academic development and makes the faculty approachable to all students. Read the full profile…


Pic: Rutgers.

Located in Gothenburg, Chalmers University of Technology is one of the Sweden’s most respected institutes of higher education. Spread across two campuses – Johanneberg and Lindholmen – it is also one of Sweden’s largest universities. The university is home to about 11,000 students and 2,500 staff. It offers an international atmosphere, with students from all across the world coming here to learn the skills that will kick-start a successful career in the Life Sciences. The learning is research-driven and the superior infrastructure at the university facilitates the learning process. The university has eight ‘Areas of Advance’, one of which is Life Science. Creating the powerful fusion of education, research and innovation, the university aims to create solutions that contribute to a sustainable future and meet the needs of the society. Read the full profile…

The University of Edinburgh appears in the elite list of the world’s top 50 best universities for Life Sciences, according to this year’s subject-rankings by QS. The university has been excelling as a higher education provider for more than 425 years. With such vast experience, it is no wonder that it has also produced some of the most prominent alumni, such as J.K.Rowling, Gordon Brown and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The university offers undergraduate, postgraduate and research programs in Life Sciences. Its Graduate School in Life Sciences has an excellent reputation as one of the fountainheads of leading research in the field. All courses offer an international research environment and modern facilities.

As one of the top-ranking public universities in the US, UC Davis provides an unforgettable experience for its students. It was ranked among the top 50 best universities in Life Sciences by the QS World Universities Subject Rankings 2011. Its faculty have won many prestigious awards, including 4 Presidential Awards, 182 National Academy Memberships, 16 International Academy Memberships and 132 National Awards. The university offers courses in Life Sciences such as Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; Evolution and Ecology; Neurobiology; Cell Biology; Plant Biology; Physiology and Behaviour; Genetics, Microbiology, and more

The University of Melbourne is a university of distinguished international reputation, world-class facilities and superior research. The university has been declared as one of the best in Australia and the world by Shanghai Jiao Tong and Higher Education Evaluation, THE rankings as well as QS World University Rankings. It is ranked 25th in Biological Sciences and 8th in Psychology by the QS World University Rankings. The university, which has produced a number of Nobel Prize winners, offers bachelors, masters and research programs covering areas such as bioinformatics, genetics, zoology, biomedical and health sciences, biotechnology, to name a few. It also offers postgraduate certificates and diplomas in science.

Aarhus University

Pic: Aarhus University.

As a member of the celebrated Group of Eight, Monash University belongs to the crème de la crème of Australian universities. Ranked 117th worldwide by THE rankings and 60th in the world by the QS rankings this year, the university is regularly listed among the top 50 universities for the Life Sciences in all the rankings that matter. With a keen focus on research, the university is active in more than 150 fields of study. Almost 90% students find employment within a few months of graduation and the education here matches international standards, preparing work-ready graduates with all the skills they need for a successful career. Courses are offered in Biological Sciences, Biotechnology, Ecology, Environmental and Conservation Biology, Genetics, Plant Sciences, Zoology, and Marine and Freshwater Biology, among others.

The University of Copenhagen is ranked among the top 100 universities for its Life Sciences offerings by QS World University Rankings 2011. With more than 530 years behind it, the university is one of the oldest in Northern Europe. It is also the largest higher education provider for research and learning in Denmark with over 37,000 students and more than 7,000 staff. As a mark of its high standards and quality, the names of eight Nobel Laureates are associated with the university. Its Faculty of Life Sciences (LIFE) is one of the continent’s best in the fields of biotechnology, natural resources, veterinary medicine, food, health, plants, and the environment.

