How did you become interested in neuroscience?
Like every inquisitive kid, I was always intrigued by how the brain works. But it was only when I was doing my M.S that I was introduced to neuronal biology. At that time I was studying the mechanism by which small cellular cargos are transported from one part of the cell to another. Because of the unique morphology and physiology of neurons, cargos need to be transported over long distances in short time frames. This transport is actively mediated by molecular motors on cytoskeleton tracks, much like cargo-trains on railway tracks. I was so fascinated by this intricately designed transport mechanism in neurons that I decided to learn more about it.
What was the academic/professional path you had to take to get here?
After completing my undergraduate degree in Plant Sciences from AMU, Aligarh, I joined the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai for a M.S in Cell Biology. Here I got interested in neurobiology and joined the Neuroscience Program at Michigan State University for a PhD.
What are your current research interests?
Currently, I am studying the role of mitochondria in neuronal diseases. Mitochondria are critical components of the cellular machinery and are involved in energy generation, calcium homeostasis, programmed cell death, maintenance of synaptic integrity etc. When mitochondrial function is compromised, it leads to neuronal cell death and disorders of the nervous system. Disruption of cytoskeleton-based mitochondrial transport is also implicated in this disease pathology. Using genetic and cell biological tools, I am trying to determine the role of mitochondria in regulating normal neuronal function in the fruit fly, Drosophila.