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Cross section of an oyster larval shell imaged using SEM EBSD revealing different microstructures of the shell

Mission

To empower people from grassroots of the society through science and education

My life mission is to contribute to the ever-growing scientific body of knowledge; communicate the scientific knowledge effectively to grass roots of the society; empower the underprivileged in the society through science education and advocate for science based policy making. With the present challenges that human kind is facing such as climate change and COVID-19 pandemic, I believe the need for 'science based leadership' is more than ever.

Current research Interest: I have developed appreciation for the beauty of calcified hard tissues and biomineralization process during my PhD. 

Skills
  • SEM-EBSD (Scanning Electron Microscopy - Electron Back Scatter Diffraction) - sample prep for hard tissue which are poor conductors and analysis 

  • Micro hardness testing

  • Nanoindentation 

  • Micro-CT (CTan, CTvol. CTvox) for density analysis in oyster shells (or other hard tissues)

  • TGA - Thermal Gravimetric Analysis (for determining compositions of hard tissues or shells)

  • RNA-seq analyses in High Performance Computing and R. 

  • Hard tissue (shell) proteomics

  • Standard molecular and microbiology techniques (such as PCR, gels, bacterial culture etc.)

  • Oyster aquaculture

  • Science Communication  / teaching - English and Tamil (Indian regional language)

Education

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Prismatic microstructure on oyster juvenile shell surface

2016 - 2021

PhD (Biological Sciences)

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School of Biological Sciences & The Swire Institute of Marine Science, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR. 

  • Thesis title: Oyster biomineralization under ocean acidification: from genes to shell

  • The aim of my PhD research is to understand the molecular changes occurring in the biochemical process of biomineralization in invertebrates, under ocean acidification​ scenario. 

  • Biomineralization is the process by which invertebrates such as oysters form their shells and vertebrates such as humans form their bones and teeth. 

  • Model organism: Hong Kong Oyster (Crassostrea hongkongensis / renamed as Magallana hongkongensis)

  • I used a combination of material characterization techniques such as (Scanning Electron Microscopy - Electron Back Scatter Diffraction and micro hardness tests) and molecular omics techniques (such as RNA-seq, Methyl-RAD, proteomics) to understand changes in DNA methylation, gene expression and shell mechanical properties.  

  • Being a trained bio-technologist, with no prior marine biology experience, learning oyster aquaculture was the most challenging part of my PhD journey.

10 + years old Hong Kong oyster shell

2014 - 2016

M. Tech (Biotechnology)

Centre for Biotechnology, Alagappa College of Technology, Anna University, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India.

  • Degree Classification: Distinction with CGPA 8.71/10

  • Thesis: Synthesis of halogenated porphyrins and understanding their interaction with proteins. 

  • M. Tech scholarship (2014 – 2016) from Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, based
    on the All India Ranking in the Combined Entrance Exam for Biotechnology, conducted by Jawaharlal
    Nehru University, New Delhi, India.

2010 - 2014

B. Tech (Biotechnology)

Mepco Schlenk Engineering College, Sivakasi (affiliated to Anna University, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India)

  • Degree Classification: Distinction with CGPA - 8.93/10

  • Thesis: Identification of genetic markers for species specific diagnosis of Leptospira.

  • Scholarship for academic excellence awarded by Mepco Schlenk Engineering College, Sivakasi, Tamil
    Nadu, India in the years 2010, 2011, 2012.

Research Experience

December 2021 - (present)

Post doctoral Research Fellow

School of Biological Sciences & The Swire Institute of Marine Science, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR. 

  • Biomineralization of oysters under Ocean Acidification - transgenerational effect - techniques used: SEM EBSD; microCT; nanoindentation; shell proteomics. 

  • Aim of the project is to understand how ocean acidification affects the biomineralization process in oysters (using a coastal edible oyster species as model: Crassostrea angulata). I use a combination of material characterization and molecular techniques in this project. 

  • Side project: Design of oyster shell inspired biomaterial

June - August 2015

Research Fellow

Department of Chemistry, Michigan State University, USA.

  • The aim of the short summer project was to clone different constructs of fusion proteins with degrons (degradation tags) in pBAD/HisA expression vector, express and study the degradation of these protein constructs by FtsH which is a membrane integrated ATP-dependent E.coli protease. 

  •  This project was a part of a long term project aiming to understand mechanism of membrane protein degradation using FtsH protease as a model protein degradation machine. 

  • This fellowship was my first experience outside home country, hence I consider this as an important turning point in my career.  

June - July 2013 

Research Fellow

Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India.

  • The aim of the short summer internship project was to assist in screening of cervical cell samples for HPV16 (Human Papilloma Virus) infection using PCR and developing a bacterial system for checking activity of Zinc Finger Nucleases (ZFNs).

