Please tell us about yourself
Imagine if we could wake up dormant stem cells already in our bodies to repair old or damaged tissue. I’m working to discover novel molecular pathways to unlock this potential for our bodies to repair and regenerate themselves.
Jayesh Salvi, an alumnus of the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology (LMP), studies stem cells at Stanford.
Salvi completed his PhD (Molecular Biology, University of Toronto) in 2014 under the supervision of Professor Karim Mekhail. During his graduate studies, he published in high-ranking journals including Developmental Cell, Nucleus, Aging Cell. He was also the recipient of the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship and has recently won a prestigious Human Frontier Science Postdoctoral Fellowship. He did his Bachelors (Biomedical Sciences) at University of Waterloo.
Salvi describes his experience at LMP and what it’s like to be a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford.
1. What were you researching at LMP?
During my PhD in Professor Karim Mekhail’s lab, I studied processes that maintain DNA stability and how these processes contribute to aging and neurodegeneration. By using yeast as a model system, we aimed to discover novel mechanisms and pathways that we could potentially manipulate to fight these diseases. Specifically, our work uncovered roles for factors that organize the genome within a cell’s nucleus in maintaining genome stability and cellular longevity. I also studied RNA regulatory proteins linked to neurodegenerative diseases such as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
2. What are you currently studying?
As a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Thomas Rando’s lab at Stanford University, I’m studying the molecular mechanisms that regulate muscle stem cell function. Imagine if we could wake up dormant stem cells already in our bodies to repair old or damaged tissue. I’m working to discover novel molecular pathways to unlock this potential for our bodies to self-repair and regenerate.
3. What’s your experience been like at Stanford so far?
So far my experience at Stanford and the Rando lab has been fantastic. It’s a very collaborative environment and the researchers are always looking for the “next big thing.” There was definitely a large learning curve involved, especially since I used to work with yeast genetics and then stepped into a lab that primarily uses mice as a model organism. But my PhD trained me to tackle most challenges, so I was able adapt fairly quickly and a get my project off the ground.
4. How did LMP prepare you for your next steps?
I don’t think I truly appreciated the training I received in LMP and Karim’s lab until I started at Stanford. Because LMP is such a diverse department, I was introduced to concepts from many different fields of study, and I now integrate these concepts into my study of stem cells. Moreover, it was this diversity of research that helped me transition so easily from my PhD into a completely new field of study.
5. What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned while at Stanford?
Stem cells have an amazing ability to regenerate diseased or damaged tissue but, at least in the case of muscle stem cells, this ability is kept in a dormant state. If we can unlock this potential for regeneration by “awakening” our stem cells, we could potentially treat many degenerative disorders.
6. Are there any unexpected situations you’ve encountered?
Homesickness. Believe it or not I miss Toronto. I especially miss my family and friends. I even miss rain (California has experienced drought conditions).
7. What advice would you give to graduate students who are interested in pursuing a postdoctoral fellowship?
Success is the result of preparation. Apply to as many positions as possible and as early as possible. Finding the right environment and fit is absolutely essential, and you can only do that if you explore various opportunities. Also, try to find a supervisor who is open to you pursuing your own research goals. Unlike a PhD, a postdoctoral fellowship should be more like a playground where you get to come up with your own ideas and try new things. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to jump into a new field of research. Follow your own interests and future research goals.
8. What do you plan to do in the future?
I just started my postdoc, so the next steps seem relatively distant for now. My short-term goal is to discover something cool and novel about stem cells, and in the long run use this understanding to create new therapeutics. If I can find a job in academia or industry along the way, that would be great. If I can find a job in academia or industry in Canada, that would be sublime.