Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur
Regional Centre for Biotechnology, Gurgaon
I had a keen interest in biology right from high school and was driven to understand how living things function, because this was the only subject to which I could relate to in real life. For this I will be always indebted to my high school biology teacher, who introduced me to the self-replicating bio-molecule, DNA and the fundamentals of classical Mendelian genetics. During my undergraduate studies, I was introduced to the broad spectrum of both animal and plant systems in detail and realized that despite remarkable diversity among different living systems, they are all bound by common principles at the cellular and molecular level. My fascination for the super-molecule DNA and interest in the basic unit of life, the cell, led me to opt for a more specialized subject for my masters’ education. My masters’ education in Biotechnology made me appreciate the fact that each cell has the same genetic material, but it behaves differently in different contexts resulting in the development of a highly complex organism. It also fuelled my desire for higher studies and a career in biological research. With this idea in mind, I joined Dr. K. Subramaniam’s group for my PhD at Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, the first Indian laboratory working with Canorhabditis elegans as the model organism to understand metazoan development. I was fortunate to work under his guidance, which not only taught me the basics of developmental biology and genetics, but also inspired me to develop scientific temperament and independent thinking. I worked in the area of germ cell development trying to understand the role of PUF proteins, a conserved family of translation regulators, in germline stem cell proliferation.
Cell division regulates development of a single cell zygote to a multicellular organism. In turn, cell division is regulated for achieving proper development of an organism. During my doctoral studies, I studied how cell division is modulated during the course of development. For my post-doctoral work, I wanted to understand the mechanism of cell division and its role in regulating development. Fortuitously, I came in contact with Dr. Sivaram Mylavarapu at Regional Centre for Biotechnology, Gurgaon, whose group studies the mechanisms of cell division using mammalian cell systems. Dr. Sivaram had co-pioneered the structural biology of the Exocyst complex, a conserved octameric complex involved in secretory vesicle trafficking: one of the goals of his laboratory is to illuminate the role of the Exocyst complex in cytokinesis, the final step of cell division. My expertise with C. elegans, an excellent model to study cell division and development, enabled me to formulate a research plan that will elucidate the mechanistic basis for cytokinetic regulation by the Exocyst complex and determine the consequences of cytokinetic regulation in regulating metazoan development. The strong foundation of Dr. Sivaram’s laboratory in biochemical, biophysical and structural biology approaches will complement my basic training in genetics, cell and developmental biology, giving me the opportunity to broaden my research horizons.