University of Calcutta, Kolkata
National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi
As an undergraduate student with major in Chemistry, it was the charm of Physical Chemistry, and not Biochemistry, that attracted me the most. I was more amazed with the notion that this universe is driven by simple rules, where, its enormous appetite to increase entropy drives all the natural processes. Not that these “extreme insights” were helpful in anyway in scoring high marks in the exams, but they did impress upon me the concept of a unifying code underlying life. It was only during my Masters studies, from 1996 to1998, in the Biochemistry Department of Calcutta University, that I began to love Biochemistry as a subject. It was due to the tireless efforts of enthusiastic faculty members from the department as well as a very friendly yet competitive and academic minded set of classmates. Being completely overwhelmed with the examples in the textbooks of highly “rational” and “coordinated” behavior of macromolecules (Molecular Biology) or cells (Cell Biology) that confer specific advantages to its host, I decided to pursue advanced research in Life Sciences to examine a few of these examples hands-on. By the time I had completed my PhD in Virology with Prof. Dhrubajyoti Chattopadhyay from Calcutta University (2003), I could gather enough knowledge on diverse modes that these biomolecules employ to regulate fundamental biological processes such as transcription. But then the versatility in biological regulations began to question the very notion of the existence of a unifying code that governs cellular processes. During this time, I received an offer for a post-doctoral position from Dr. Alexander Hoffmann, who was located at the Univ. of California, San Diego (UCSD). Alex was able to convince (or confuse) me that not only are the biological systems rule based but also one can write a system of mathematical equations and simulate those computationally to capture the dynamics of life. It did not take me long to align my faith in a unifying code with Alex’s systems biology dreams as I began my post-doctoral tenure at UCSD in 2003. After investigating pathogens in my PhD, I started investigating immune response to pathogens as a post-doc using Systems Biology tools.
In 2010, Wellcome Trust DBT India Alliance offered me a very prestigious fellowship and National Institute of Immunology (NII), one of the premier research institutes in India, offered me a job so that I can start my own laboratory. I decided to move back to India as I was, perhaps, sensing too much unwanted attention from my mentors due to my never-ending desire to ask useless yet expensive research questions and lure other PI’s students into doing those experiments.
As of today, I still struggle, now along with my own students, to depict biological events in the form of defined rules to identify “a unifying code” as we explore questions relevant to immune response to pathogens in my laboratory at NII, India.