Although a young university which was opened in 1991, HKUST has already established itself as a giant in the field of higher education. It is a world-renowned institution for its international research, futuristic thinking and excellent standards. The university figured among the Top 100 in the subject rankings for Life Sciences released by QS World University Rankings in 2011. It was also ranked as the number one Asian university by the QS Asian University Rankings. The Division of Life Science at HKUST prepares students through a highly competitive and thorough curriculum. Degrees are offered at undergraduate as well as postgraduate levels. With the 3-3-4 transition (a major reform in Hong Kong’s higher education landscape) in 2012, the Division will be adding some new undergraduate courses to its palette. Areas of expertise include cell and developmental biology, marine and environmental biology, biotechnology, and neuroscience.

The name NUS is synonymous with quality. The university was ranked among the Top 50 in the subject rankings for Life Sciences by QS this year. It is considered one of the best in Asia and is a top-rated university on the global stage too. More than 100 ‘research-active’ faculty members from as many as 10 different departments under the Faculty of Science, the School of Medicine and the School of Public Health together teach the Life Sciences Undergraduate Program curriculum. The university’s undergraduate program in Life Sciences is offered by the Department of Biological Sciences offers a sound grounding, while offering a selection of relevant advanced courses in fields of Biomedical Science, Molecular Cell Biology and Environmental Biology.

Chalmers University of Technology.

Pic: Chalmers University of Technology.

As one of the highly esteemed, top-ranked universities in the field of Life Sciences, POSTECH promises a whole new experience in learning. Founded in 1986, it is a leading university in South Korea, and is famous for its research-oriented focus.  The university’s Department of Life Science receives more than 30% of the university’s research fund, reflecting the dedication here to the discipline. Students can choose from bachelors, masters and research programs. Every professor at the university carries out independent research, which is supported either by the government or the industry. Massive infrastructure has also been developed to support the research work in Life Sciences. This includes: three Creative Research Initiatives, two National Research Laboratories and one National Core Research Centre.

Consistently ranked as one of the best-performing and top-ranking universities by every ranking methodology, the University of Oxford is a class apart. It is ranked as the fourth best university in the world for Life Sciences by the QS World University Rankings 2011. For over a century, Oxford University has been leading the world in the field of Life Sciences and can be credited for some of the most important discoveries in the field. Of its extensive range of undergraduate, postgraduate and research programs, one that is immensely unique is the 4-year D.Phil program (Life Sciences Interface Doctoral Training Centre). It offers interlinked research and broad-ranging training in the biomedical and life sciences.

Harvard University needs little introduction. It is one of the most distinguished and illustrious universities, renowned for quality and world-class education. Time and again it has been ranked among the Top 3 universities in the world and is ranked the number one university in the world in Life Sciences by QS this year. A broad range of courses offer numerous opportunities for students to discover, learn and explore. From Human Evolutionary Biology to Social and Cognitive Neurosciences, there are many options to choose from. A practical approach, research-led teaching and state-of-the-art facilities make the learning experience even more rich and memorable.

With no less than 35 Nobel Prize winners to its name, Johns Hopkins is one of the leading institutes of higher learning in the world. It is ranked 13th in the world in Biological Sciences by QS this year. It is considered one of the Top 20 universities in the world overall. The university is home to 27 research laboratories, investigating a plethora of issues related to Life Sciences. It had one of the first Biology departments in the United States and has many distinguished alumni to its credit.

As one of the top 20 universities in the world, with a Life Sciences ranking of 18th from QS this year, McGill University is one of the best Canada has to offer. Led by an impressive faculty, including Nobel Laureates, students are offered an array of major and minor courses in Life Science. The Faculty of Science at the university has started a program giving undergraduates the opportunity to participate in hands-on research initiatives if it matches their field of study and interest. Students benefit considerably from the eminent faculty and the rich resources the university has to offer.

Aarhus University

Pic: Aarhus University.

The name ETH Zurich is synonymous with prestige and high standards. The Swiss University has produced more than 30 Nobel Prize winners over the years, and was alma mater to Einstein himself. The university is ranked among the world’s top 25 year after year and has been ranked among the top 20 in Life Sciences by QS this year. This is a university where knowledge creation is the norm, and some of the world’s leading researchers make up its impressive faculty. Offering bachelors, masters and doctoral courses in the subjects of Life Sciences, the university offers nothing but the best learning experience for all those who come here.

