Developing Talents for Indonesia’s Life Sciences arena
Life sciences are an essential and integral part of each society, in fact, they are directly related to crucial aspects of our life, such as healthcare and food safety. To take just one concrete example to illustrate the importance of life sciences to our lives, let us discuss pathogens. Throughout our lives, we are exposed to various pathogens. Not long ago, a trivial bacterial infection would easily turn into a deadly or highly debilitating disease. Nowadays, however, a trip to the pharmacy could unknowingly deter us from death. A few generations ago, life expectancy was around 35 years. Entire families were decimated by banal diseases, including influenza or bacterial infection.
Today, thanks to the advancement in life sciences, the life expectancy of human beings has been advanced dramatically, and we see many people live beyond the age of 70. Medical technology has reached a point where its advancement allows many diseases to be treated, prolonging the human life span.
As well as prolonging our life span, advancements in life sciences have also majorly contributed to improving life quality among human beings. “For instance, if you get sick from a non-lifethreatening disease, you might be likely get back on your feet within a short amount of time if you were properly diagnosed and treated,” said Matteo Morello, Director of Academic Affairs, Indonesia International Institute for Life Sciences (i3L).
Without the scientific contribution of life sciences, the quality and productivity of a nation’s whole workforce is affected. This is one of the reasons why the demand for graduates from this field,
who can work in a wide range of sectors, including but not limited to food safety, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, diagnostic and healthcare, is constantly increasing. Advancements in life sciences can also help a nation to boost its economic development.
“If as a nation you can produce your own drugs, instead of importing them from other countries, you can create job opportunities and in the meantime reallocate what you save from buying and importing drugs to other issues equally relevant to the society.” Morello said.
There is no doubt every country should invest in education if they want to lay solid foundations for research and development to thrive. However, up to few years ago Indonesian students that want to pursue a career in life sciences, for example within the Biomedicine or Bioinformatics field, had no choice but to continue their studies abroad.
As an institution, i3L was established in 2012 to fill that gap, meaning local students no longer had to go overseas to purse a degree in life sciences. The i3L campus is located on Jl. Pulomas Barat, East Jakarta.
The institute offers undergraduates programs in Entrepreneurship, Bioinformatics, Biomedicine, Biotechnology, Food Science, Food Technology and Pharmacy, as well as a master level program in Biomanagement. The i3L has currently around 300 active students and about 30 lecturers, most of whom earned their Master’s or Doctoral degrees from overseas universities, with an 80:20 ratio between expats and local lecturers. The university’s curriculum places a heavy emphasis on practical, real-life learning experiences.
“I can say that our students spend almost 50 percent of their time, while in campus, in the laboratory. Life sciences is a highly applicative field. In order to thrive in this field, you must develop skills and competencies through practice” Morello said.
Aside from laboratory practices facilitated by cutting-edge equipment and technologies, i3L students are also offered with a rich chance for internships and exchange programs right from their first year of studying, giving them further opportunity to put their knowledge and skills to the test.
“Around 60 to 80 of our students have already experienced an international exchange program,” Morello said, adding that i3L was cooperating with a number of universities abroad, such as Boston University in the United States and Deakin University in Australia.
Meanwhile, for the internship programs, the institute cooperates with institutions and companies such as Carolus Hospital, GarudaFood, Orang Tua, the Eijkman Institute and many more. “By the time i3L’s students enter their third and fourth [academic] year, the majority of their learning process is based on case studies and applied research projects. These projects are vital to help nurture critical thinking skills among students, helping them to analyze the complexities of a problem in an objective manner,” Morello said.