Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi
Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Mohali
Like most of us, I was passionate about science from childhood days. My dad, a surgeon, introduced me to the world of science. His inspiration and encouragement motivated me to pursue my doctoral studies at Banaras Hindu University, India. For postdoctoral studies, I was lucky to have two fantastic scientists, Professor Volker Hartenstein, and Professor Utpal Banerjee as my mentors at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA).
After almost seven years at UCLA, I returned to India to start my laboratory. I joined Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Mohali, Punjab, which was then in its infancy. Here, is where while building up the laboratory from scratch I felt newer me emerging from a gung- ho postdoc. A new me who can now handle administrative complications, ordering resources, putting together a laboratory, assembling the first group of research students and yet find time to teach undergraduate as well as Master students.
Employing the fruit fly (Drosophila), we intend to understand how blood cells develop (hematopoiesis). You may wonder how anything we learn about the process of blood formation in insects is pertinent in humans? It turns out that, fruit flies have a fluid- called hemolymph, which is very similar to blood. This hemolymph remains in contact with the insect body tissues and is composed of cells that are very similar to the cells in our blood. Furthermore, the cells in both these fluids develop in very similar ways!
It is during the early juncture of my independent career that I received the Wellcome -Trust DBT Intermediate Fellowship (2010). Research done during this tenure enabled me to set up a laboratory of international standard right from scratch and contribute significantly towards developmental hematopoiesis. We discovered the Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) in Drosophila early larval stages. Our result demonstrates that like early vertebrate HSCs, fly HSCs also require Decapentaplegic (Dpp/BMP) signal from the adjoining niche for their maintenance. Since this event happens about 32-33 post-ovulatory days in a human, queries related to HSC development, proliferation, migration is hard to understand in an in vivo condition. Here is where the early larval HSCs of Drosophila can be exploited to unravel the mechanistic basis of those early events. During this phase, we have also identified active sites of hematopoiesis in the adult fruit fly. These sites seem to be a simplified version of vertebrate bone marrow.
Currently, in this tenure of Indian Alliance Senior Fellowship (2018), we are working on the regulatory circuit employed by blood cells during normal development as well as during their physiological responses.
During the Intermediate Fellowship, we intended to understand the basic biology of the system, which now has empowered me to address questions pertinent to Biomedical Sciences.
In addition to supervising my research team, I teach undergraduate and graduate students at IISER (Mohali).
If I am not in the lab, I am most likely having a gala time with my two daughters and a great husband.