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Tell us about your background. How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and unusual career?

I was drawn to biology and chemistry from very early on in life. My father is a physician-scientist who would always discuss his experiences from the clinic and his research. By the time I started high school, I knew I wanted a career in biology, but I never planned on becoming a researcher until later experiences put me squarely on this path.

What did you study?

I did my undergraduation from Bangalore University (Genetics, Microbiology and Chemistry). During my undergrad , I worked with Dr. Geetha Viswananthan and her team of undergraduate research assistants. I was involved in data collection and analysis, as well as writing a manuscript. This was a life changing experience for me; I fell in love with the process of research and team science. After completing a graduate degree in Biotechnology, I started as a Clinical Laboratory Fellow at the highly reputed Gujarat Cancer Research Institute, Gujarat, India.

What did you do at Gujarat Cancer Research Institute?

During this time, I worked closely with cancer patients processing blood samples, running diagnostic tests, preparing and delivering their reports. Through this process, I realized that there was a lack of effective biomarkers in the clinic for cancer detection and assessing treatment efficacy. At this point I was really interested in broadening my knowledge of cancer biology and cancer genetics.

What did you do next?

With this goal, I decided to pursue a PhD in Biomedical Sciences. I joined the University of Toledo’s (Health Science Campus) doctoral program and got my PhD with Dr. Steve Patrick from the Department of Biochemistry and Cancer Biology. As a doctoral student, I gained expertise in understanding the role of DNA repair mechanisms in chemotherapeutic resistance in cancer.

What was your career path after PhD?

As I was finishing up doctoral work, I was interested in continuing in the area of cancer diagnostics and therapeutics. Hence, in the fall of 2012, I joined Greg Enders’ lab at Fox Chase Cancer Center (FCCC) for postdoctoral work.  In late 2014, Greg Enders left FCCC to pursue a full-time clinical practice and I continued my postdoctoral work with Erica Golemis. My current project focuses on genetically defining undiagnosed familial colorectal and prostate cancers. My future plans are to understand how defects in low to moderate penetrance DNA damage response genes could link predisposition to familial cancers and thus provide the basis for effective cancer risk assessment.