Interview with Jorge João, student of the Master’s Degree in Biotechnology at IST (Instituto Superior Técnico)

I had the opportunity to interview my dear friend Jorge João. We’ve met each other during our B.Sc in Health Sciences, a degree that allows us to follow a wide range of different scientific and/or academic paths. Jorge decided to follow a Master’s Degree in Biotechnology and I asked him a few questions on the subject.  

Tell us a little about your Master’s Degree, what does it consist of and what are your career opportunities?

The Master’s Degree in Biotechnology of IST (Instituto Superior Técnico) integrates a domain related to Biological and Life Sciences and another one linked to Bioengineering, with the goal of preparing highly qualified professionals in the execution of scientific activities in the several dynamic and transdisciplinary areas that are included in Biotechnology. It, therefore, involves a strong laboratory learning component in both fields, as well as a biotechnology industry project and a broad and diverse set of disciplines including the separation and purification of biological products, cellular and molecular microbiology, cell and tissue engineering and even functional genomics and bioinformatics. Regarding career opportunities, Biotechnology is an area that allows the development of scientific research of an international level, also allowing to work in several industrial areas, namely in the pharmaceutical, biomedical, agri-food and environmental industries. It also allows performing functions in biotechnology companies with a big innovation component.

How has your experience at IST been so far?

My experience at IST has been extremely positive overall! Técnico is an internationally recognized institution, and a short time there is enough to understand the reason behind this high reputation. The academic environment is very good; the ability to prepare students is excellent, turning them able to solve any problem no matter how difficult it may be; teachers often have an enormous availability to accompany and assist students; the laboratory component of the Master’s Degree in Biotechnology is very interesting and useful. In one sentence I can say that it’s easy to “wear the jersey” of IST after a short period of time! As a negative aspect, undoubtedly, I can consider the exaggerated and excessive workload and evaluations that exist over a semester for the various disciplines. It requires, therefore, an almost total dedication in order to be successful in the end.

You graduated in Health Sciences. Do you think this degree proved to be worthwhile, or, on the other hand, would you choose a different academic path if you could go back?

This is a difficult question! To be honest, my answer to this question has varied over the last few years. This, because, as I establish new contacts and experience new realities in the scientific area, I consider more and more that choosing a degree isn’t something that will irreversibly define our lives, all our future. It’s just the beginning! So, I think it’s never too late to change our path until we get to what really makes us satisfied and makes us fully fulfilled.

In a way, it’s what I somehow did when I chose the Master’s Degree in Biotechnology. I tried to redirect my route a bit to an area that besides Biological Sciences or Health also includes Bioengineering.

Therefore, I am not sorry to have chosen the B.Sc in Health Sciences because, although little known, I think it may be advantageous for someone who finishes secondary education in the area of Sciences and continues with some doubts about what they really want to do in future, just like it happened to me. Since it’s very broad, allowing contact with different institutions, teaching methods, areas and scientific realities, it allows us to acquire diverse knowledge and tools essential for our future choices and activities. One of the most negative aspects that, in a certain way, limits this degree, is the fact that it’s practically associated with those students who have not been able to enter Medical School in the usual way, which often does not correspond to the true reality. 

I happen to know you’re a very good student! How do you achieve such good results?

Yes, I try to do my best to get the best results possible! The key to success is essentially a tremendous effort, dedication and ability to work. During the semester I dedicate myself fully to studies, avoiding distractions that may influence me. My strategy is to always do everything for the maximum grade, for the perfect work! In addition, another aspect that I consider important is organizing my time in the best way, ensuring that I’m able to do everything within the deadlines. I think the best summary of my answer to this question is the following phrase from Albert Einstein, one of my favorites: “The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.”

Microbiology was one of your Master’s Degree options. Do you think Biotechnology and Microbiology end up relating to each other?

Yes, there is no doubt that there is a strong relationship between these two areas. I would even say that many areas of Biotechnology rely heavily on Microbiology expertise to move forward. An example of this is the subject of my thesis that is based essentially on bioprocesses, an area most associated with Bioengineering, but that also implies a process of production of bacteriophages, something of the Biological Sciences more related to Microbiology. 

Is research an option in the future?

Yes, it is an option that I have always considered, although at the moment I would like to first have a professional experience in the industry, more specifically in the area of bioprocesses. In any case, Biotechnology is a scientific area that is in great development with several applications in our daily life, being totally related to research, reason why this hypothesis is more and more present as an alternative professional option. Although scientific research in Portugal is increasingly more internationally prominent, the opportunities are often not the best, and the effort associated with this work of enormous value is still not properly recognized. For this reason, the possibility of going abroad is not something that is outside my options. 

Do you plan on continuing studying for a Ph.D?

I still don’t have a very defined idea yet. It will depend on how everything unfolds when I finish my Master’s degree. It’s not something that I put aside in any way, but I would like to first have some professional or research experience before I devote myself to such a more specific area as the Ph.D. presupposes.


Big thank you to our followers here at Microbiology Explained and special thanks to Jorge for this interview!

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