Smart Biological Sciences: An Emerging Field

Since its inception biological science based on the principle of observation, experimentation and interpretation has always assumed a prominent role in science. Most significantly, it has not remained a mere basic science looking at how life evolved and functions of biological systems, and is vital not just for generating material prosperity for man, but it provides material to develop skills in critical thinking, in understanding evidence and developing argument based on the biomimetic principles and bioinspiration. The emergence of novel machine based technologies in the field of biomimetic engineering and nanobiomimetics is the best way to realise that biological sciences is an emerging science in the of field of skill development and bioentrepreunership is not a distant dream.

So technically it is the coupling of machine and man. We are not living in an isolated arena, we have been synergised by evolution of IT technologies and artificial intelligence systems. It is not impractical to say then that research has changed science and science is changing research and revolution and intervention of IT in biological sciences is the best outcome of this relationship and has transformed almost every concept in biology from basic to applied and perhaps ends in bio-intelligent manufacturing system, becausebiological science is not merely a subject but technology is turning it into entrepreneurship and business. And if I am saying this, it is based on the evidences and research on the intervention of smart technology in biological sciences.

Ours is the time of smart research, smart education, smart teaching and smart learning and the emergence of amazing androids in the market and simulations and modelling of biological facts is helping to connect science with society. In fact smart technology is helping the biological sciences reaching everyone. Time is smart, so how can’t be a today’s student smart. If this is not the case, he or she needs to be smart. And of course today’s teacher needs to be smart when we know that research scientists have too turned smart-smart research scientist– thanks to the use of IT and smart technologies in research. The simple reason being that we are living in the era of machine learning or AI and 3D microscopy technology which has changed the old biological concepts and thinking – we are living in the era of systems biology, synthetic biology and biomechanics. We are moving from silicon chips to DNA chips to peep very deep into life at molecular and nano level. The computers of the future may not be made of silicon, but of DNA. Novel concepts in printing such as DNA printing is evolving. Therefore, successful entrepreneurship is identification of self-knowledge and honing of soft skills, and acquiring of skills that are in demand and not exclusively acquired knowledge and skills for which there are no takers; this is pivotal for today’s learner, teacher and the educational system.

Therefore, knowledge and skills of Biological Sciences will be important to develop the individual’s sensitiveness to nature. It will be important  to understand natural designs, mechanisms, principles and facts using smart technology. It will be important to  to develop scientific temperament and outlook amongst the learning community, explain the living world in terms of scientific principles using modelling and simulations, satisfy the curiosity of the students and explore innovative ideas. It will then  stimulate the spirit of investigation, invention and formulation of hypothesis based on the principles of observation, experimentation and interpretation. It will improve the power of observation and experimentation using innovative ideas and methodologies based on IT, to develop the problem solving capacities and inculcate the spirit of how and why amongst the student community.To achieve all these goals biological skill development is a must.

So we need to look at the skill development areas in both basic and applied fields of biological science. We must aspire for bio innovation and bio entrepreneurship. We need to introduced such things not only at higher level but right from the beginning, at schooling. In my opinion some of the crucial areas of biological skill development using IT and smart technology can be;biomimetics and bioinspiration, biomechanics, molecular cloning, taxonomy and identification, environmental ethics and disease modelling, modelling climate change and biological systems, public health, genetic counselling and human betterment, animal cell culture, stem cell technology, sensitising gene technology, genomics, proteomics, bioinformatics, karyotyping, immuno-diagnostics, wildlife forensics, DNA profiling. This is besides the basic skill development courses in the branches of apiculture, sericulture, pisciculture, aquarium keeping, lac culture, and pearl culture by blending them with applications of information and smart technology, etc.

I just want to cite here the case of recently emerging reports that sperm cells as we were made to believe for more than three centuries swim; they rather spin-thanks to technological intervention and better understanding of life at nano and molecular level using 3D microscopy. This is the way technology is improving the biological science and making it smarter day by day. That is why we call it Re…….search. But we need to be fit with it and we can’t afford to miss a bit of it. We must  make best use of the available technology. And only skills and innovation can help us to keep pace with it.

Another dimension of smart biological science can be bio-economy and biological transformation – the biomimetic engineering. Nature is full of inspirations, motivation and problem solving for human beings. Every creation is unique and enriched with some prime features not present in other forms. You see the emergence of CRISPR-Cas9 as a novel tool to alter and edit DNA and genes in living organisms under laboratory conditions; basically scientists got this insight from bacterial defence system which they use against virus invaders. Therefore, we should look into nature; nature’s authority is reflected in its creation. So, on one hand technology will help us to better understand nature and on the other hand understanding nature will enable us to develop better technology based on natural designs and principles, as biology and technology are progressing in rapid synergy. So the futuristic biology will be the outcome of “Technology exceeding human brain power and super intelligence will emerge”, and we will talk of smart and super biology.The new multidimensional age of biotechnology, the nano-biotechnology is the emerging future science because it assumes importance in this era of computers, It holds the key to achieve a sustainable solution to long pending engineering problems.

Tail piece

The needs of the society have always played a very important role in the development of science. Societies have changed over time and consequently science evolved and technologies developed accordingly to fulfil societal needs. So acquiring skills will fulfil the aspirations always. We as teachers need to be real role models, facilitators, mentors, instructors besides being lecturers and create a congenial environment within our institutions and beyond with scientific, social and moral values to benefit our student community.

The writer is a member of Royal Society of Biology and works as an assistant professor of Zoology at Islamia College Srinagar.