This story was Posted on September 23, 2016 by Jim McKeever
Anushree Gulvady’s passion for her research is crystal clear, whether she’s in the laboratory at Upstate or just talking about her projects.
“Science is exciting,” said Anushree, a fifth-year PhD student in Cell & Developmental Biology. “It doesn’t feel like work! I’m having fun with science.”
And having success, too.
Anushree won top honors for her poster presentation at the College of Graduate Studies’ annual Biomedical Sciences Retreat last week. Her presentation on the role of a protein, called Hic-5, in cancer cell invasion was judged best of 44 student posters.
Anushree was born in Mumbai, India, and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in microbiology from the University of Mumbai. She spent a year as a trainee in a cell biology laboratory there, which piqued her interest in the field.
She chose Upstate for her doctoral training because of the chance to work in the lab of Christopher Turner, PhD, who has achieved the State University of New York’s highest academic rank of Distinguished Professor.
Dr. Turner, a professor of Cell & Developmental Biology, is known internationally as an authority on cell adhesion and migration and is the recipient of numerous research grants from the National Institutes of Health.
Anushree credits Dr. Turner with improving her research by asking tough questions and encouraging her to be creative and try new approaches. “He’s critical, but in a good way,” she said. “It makes my experiments better.”
The fun part, for Anushree, is using highly specialized fluorescence confocal microscopy that allows her to track cellular activity in real time.
This technique led to her discovery of a particular protein activity necessary for the migration of cancer cells. The project is outlined on her poster that won top honors at the Biomedical Sciences Retreat.
“Essentially, cancer is the uncontrolled proliferation of cells that metastasize,” she said. “The core question is, ‘What is causing these cells to move from the breast to the lungs or from the colon to nearby organs?’”
Anushree discovered that the focal adhesion protein, Hic-5, is essential for the grouping of invasive structures (invadopodia) into clusters (rosettes) that degrade surrounding tissues, thereby allowing for the spread of the tumor cells. When parts of Hic-5 are deleted, the invadopodia are formed but the rosettes are lost.
Anushree is now trying to determine the specifics of how Hic-5 triggers the formation of invadopodia and rosettes.
“Using fluorescently-bound proteins, it takes just minutes to see these cells form invadopodia in real time,” Anushree said of the fluorescence microscopy capabilities. “It’s mind-blowing!”
She’s made further progress since creating the poster last spring, and will present her research at the American Society for Cell Biology’s annual meeting in San Francisco in December.
In addition to her work with Hic-5, Anushree is working on several other projects using different microscopy techniques. “I’ve become very good at multi-tasking,” she said.
As much as Anushree enjoys her work and has fun doing it, there is a serious underlying purpose. “My aunt and a friend suffered with cancers,” she said. “I’m emotionally attached to the field.”
Anushree, whose father is a physician, chose the laboratory over a clinical career because she felt she would become too attached to patients. She would be ecstatic if her research leads to treatments that help cancer patients.
“I want to continue working with microscopy,” she said. “After I graduate (in late 2017 or 2018), I want to use the techniques I’ve learned in the PhD program and apply them to a broader spectrum.”
Three things about Anushree:
- She has run several half-marathons (13.1 miles), taking up distance running after seeing friends and classmates run a half-marathon in sub-freezing temperatures.
- She visited the U.S. at ages 5 and 10, and occasionally gets together with her parents and younger sister in Europe. “We meet halfway,” Anushree said.
- She went sky diving for the first time in the summer of 2015, jumping from 10,000 feet. “I wanted to know what it felt like to fly,” she said. She wants to take her next jump from 14,000 feet. “I want to jump through a cloud.”