History of The Department

With an aim to modernize scientific teaching and provide students with a holistic idea about the different aspects of life sciences, the Department of Life Sciences was created in 2013 by merging six former departments of ‘Botany’, ‘Physiology’, ‘Zoology’ ‘Molecular Biology and Genetics’ ‘Biochemistry’, and ‘Biotechnology’. The departments of Botany and Physiology were the earliest of these six departments and were established in 1900 by Prof. Acharya Subodh Chandra Mahalanobis. The youngest of these departments was the department of Biotechnology, which existed as a separate department for only three years before being merged into the whole.

Presented below is the glorious history of all the six departments prior to the merging.

Department of Botany (1900-2012)

Prof. Acharya Subodh Chandra Mahalanobis with the co-operation of the then Lieutenant Governor of Bengal Sir John Woodburn established the Department of Botany at Presidency College, Kolkata in the year 1900. Since then the department offered B.Sc. in Botany. It was also a matter of great pride that University of Calcutta started their Postgraduate course in this department in the year 1912 and continued up to 1918 and was reintroduced jointly from 1952. At the onset of the new millennium (2001-2002) the department was permitted to start Independent Postgraduate course in Botany and within couple of years (2004-05) granted Postgraduate Academic Autonomy. With the beginning of the new era the department completely revised and upgraded the syllabus of M.Sc. Botany and introduced the new syllabus from the 05-06 academic session which gave emphasis to the current trends and recent advancements in Plant Sciences. Continuous assessment system in practical papers, students’ seminar and grand viva were some important features of the newly introduced PG syllabus. Since then, the PG syllabus was revised yet again to make it more updated and modern. With the up-gradation of the Presidency College to the Presidency University in the year 2010, the department introduced Semester system with new revised syllabus at the UG and PG level from the academic session 2011-12. Since 2003 the Department of Botany was enlisted as a “DST-FIST SPONSORED DEPARTMENT” by the Department of Science and Technology, Govt. of India, and received successive grants of Rs. 35 lakhs for the first phase (2003-2008) and nearly 65 lakhs for the second phase (2009-2013). This grant helped the department to strengthen their teaching and research both at the Undergraduate and Postgraduate levels.

Department of Physiology (1900-2012)

The Physiology Department had a history of 112 years of UG teaching and 100 years of PG teaching and a tradition with Frontiers in Research. National and International Institutes recognized the talents in the students of this Department. Since its inception 66 Ph.D degrees in total had been awarded from the Department. Integrated M.Tech-Ph.D program with BESU & M.Phil dissertation with the Department was also offered. Continuous Research Projects on contemporary fields were carried out.

The Department of Biology was founded in 1900A.D and Prof. Subodh Chandra Mahalanabish joined as a Professor and taught both Physiology and Botany. But it was from 1904 that under new regulations of Calcutta University that the three mother subjects of biology ( Physiology, Botany and Zoology) started functioning as independent departments. The study of Physiology at Honours level and as separate basic science subject started at Presidency College from the year 1903 and the first batch of students of Calcutta University obtained their degree in Physiology Honours in 1905. The Post Graduate course in Physiology under Calcutta University was born within this department and continued till 1927. Prof. E. H. Sterling, Nobel Laureate, visited this department in 1915. In 1939,Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee, as Vice-Chancellor of Calcutta University, convened a historic meeting and passed two important resolutions in favour of this department: (a) PG teaching in Physiology at Presidency College should continue as before; and (b) the University should not open Honours course in Physiology as this was running at its best at Presidency College. In 1944, Sir A.V. Hill another Nobel Laureate, visited this department. From 1947 to 1959, the department was guided under the able stewardship of Prof. Sachchidananda Banerjee, the first D.Sc. in Physiology from Calcutta University. The department had an academic and cultural body known as “Physiological Institute” which arranged for several events amongst which arranging regular scientific seminars, commemorative functions, educational excursions and field-study tours of students, re-union of past and present students, publishing a departmental wall magazine Prachirika etc., were a few notable examples.

Department of Zoology (1953-2012)

