National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS-TIFR), Bangalore, India
2011-2015- Post doctoral Research Fellow - University of California Riverside (UCR), USA
2015-2016- Project Research Scientist - UCR, USA
Regional Centre for Biotechnology, Faridabad, India
I come from a family of Engineers where my father always thought of having secure financial stable career for us. My interest in arts and outdoor activities were highly discouraged. Coming so far being the only biologist in the family was not easy for me. I wanted to be a doctor but after failing in achieving that I decided to remain in Biology and follow my dreams. As a hardcore Microbiologist, I was mesmerized when I first saw Drosophila melanogaster (model system I work on) and realized the power of Genetics. It was during my master’s research project at IIT Kanpur with Prof. Pradip Sinha (my Genetics Guru), I was introduced to the real world of biological problems and dealing with it at the cellular/molecular level using fruit fly as a model system. I was deeply captivated by the fact how Drosophila can be used as a human disease model.
Later, I joined Late Prof. Veronica Rodrigues group to pursue PhD in Genetics. I worked on a joint project to “understand the olfactory and taste transduction pathways in insects” with Prof. Veronica Rodrigues and Gaiti Hasan at NCBS, Bangalore. Handling two PI’s was not easy but it was fun to learn from two excellent mentors and experts in the field. During this process I got the real flavor of research. The vibrating atmosphere of NCBS nurtured my scientific temper. Thanks to many rigorous workshops and conferences at NCBS to introduce me to the international standards and to the loop of renowned scientists globe crosswise. Prof. Vijayaraghavan was always an inspiration to keep going and remain positive even during failures.
To explore more in science, after my PhD I decided to choose some other research area and go abroad for my post doctoral studies. I joined Prof. Christian Klambt’s group in Germany for my first Post doc where I worked on a project to understand how Glia- neurons interact during the glial ensheathment process (equivalent to mammalian myelination) in the peripheral nervous system of Drosophila larva. It was always stimulating and great to be flexible to explore new areas of Neurobiology. But I was always missing chemosensory research and frequently used to discuss current issues with Prof. Thomas Hummel on the upper floor of our department. I realized that if I want to sufficiently intellectually stimulate myself I should do what I enjoy doing more. So, I decided to move to USA to do another post doc and stay in chemosensory research. At University of California Riverside, USA I worked on different collaborative projects with Anand Ray and Anupama Dahanukar. With Anupama, I developed my own a long pending project of identifying central taste neurons in Drosophila brain, which I wanted to do in my PhD. After getting the results from this study, I realized that the taste coding and circuits involved are still ambiguous. I decided that I want to work my own and explore more in this area to understand how insects make the feeding decisions and how the taste information is processed in the brain. For pathogen transmission by insects that impact human health and for agriculture pests one need to understand the insects feeding behavior.
To start my own laboratory in India and pursue taste research using Drosophila as a model system, I started following Wellcome trust DBT Alliance application timelines. I was very much pregnant during writing my application for intermediate fellowship. After becoming a new mother, I was getting nervous and loosing all my hopes to finish the next stages of the application. I was going crazy handling a newborn, working full day in the lab and writing the grant application. I almost made my mind to give up and just take care of the baby. Thanks to my husband Sachin Kumar who is a scientist by profession and was working full day too. For the well being of my physical and mental health, he took care of the baby and supported me in every manner. Finally I got the intermediate fellowship to start my own lab in India. After a very rough year of paper work and handling other issues, finally I could start my own laboratory at Regional Centre for Biotechnology. I would like to thank all my mentors, Prof. Sudhanshu Vrati, Prof. Vijayaraghavan, my family, my son and Wellcome trust DBT Alliance for making this possible. Like any other story I am very happy to have this happy ending and start new ventures as a scientist.