Courses » Biology for engineers and other non-biologists

Biology for engineers and other non-biologists


It is well known that this is the century of biology in which significant advances in the understanding and application of biological systems are expected. The significant impact on the world is expected in terms of better healthcare, better processes, better products and an overall better quality of life. Thus, any person can be interested in knowing the fundamentals of biology to be able to understand, or participate in the biological revolution. For example, any engineer, irrespective of the parent discipline (mechanical, electrical, civil, chemical, metallurgical, etc.,) has a high probability of using the disciplinary skills toward designing/improving biological systems in the future. This course is designed to convey the essentials of cell and molecular biology to provide a frame-work for more specific understanding, and contribution by any interested person.

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Weekly Assignments and Discussion Forum can be accessed ONLY by enrolling here

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Note: Content is Free!

All content including discussion forum and assignments, is free

Final Exam (in-person, invigilated, currently conducted in India) is mandatory for Certification and has INR Rs. 1100 as exam fee


  • anybody can take this course
  • can be considered core, given the importance of biology
  • UG
  • all degrees


Any industry that wants to venture into a bio-related aspect.


G. K. Suraishkumar is a Professor in the Department of Biotechnology, Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IITM).  He has been at IITM as a Professor since May 2004, and was earlier a faculty member in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IITB) from April 1993 until mid-May 2004.  He was also an Associate Faculty member in the erstwhile Centre for Biotechnology, which is now the Department of Biosciences and Bioengineering, at IITB, between 1995 and 2004. 

He earned his Ph.D. from Drexel University, Philadelphia, USA in 1993, and his B.Tech. in Chemical Engineering from IITM in 1986.  He also did his Masters work at the University of Cincinnati, USA, between 1986 and 1988.

He is passionate about improving student learning and has published papers in reputed international journals on the methods that he had developed for the same.  He is the author of a book, Continuum Analysis of Biological Systems:  Conserved Quantities, Fluxes, and Forces, which was published world-wide by Springer Publishing in March 2014; the foreword has been written by the reputed author of the famous textbook, Transport Phenomena, Professor R. B. Bird. He has created three 10-h MOOCs on "Bioreactors", "Biology for Engineers and other Non-biologists", and "Effective Engineering 'Teaching' in Practice", as NPTEL online certification (NOC) courses. Earlier, he created a 40-lecture NPTEL video course on Classical Thermodynamics for Biological Systems.  He has also created other short videos on biochemical engineering principles. 

His major area of research is reactive species – currently, the relevance of them in cancer treatment/management, and nanoparticle toxicity.. Earlier, his research group had made significant, original contributions in the area of reactive species applied to improve bioreactor productivities and bio-oil yields, which were financially supported through many sponsored research grants.  The research contributions have been better disseminated through publications in reputed international journals– the complete list of publications is available as a link from his Department webpage, http://biotech.iitm.ac.in/faculty/suraishkumar-g-k/).  He is also the inventor on 3 (granted) + 3 (under process) patents.  Further, the technology developed in his group was successfully applied at Biocon industries, and has been featured in prestigious technology alerts such as the one by Frost and Sullivan.  He has guided many Ph.D., and Masters theses.

Administratively, he played pivotal roles in the set-up of the Departments of Biotechnology, as the first formal Department Head, first at IIT Madras and later, at IIT Hyderabad. He was one of the main architects of the first postgraduate program in Clinical Engineering in India, which is a multi-Institute program, and a first of its kind in India.  In addition, he contributed as the Head of the Sophisticated Analytical Instrumentation Facility, Chennai. He continues to contribute on National level faculty selection/advisory/institution level committees in relevant areas.

Further, some recognitions of his work by others are listed in his web-page given above.

Madhulika Dixit is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biotechnology, Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IITM). She has been a faculty member in the Department since 2007. Prior to joining IIT Madras, she worked as Senior Scientist in the Institute of Cardiovascular Physiology, Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main, Germany from 2003-2006. She earned her PhD in Molecular Biology from IIT Bombay in 2001 and her Masters in Life Sciences from University of Mumbai in 1996. She did her post-doctoral training in Cardio-vascular Physiology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis, USA from 2001-2003.

Her primary research interests are to understand molecular mechanisms governing Cardiovascular Diseases. Her research group employs cell culture, molecular biology and biochemical approaches to understand how settings of insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome lead to aberrations in the behavior of vascular cells, particularly endothelial and smooth muscle cells. Additionally her team is involved in identifying plant derived phytochemicals for treatment and management of atherosclerosis. Her team’s research has been published in numerous peer-reviewed journals and the complete publication list is available at her departmental website: https://biotech.iitm.ac.in/faculty/madhulika-dixit/. Dr. Dixit has received honors and awards for her research and teaching contributions. She is the recipient of the ‘Innovative Young Biotechnologist (IYBA)’ and the ‘Senior IYBA award’ of the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India. She also received the ‘Young Faculty recognition award’ for her teaching at IIT Madras.

1.    Introduction (G. K. Suraishkumar)
2.    Origin of life and Evolution  (Madhulika Dixit)
3.    Water, Biomolecules, Enzymes, Introduction to metabolism (G. K. Suraishkumar)
4.    Cell structure, Cell cycle (Madhulika Dixit), Culture growth (G. K. Suraishkumar)
5.    Mendelian genetics (G. K. Suraishkumar)
6.    Chromatin, DNA structure, replication, transcription and translation (Madhulika Dixit)


Campbell, NA and Reece JB, Biology, International edition, 7th edition or later, Benjamin Cummings, New York (2007 or later)

Karp, G, Cell and Molecular Biology: Concepts and Experiments, 7th edition, Wiley, New York (2013)

In addition, the participants would be directed to specific sources during the course – they will become available during the course.

  • The exam is optional for a fee.
  • Date of Exams : October 28 (Sunday)
  • Time of Exams : Morning session 9am to 12 noon; Afternoon session: 2pm to 5pm
  • Exam for this course will be available in both morning & afternoon sessions.
  • Registration url: Announcements will be made when the registration form is open for registrations.
  • The online registration form has to be filled and the certification exam fee needs to be paid. More details will be made available when the exam registration form is published.

  • Final score will be calculated as : 25% assignment score + 75% final exam score
  • 25% assignment score is calculated as 25% of average of  Best 3 out of 4 assignments
  • E-Certificate will be given to those who register and write the exam and score greater than or equal to 40% final score. Certificate will have your name, photograph and the score in the final exam with the breakup.It will have the logos of NPTEL and IIT Madras.It will be e-verifiable at nptel.ac.in/noc.