Centre For DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics, Hyderabad, India
National Centre for Cell Science, Pune
My full-fledged research career started with PhD, however my penchant for research was ignited long before. I have always been fascinated and intrigued with the nature and its diversity. I have earned my Masters degree in Bioinformatics from University of Pune, where I was awarded the IGIB-GN Ramachandran fellowship for excellence two consecutive years. During my masters, I got placement in Persistent Systems Pvt. India Limited, Pune, through campus selection. However, I realized that my passion lies in research; generating ideas, delve into the unknown and establishing facts. Consequently, I relinquished my well-paying job to pursue my research passion and never looked back.
I was awarded the Research Fellowship under NET conducted by DBT and I enrolled for PhD under the supervision of Late Dr J Nagaraju at Centre for DNA fingerprinting and Diagnostics, Hyderabad. My PhD research was on “Identification and characterization of miRNA(s) and their target(s) for studying gene regulation and insect-pathogen interactions in the domesticated silkworm, Bombyx mori”. When I had started my research, very little was known about the insect miRNAs. I initiated my research by writing computational algorithms to predict miRNAs and their targets from different insect species. Consequently, I identified various conserved miRNAs from different insects, which were not reported before. Besides, I discovered 5 miRNAs and their putative targets from B. mori nucleopolyhedrosis virus (BmNPV) by using a combination of in silico and experimental methods.This study was recommended by Faculty of 1000 (F1000), as a must read article in the field.
Furthermore, I characterized the role these baculovirus-borne miRNAs in host-viral interactions and proposed two novel mechanisms of virus counter defense against anti-viral host immune defense viz., “modulation of Host defense” by targeting one of the key players of RNAi machinery and “escaping recognition by host defense” where virus utilizes its miRNA to suppress its own expression in the initial stage of invasion inside the host cell. All theses finding were recognised in high impact journals.
As a senior PhD student, along with my supervisor, I had also conceptualised various projects,which were further pursued by three new graduate students in my lab as their PhD thesis. However, these research projects got a big jolt with untimely demise of my PhD Guide and those students couldn’t continue the projects further.
There was no single lab which shared the same research interest as mine and I was seriously contemplating changing my field and move abroad for my post-doctoral research. However, my conscious didn’t allow me to abandon my project with these setbacks and I resolved to continue in my research field in India only. Towards successful execution of my research projects, I needed a strong financial support while staying in India. I was awarded INSPIRE Faculty Fellowship in 2012 and it provided me with the requiste scientific support to strengthen my independent research base and enhance my understanding of the subject. I joined National Centre for Cell Science as INSPIRE Faculty fellow in 2012 December and since then I have been able to address some of the small RNA-mediated key strategies of virus to effectively replicate inside the host. However, there are numerous significant fundamental questions that remains to be answered e.g. how the host utilizes its small non-coding RNAs to combat DNA virus infection?
My current research plan is an initiative towards the same direction and Wellcome-Trust/DBT India Alliance early career fellowship has provided me the opportunity to further progress my project with requisite financial and scientific support. Wellcome Trust / DBT India Alliance is the solitary scheme in India, which amazingly supports such initiatives and facilitates promotion of both Science and the Scientists. Although, INSPIRE Faculty Fellowship has given me the opportunity to work as an independent researcher however Wellcome-Trust/DBT early career fellowship would provide me a platform to pursue my research interest in earnest and carve out a niche for myself in the scientific community.
My prime motivation to continue as a researcher is my inquisitiveness towards my subject which I find both fascinating as well as intriguing. I am enthralled by the intricacies of small non-coding RNAs mediated multilayered regulation in the host-pathogen interactions. I aspire to unearth each layer progressively to fully comprehend this subject, and same stimulates my efforts towards research. Nevertheless, research also provides me a respectable and satisfying profession as a woman, where I get to prove my intellect.