I am a multi-skilled organic chemist with degrees in engineering and science. I am currently pursuing a doctorate in carbohydrate chemistry, working on a project related to biofuel (bioethanol) production from plant biomass, and mechanisms of carbohydrate digestion by gut bacteria. I am passionate about all streams of sustainability (environmental, social and economic), and try to spend my off-hours working towards creating a more sustainable community through my role as the chair of GreenChem UBC student group, and as a Sustainability Ambassador with the UBC Sustainability Initiative.
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?
Achieving scholarly excellence has been of great value to me from the very beginning of my academic life and I have increasingly believed in its practical significance as a life training method throughout. My deep desire to learn led me to graduate studies, and intellectually stimulating exchange of ideas and problem-solving has kept me going thus far.
Why did you decide to study at UBC?
My short visit to Vancouver as a research assistant intern a few years ago was highly rewarding and what the city had to offer resonated with my personal extracurricular interests. UBC being one of the top ranking universities in Canada promises excellent resources for interdisciplinary research and offers the fellowship of a highly intellectual crowd.
What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?
Exploring alternate, renewable sources of energy from plant cell walls in the form of biofuels that the research group is currently undertaking was very appealing to me for a doctoral project. My research program is a unique collaboration between chemistry and botany with a variety of avenues of interesting interdisciplinary work such as biochemistrty, genetics, enzymology and molecular biology. It is a challenge to shift to such a multifaceted field from a purely synthetic organic chemistry background and hence a great learning experience.
What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?
The quality of life Vancouver as a city offers, the freedom to freely pursue your extracurricular interests, the multicultural environment and the very forthcoming and outgoing local crowd have been a few of my favorite things about the city.
What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?
The majority of my motivation for the graduate program is credited to the very supportive and inspiring previous research supervisors I have had the opportunity to work with. A variety of undergraduate research projects that I had undertaken, I believe, would be very valuable during my current graduate experience.
What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?
Adventure sports, travelling, music (guitar and keyboards), reading.
What advice do you have for new graduate students?
Take the time to carefully think over what you’re passionate for. Research can be a very rewarding experience if you know what drives you. The best part about pursuing a research project in your area of interest is that it is yours to mould into whatever you like it to be. Find the right questions to ask and you’ll have the time of your life!
Learn more about Namrata’s research
Carbohydrates are taken up in the human body via a variety of food sources. However our body is limited in its intrinsic ability to process and digest carbohydrates other than lactose, starch and sucrose. We rely on our internal flora of symbiotic gut microorganisms to target the complex carbohydrates using the enzymes encoded in their genome. As a carbohydrate enzymology lab, we aim at harnessing, exploring and mechanistically determining the action of the enzymes that are responsible for this degradation. My project aim towards synthesis of enzyme substrates and inhibitors required to probe the structure as well as the mechanistic actions of these enzymes and developing chemo-enzymatic technologies to expand the performance of polysaccharides and cellulosic fibers.