National Center for Biological Sciences,Bangalore, India
Indian Institute of Technology Madras, Chennai, India
My strong inclination towards Life Sciences was initiated by the rich and rewarding experience shared with my mother, a Gynecologist and Professor of Biochemistry. I enjoy our discussions on disease manifestation, diagnosis and evolution of its treatment. An avid reader of medical science fiction, my interest in world of cell and molecular biology piqued, when I was introduced to the genetic code in high school. The sheer love for the subject helped me receive the Department of Biotechnology Scholarship in Biology. This was further fueled by interactions with eminent scientists on National Science day celebrations at New Delhi. The diverse course structures as a master’s student at Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS), Pilani, exposed me to various facets of modern biology. As a privileged recipient of Kishore Vaigyanik Protsahan Yojana (KVPY) fellowship program, I was initiated to rigorous laboratory research very early in life. I loved everything about the world of research- developing hypothesis, designing experiments, the challenges, and the constant novelty. This motivated me to pursue research as a career.
The control system that has evolved in controlling the development of an organism from a single cell is one of the most complex systems man has ever witnessed. A malfunction in this control system caused by pathogenic or non-pathogenic factors at any level would result in diseases. I have always been intrigued by the levels of control established in the body to maintain homeostasis. As a graduate student in Dr. Apurva Sarin’s laboratory at NCBS, I worked on understanding how developmental pathway (Notch) regulates cellular fate in response to nutrient stress. We identified a novel spatially regulated Notch activated signaling cascade in promoting cell survival in a context specific mechanism. My work has led to a change in perception of Notch signaling, emphasizing on the role of spatial regulation of Notch for its specific activity and has paved way for a deeper understanding of Notch signaling. In my short stint as a post doctoral fellow at Dr. Sarin’s laboratory I studied how a nutrient sensor modulated the spatial regulation of Notch signaling.
The insights gained through my graduation years deepened my quest to unravel the circumstantial control of homeostasis. Through development and differentiation, cell-cell interaction plays a key role in transmission of information through the multicellular organism. Malfunction or evasion of such systemic control results in disease like tumor. Tumor interaction with its microenvironment is essential for tumor progression. I am interested in understanding the interplay of signaling networks in regulation of heterotypic cell-cell interaction in the tumor microenvironment. Several key developmental pathways including Ras signaling are implicated in the regulation of such cell-cell interactions. At Dr. Mahalingam’s laboratory at IIT Madras, I began to explore the role of non-enzymatic effectors of Ras – Ras associated domain family (RASSF) in tumor cell migration. For several of RASSFs, genetic silencing has been reported across various cancers. Some members of this family have been shown to regulate cell growth, proliferation as well as survival. An early career fellow, I plan to use the differential expression of RASSFs in tumor to explore tumor cell interactions within its microenvironment particularly with the endothelium.