The Department of Zoology, Presidency University (Erstwhile College) came into existence on 1st July 1953. It was started by the initiations of Late Jyotish Chandra Sengupta, the principal of the College at that time and Sir Nilratan Sarkar, Professor, Calcutta University. Soon the department flourished under the leadership of various eminent scholars. The department significantly prospered during the tenure of Prof. Sivatosh Mookherjee. He produced as many as twenty-three Ph.D scholars. Further benefitting from the rich contributions made by a galaxy of eminent academicians, the department produced a formidable batch of teachers and research scholars over the decades. Among such contributors were Birendra Kumar Mitra, Jatindra Nath Rudra, Sambhu Nath Roychoudhury, Amarendra Nath De, Sujit Kumar Dasgupta, Bimal Kumar Chatterjee, Ardhendu Sekhar Mukherjee, Bishwapati Dasgupta, Ajit Kumar Banerjee, Sambhunath Roychowdhuri, Shanti Gopal Pal, Biswa Ranjan Maity, Amal Bhattacharya, Sudhanshu Kumar Ghoshal, Ajit Kumar Aditya, Satyabrata Bhattacharya, Ramapada Bhattacharjya, Dilip Kumar Chakraborti, Debaprasad Chakraborti, Trilochan Midya, Simananda Adhikari, Arup Kumar Sinha, Bankubehari Ganguli, Asim Kumar Chakraborthi, Debaprasad Chakraborti, Pijush Kanti Saha, Subrata Kumar Chakraborty, Dr. Narayan Ghorai, Dr. Rupendu Roy, Dr. Tushar Kanti Mukherjee, Kamal Kumar Banerjee and Nirmal Kumar Sarkar. Alumni of this department made their marks in various institutions around the world. The students were especially successful with clearing competitive examinations like National Eligibility Test conducted by UGC/CSIR, GRE/TOEFL and other prestigious examinations world-wide.

Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics (2005-2012)

A postgraduate course in ‘Molecular Biology and Genetics’ was initiated in the year 2005 by the faculty of the Department of Zoology, erstwhile Presidency College with a student strength of 20. Till the middle of the year 2012, the course was being conducted by the faculty of the Zoology department. However, in the later part of 2012, 3 new faculties were recruited for the department of molecular biology. The joining of the new faculties added new vigor to the teaching exercise in Molecular Biology and Genetics. The course was aimed to provide a detailed understanding of fundamental biological processes at the molecular level. The syllabus covered diverse topics including Cell Biology, Macromolecular structure and function, Genetics, Biophysical and Biochemical Principles, Instrumentation and techniques, Biostatistics and Mathematical Modeling, Molecular Biology, Immunology and Cancer Biology, biology of Microbes and Viruses, Genes in development and Gene Technology, Ecology, Evolution and Molecular Taxonomy. The course also provided advanced practical training in Microscopy and instrumentation, Qualitative and quantitative study of macromolecules, Study of cells and chromosomes, Biostatistics and computer operation, Cell culture and Immunology, Molecular Biology and Microbiology, along with composition and presentation of a review and a project work. The students were encouraged to develop correct scientific aptitude and work in collaborative projects which would help them in their future research endeavors. Pass out Students of the Department were placed in several renowned research institutions across the country and abroad. In the short span of its existence, the department had produced meritorious students who qualified various national and international research aptitude tests like GRE, TOEFL, CSIR/UGC NET, GATE, etc; and were awarded with several prestigious scholarships including INSPIRE fellowship, Indira Gandhi Memorial fellowship, and scholarship from DBT-Centre for Bioinformatics, Presidency University. The departmental alumni are currently engaged in active molecular biology research at University of Pittsburgh, City University of New York, Iowa State University, USA; and AIIMS New Delhi, IICT Hyderabad, IIT Kharagpur, JNCASR bangalore, Chembiotek, SINP, NICED, Bose Institute, Monobikas Kendra, NCRI, IICB, ISI, Kolkata. One of the students joined West Bengal Government Service as faculty and served in the Darjeeling Govt. College.

Department of Biochemistry (2007-2012)

The Department of Biochemistry at Presidency University was formed in the year 2007 as a sub-division of the Department of Chemistry. The Department of Biochemistry provided a multifaceted and collaborative research environment, and brought together the expertise of cell biologists, immunologists, structural biologists and biophysicists. The research focus of the faculty members included areas of infection biology and neurodegenerative disorders, understanding protein structure-function relationship, protein folding, misfolding and aggregation related to diseases. The department offered three-year undergraduate honors courses in Biochemistry covering broad areas ranging from basic chemistry to advanced molecular biology. Besides, faculty members also taught specialized postgraduate courses in the Department of Biotechnology.

Department of Biotechnology (2009-2012)

The Department of Biotechnology was started in 2009 to teach a postgraduate course in Biotechnology. Pass out students from this department had established themselves in various scientific endeavors. Some joined industries, while others pursued and completed their Ph.D. A number of faculty members from various departments of this University as well as many others outside of this university extended their munificent help in teaching as well as in building the overall curriculum activities. Over the years, faculties of this department performed different academic activities such as conducting admission test, acting as guest faculties of other under-graduate (UG) and PG departments, conducting workshop under the DBT-STAR college program and carrying out research activities in collaboration with other academic and research Universities/Institutes. With the advancement of ‘Presidency College’ to ‘Presidency University’, the department of Biotechnology revised and improved the former syllabus and introduced a ‘semester system’ from the 2011-2012 academic sessions. The syllabus was framed with the help of experts from different universities and research institutes giving emphasis on the current trends and recent advancements in biotechnology. Continuous assessment in practical papers, seminars, grand viva, and compulsory summer training were some of the key features of the syllabus.

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