Please tell us how did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and uncommon career?
When I was young, I was a huge fan of the “Jurassic Park” movies and Dinosaurs simply fascinated me. When I grew up and read the books, I realized that “genetic engineering” is such a powerful tool that it can be used to bring prehistoric things back to life (Sadly dinosaurs can’t be resurrected with this though). This got me interested in the new emerging field of Biotechnology and was one of the motivations for me to pursue my B. Tech in Biotechnology from Anna University.
As I was pursuing my bachelor’s degree I started developing a very keen interest towards infectious diseases. The fact that these tiny microorganisms can come together and wreak havoc inside a human being who is considered to be so much more “advanced” at a cellular level fascinated me. At the end of my bachelor’s degree I decided to pursue my doctorate in the field of “Microbial Pathogenesis” and joined the laboratory of Dr. Lynn Hancock at the University of Kansas (USA).
Please tell us about your work
At the University of Kansas, I learnt how to genetically manipulate pathogens (particularly Vancomycin Resistant Enterococci (VRE) and discovered some critical genes involved in the secretion of peptide sex pheromones and their contribution towards enterococcal biofilm development. This research also introduced me to the fascinating world of microbial communities. I quickly realized that, to truly understand infectious diseases from a “host-pathogen interactions” stand point, we have to understand more about the community lifestyle of these microbes since they seldom exist as individual entities within the host or the outside environments.
What do you do currently?
I am currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine (inStem), Bangalore, India. I am trying to understand the role played by complex sugars in microbial biofilms.
My current project at inStem, aims to understand how microorganisms like fungi develop into specialized communities including biofilms under certain conditions (nutrient limitation being one) from a metabolism perspective and potentially use this knowledge to combat diseases associated with fungal biofilm formation.