My journey with the Khorana Program started in summer of 2013 as a junior year student majoring in Biotechnology at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Roorkee. It was a life changing moment in my career. Like many engineering students, I was unsure of my future career path among MBA, MS, job or IAS. Even though I loved science, I was unsure of committing myself to research without knowing what I was getting myself into. The Khorana Program gave me an opportunity to experience top-notch scientific research first hand. I was selected to conduct research on the development of a targeted drug therapy for skin (melanoma) cancer at University of Iowa. I was impressed with the intellectual, multicultural and highly conducive research environment. I immensely enjoyed the process of asking critical scientific questions and finding answers, which made me confident about pursuing a research career.
Khorana program played a pivotal role not only in developing my interest in research but also building up a competitive profile for university admissions. I applied to top research labs in the United States with a strong letter of recommendation from the University of Iowa, and a strong determination to commit the next few years of my life to solving some of the most challenging problems across fields of human biology. I got accepted to the University of California San Diego (UCSD) and Salk Institute Joint Biological Sciences Doctoral Program, which are regarded as some of the top biosciences research institutes in the world and home to more than 25 Nobel Laureates.
As a Ph.D. researcher in the Saghatelian Lab at Salk Institute, I focused on characterizing the role of a new class of proteins called the microproteins, which are less than 100 amino acids in length. Microproteins have become known to the world only in recent years due to technological advances in the field of genomics and proteomics and have shown to play fundamental roles in biology ranging from limb development to muscle function. In the next 4 years, I developed expertise on the elucidating function of microproteins in health and disease, representing an amazing opportunity for the discovery of new medicines and therapeutics. I received my Ph.D. in August 2018 and my work has been published in multiple top scientific journals. In addition, I was recognized with the Women in Science Award 2017 for the high impact research, awarded by Elizabeth Blackburn Nobel Laureate 2009.
Reflecting back I feel that none of this would have been possible without the experience and mentorship I received as a Khorana Scholar. Several of my colleagues in the Ph.D. program were Khorana scholars and provided a strong support system. Dr. Ansari, director of Khorana program, and Dr. Michael Schultz, my summer intern advisor at University of Iowa, have been my mentors since guiding me through the ups and down of my Ph.D. journey. In the final year of Ph.D., during my job search, I also met several Khorana program alumni who are working in top companies and labs across the world. As a next step in my career, I have started as a Life Science specialist consultant for one of the top Management Consulting firms in New York, advising top pharmaceutical and biotech firms on their research and business strategy.
I would like to again thank the entire Khorana team and initiative for this wonderful opportunity that shaped my life positively.