Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology
Why did you choose graduate school at IUPUI?
As an international student from India coming directly for PhD after undergraduate studies, I didn’t get a chance to do campus visits and analyze the environment of the school. Thus, firstly, my virtual interactions with the amazing IBMG graduate program staff- Tara Hobson-Prater and Brandy Wood - helped me narrow down my options to IU School of Medicine (IUSM). Secondly, I knew I wanted to do research in a School of Medicine because that increases the possibility to work with clinical samples and do translational research. This helps to bridge the gap between research labs and clinics by employing the basic science research in the translation field. IUSM is circumscribed by different hospitals and many of their doctors have faculty appointment(s) in one or more IBMG programs. Thirdly, IUSM is right in the hub of industries, such as, Eli Lily, Covance, and Dow AgroSciences to name a few. Thus, IUSM provides numerous opportunities with respect to future job options that a graduating student might want to pursue from industry positions to clinical research titles. However, most importantly, IUSM provides some incredible and rare research focuses and the opportunity to get trained under some renowned scientists. For example, Dr. Haitao Guo’s (my mentor) lab is one of the only 15 labs in United States working on Hepatitis B virus.
What has been your favorite academic accomplishment since you’ve been here?
In terms of academic accomplishments, there has been a couple of such moments. The first one is definitely my successful transition to Candidacy and becoming a PhD. Candidate officially. The second one was the opportunity to give an oral talk on my project on an international platform at International Hepatitis B Virus Meeting, Seoul, South Korea. Thirdly, recently I was included as an author in a paper that I helped my mentor with revision experiments and was published in Plos Pathogens.
What do you enjoy most about life in Indianapolis?
Indianapolis is the perfectly sized city for a graduate student to live lavishly with the ideal expense of living. One can find anything and everything here if they know how and where to look for it. There are music, art and food festivals occurring here all the year round. Last year I was able to attend Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The phantom of the opera”. New restaurants pop up almost every season and considering the big foodie that I already am, I make a point to explore all the new ones. The canal adds to Indianapolis’ beauty and the walk by the canal on a summer evening is the most refreshing thing to do. Museums and national parks in and around Indianapolis are great for weekend visits. Indiana Comic Con is yet another big attraction that brings out my inner nerd.
Please provide some details about your work/research as a graduate student and/or any activities you are involved in.
I am studying a particular Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) protein called p22 that has been known to exist for almost 20 years but has never been studied before. I am working towards characterizing this protein with respect to its biogenesis and its functions within the host. Our data show that the biogenesis of this protein is against the dogma and follows a very unique production route on the endoplasmic reticulum membrane. Almost 2.4 million people are chronically infected with HBV and 780,000 die every year because of the complications associated with HBV infection. Interferon alpha (IFN-α) is the only approved immunomodulatory medication for chronic hepatitis B patients but only 30% of these patients are responsive to this medication. Our results show that this protein can interact with HBV’s persistent genome, cccDNA and also inhibits host’s innate immune response leading to unsuccessful IFN-α response thus causing the chronic infection.
As a graduate student, research can be tough sometimes and hence, I like to do different activities whenever I get time to. I was a STEM Communication fellow at Science Central and volunteer with Science Central and other groups in inspiring kids to pursue STEM and become future scientists. Further, I am the Area 35 Director for Toastmasters and am involved with our very own IUSM Toastmasters club- Scientific Toasters @IUSM. I am involved with the IUSM networking committee that works towards hosting different networking events and provides opportunities for biomedical graduate students to get acquainted with various kinds of positions available in the present job market. I also serve as a student ambassador for international students joining IUPUI. I am associated with Association for Women in Science that is the largest multi-discipline organization for women in STEM. I am also involved with Bengali Association of India to keep my cultural side up and about with roles in theatres time to time.