Aditi Borkar on her PhD thesis

01 January 2012

1 Jan 2012

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in science?
My doctor mother has always been my inspiration. As a child, I was intrigued by the biology of the living world around me and I chose my career path to satiate my scientific curiosity. I have realised that life, on a microscopic scale, is nothing but a chemistry of different biomolecules. My research investigates the structural and functional dynamics of the macromolecules by encompassing theoretical and experimental techniques.

What is your research topic?
At the molecular level, the functions required to maintain life are performed by a variety of macromolecules, including DNA, RNA and proteins. The functions of all these molecules depend on their structure and dynamics and consequently there is great interest in the development of experimental and computational techniques to understand these aspects at the atomic level. My PhD thesis involves studying the structure dynamics in RNA using a combination of experimental and computational techniques. The RNA molecules I am considering cover various aspects of behaviour, including RNA­protein interactions, RNA-DNA interactions and RNA catalysis, and thus will help understand the role of dynamics in these processes.

What is innovative about your most recent research project?
Since macromolecules exhibit dynamics inside the cell, the current trend in drug discovery is to identify solution state native ensembles as drug targets. This is unlike the conventional procedure where the drug molecules were docked onto static single average structures of the target. My research project deals with developing a method combining experimental NMR techniques with computational simulations to generate and validate such native ensembles of RNA.

Are there any potential applications or competitive advantages for industry as a result of your research?
Macromolecule structure and function dynamics have profound and far-reaching applications in biology particularly in drug design and molecular physiology of diseases. Structure-based drug design is already an integral part of drug discovery today. However, high profile partnerships and mergers between pioneering biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies have created a major value opportunity in the field of RNA-based therapies. Thus, I'm suitably positioned to contribute to these upcoming approaches in therapeutics and then apply them in the pharmaceutical industry.

What have been your proudest achievements so far?
I was awarded the Dr Manmohan Singh Scholarship (MMSS) 2010 for funding my PhD studies at University of Cambridge. The scholarship is in honour of St. John's College's distinguished alumnus Dr Manmohan Singh, Honourable Prime Minister of my country, India. Winning this award is a national honour for me.

What is the next milestone in your career?
The efforts of the scientific community must ultimately benefit society at large. Hence, I want to pursue a scientific career with industry-academia collaborations. While academia provides research flexibility, industry provides competition and commercial application of the research and makes it publicly available.

You can connect with other SCI members who are in a similar field to Aditi, through the SCI Members' Directory.

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