Japan’s Kyoto University has produced five Nobel Prize winners to date. Ranked among the top 50 universities in the world for its high standards in teaching and excellence, the Kyoto University was placed at number 29 by QS in the subject of Biological Sciences this year. The teaching of the subjects is sprinkled with regular exchange of ideas from key players in the field of Life Sciences, broadening the horizons of students. Courses are offered in zoology, botany, biophysics, ecological research, primate research, and more. Linking sciences with the surroundings as well as employing an inter-disciplinary approach allows students to be work-ready as well have an in-depth understanding of issues related to Life Sciences.

Ruprecht Heidelberg is ranked among the top 50 universities in the world for Biological Sciences by QS this year. Furthermore, it consistently appears in the Top 100 best universities in the world in all the league tables that matter. The university is one of the oldest in Germany and its research-focused approach is acclaimed around the world. More than 15 Leibniz Laureates and 30 Nobel Laureates are associated with this university. Continuing the tradition of excellence for centuries, the university has struck a number of partnerships with leading institutes across the world for a better flow of knowledge from every direction. The university’s Faculty of Biosciences is one of the 12 faculties and oversees the Institute of Zoology, Institute of Plant Science, Institute of Neurobiology, and the Institute of Pharmacy and Molecular Biotechnology. A healthy student-faculty ratio ensures a great learning experience.

ENS in the enviable location of Paris, France is an elite research centre for higher education famous for its training in the Life Sciences. Not only is it one of the top-ranked universities in Europe, it also regularly features in the Top 100 best universities of the world. Established in 1794, the university has an illustrious history of achievements. Undergraduate, graduate and research courses are offered in Life Sciences. Abundant resources and facilities greet students who are keen to explore this exciting discipline. Numerous partnerships and collaborations with leading institutes as well as key industry players make ENS a popular choice among international students.

Chalmers University of Technology

Pic: Jacobs University.

Ranked among the top 100 best universities in the world, Brown University has a distinct reputation as an influential institute in the field of Life Sciences. The university was also recently ranked as one of the top 100 universities in the world for the subjects of Life Sciences by QS. Founded in 1764, Brown University was named by the Princeton review as the number one College in America for Happiest Students. The university is known for its global reach and vast expertise. It offers several programs in Computational Biology and Psychological Sciences, to name just a few.

National Taiwan University was ranked among the top 100 universities for Life Sciences by QS this year. With over 33,000 students, NTU has seen itself expand, develop and innovate over the years to meet today’s challenges. The university’s College of Life Sciences has 10 departments which tackle areas such as Life Sciences, Biochemical Science and Technology, Zoology, Plant Biology, Fisheries Science, Fishery Biology, Fishery Extension, Microbiology and Biochemistry, and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. The focus of the institute is on learning which has practical use and can be employed to improve situations.

Founded in 1908, this Canadian university was ranked in among the top 100 universities in the world for its performance in Life Sciences by QS this year. The university has a highly acclaimed faculty with international professional credentials and its researchers are at the forefront of research innovations and discoveries. The university offers general degrees, specialisation degrees, honors degrees and science and education combined degrees at undergraduate level. Its masters and doctoral level programs focus on areas such as Ecology, Plant Biology, Systematics and Evolution, Biological Sciences and Molecular Biology, and Genetics, to name just a few.

Founded in 1575, Leiden University is one of the oldest hubs of higher education in the Netherlands. It is ranked as one the best universities in the country and figures among the top 100 in global university league tables. It was ranked this year as one of the top 100 best universities for Life Sciences according to the subject rankings released by QS. The university’s name can be associated with 13 Nobel Laureates, including Albert Einstein. The university’s Leiden Bio Science Park is celebrated as one of the largest biomedical life science specialist parks in the country. The university offers B.Sc in Life Science and Technology program in partnership with TU Delft, among many other programs in Life Sciences.