  • This project was part of a long term project studying Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and cervical cancer. 

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With members of Dr Hong's research group

Awards

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Constance Boone Award for best student presentation at American Malacological Society (AMS) Virtual Annual Meeting 2021

  • Annual meeting of AMS - June 18, 2021. 

  • For presenting findings from PhD research on oyster biomineralization under ocean acidification. 

  • The award is named for the late Constance Boone, a past president of the Society, past president of the Houston Conchological Society, co-editor of Texas Conchologist. A long-time associate in the Malacology Department of the Houston Museum of Natural Science and a strong supporter of students, Constance was a vital force in American Malacology. Students’ oral and poster contributions are evaluated based on the clarity of the presentation and the abstract, scientific merit, and the student’s ability to answer questions concerning the presentation.

Online People's Choice Award, HKU 3 Minute Thesis competition (3 MT), 2020. 

  • Three minute thesis competition challenges PhD students to present their years worth of research in just three minutes, without any use of jargon, using layman terms. It aims to improve academic presentation and science communication skills. 

  • I presented a snapshot of my thesis in three minutes, it was a very challenging and enriching experience! 

  • Watch my talk in the HKU finals 'here'. 

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At the award presentation ceremony with supervisor and lab members

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With the participants of EBSD workshop 

Featured in HKU review booklet 2018 with fellow Universitas 21 award winners

First Prize – Best Paper award at GRAMMER 2019
  • Graduate Symposium on Marine Environmental Research, the City University of Hong Kong. 

  • For presenting PhD research findings on oyster biomineralization under ocean acidification

  • Criteria: Research findings, presentation skill.

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Universitas 21 – Graduate Collaborative Research Award worth USD 5800 (2018 – 2019)
 
  • To organize a workshop to teach  Scanning Electron Microscope - Electron Back Scatter Diffraction (EBSD) technique for material analysis to interested PhD students from three universities – The University of Hong Kong, University of British Columbia and University of Auckland and to perform a part of analysis of my PhD thesis.

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At the award presentation ceremony with Prof David Sedlak

Khorana Fellowship awarded by Indo – US Science & Technology Forum (June – August 2015)
 
  • Khorana fellowship is a prestigious summer research fellowship provided by Indo - US Science and Technology Forum, Department of Biotechnology - Government of India and Winstep forward - USA for promoting academic and scientific knowledge exchange between India and the USA.

  • Based on academic merit among all the applicants from India for the program. 

Summer Research Fellowship awarded by Indian Academy of Sciences (June – July 2013)
  • Awarded to Indian science students for performing a summer research project in one of the leading research institutes in the country. 

  • Based on academic merit among all the applicants from India for the program

Knowledge exchange and teaching activities

1. Manager - Knowledge exchange activities at HKO-HIRU (Hong Kong Oyster Hatchery and Innovation Research Unit) 2022- present

HKO-HIRU is a newly built oyster hatchery and research unit at the University of Hong Kong. I have been incharge of managing the knowledge exchange activities of the research unit which is open for public, oyster growers, students, researchers, government officials who are interested in learning about oyster hatchery operations. I have been working and managing various intern students in designing a good knowledge exchange methodology for the unit. 

Main duties include managing interns to send out invitations for various stakeholders, publicizing the research and operations, giving talks and tour to visitors and training members of the group to do KE activities during my absence. 

 

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Talk for the visitors at HKO-HIRU, HKU explaining the research activities and operations of the hatchery. 

Student visitors from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology to HKO-HIRU

2. Organiser and Instructor: Hands-on training workshop on Electron Back Scatter Diffraction at the School of Biological Sciences, The University of Hong Kong from Jan 21 to Jan 31, 2019. The workshop was attended by 8 PhD students from HKU (School of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, Faculty of Dentistry), University of Auckland and University of British Columbia. The aim of the workshop to bring together students from various disciplines and cultural background to learn together and collaborate.

 3. List of undergraduate level courses that I assisted teaching at HKU, School of Biological Sciences: The teaching duties involve conducting lab demonstrations, giving short lectures on selected topics with the professor, organising field trips and grading lab reports and presentations.


2016 – 2017:

1) BIOL 1309 – Evolutionary diversity;
2) ENVS 1301 – Environmental Life Science


2017 – 2018:

1) BIOL 2220 – Principles of Biochemistry
2) ENVS 1301 – Environmental Life Science
3) BIOL 3505 – Oyster Aquaculture and restoration
4) BIOL 3206 – Clinical Nutrition


2018 – 2019:

1) ENVS 1301 – Environmental Life Science
2) BIOL 4505 – Oyster Aquaculture and restoration


2019 – 2020:

1) ENVS 2001 – Methods in Environmental Science

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