Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai
University Of California, San Diego, USA
National Brain Research Centre, Gurgaon
My grandparents decided to migrate from Bangladesh during the Partition. They took a huge risk of coming to a new country with nothing but a few meager possessions they had. They always were an inspiration to me to take risks and not be afraid of moving into new subject areas for my research interests. Thus, my career has been defined by change.
My career in science began with an undergrad in Physics from Calcutta University. But I found myself more fascinated with biology therefore I opted to do a Masters in Biophysics form Calcutta University. This was my first major change in my career where I changed my subject of interest completely. Here Professors like Ashok RanjanThakur, Utpal Chatterjee and Chanchal Dasgupta were inspirations for me to take up science as a career. They sold me very convincingly that a career path in science could be extremely fulfilling.
An invitation from TIFR Ph.D. program was the starting point of my career in research. I started at the Bangalore campus but then I decided to join Krishanu Ray’s lab at Mumbai. I was fortunate to be mentored by the pioneers of fruit fly genetics in India like Veronica Rodrigues and K. S. Krishnan who nurtured my scientific temperament in many ways. Having done Biophysics in my Masters, I was fascinated by the molecular machinery of the cell – the motor proteins and cytoskeleton. I used fly genetics to understand the in vivo function of a small protein, Dynein light chain-1/LC8. It was challenging to dissect out the different functions of this protein, since it is known to interact with many partners other than dynein. My interest in understanding the mechanism of dynein regulation led to me to collaborate with Richard Vallee’s lab in Columbia University, NY. I visited his lab during the final year of my PhD, where I was exposed to biochemical studies involving the dynein complex. After spending 6 months in Vallee lab I returned back to TIFR to defend my thesis.
The summer of 2005 was very special since I got an opportunity to participate in the Physiology course at MBL, Woods Hole with three different fellowships. It was one of the most fulfilling moments in my career to be able to work with Ron Vale and Tim Mitchison. I continued in Richard Vallee’s lab to do a short post-doctoral study (Aug 2005-Feb 2007).
During that phase of my career, I was looking to take a unique research direction for my future endeavor so that I could find my own niche. I came across the new approach undertaken by Drs.Andrew Chisholm and Yishi Jin at UCSD to use femto-second laser to sever neuronal processes of worm. Realizing the power of this approach, I joined their labs to understand the mechanism of neuronal regeneration. I found that the regeneration properties of C. elegans neurons show many similarities with vertebrate ones. Further we showed that in response toi njury C. elegans neurons use the conserved Ca2+/cAMPcascade and a downstream MAP kinase pathway. Genetic screening and in vivo imaging further revealed that one of the key targets of the DLK-1 MAPK pathway is the axonal microtubule cytoskeleton. Recent work by others suggested that stabilization of the microtubule cytoskeleton is a rate-limiting step in spinal axon regeneration. My work precisely identified the molecular mechanism behind microtubule stabilization in a permissive condition of regeneration.
The training in Jin lab introduced me to the neuroscience field in general and I had many great colleagues who went on to become pioneers in different parts of the world. In spite of all the major changes in my career, I did not regret them at any time. Every major change I made brought with it new opportunities to learn and enrich myself to make me a better scientist. Setting up my own lab and establishing myself could be very challenging in anywhere in the world. A generous support from Wellcome-Trust/DBT is great boost-up for the lab. Hopefully I will be able to do justice to their selection and will continue with this journey with same spirit.