Molecular biologist

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. 

Research
experience​
PhD Candidate, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR. 
​2016 - present

 

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

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

  • Model organism: Oyster (Crassostrea hongkongensis)

  • I use a combination of molecular omics techniques (such as RNA-seq, Methyl-RAD) and material characterization techniques such as (Scanning Electron Microscopy - Electron Back Scatter Diffraction and micro hardness tests) 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.

 

Research Fellow, Department of Chemistry, Michigan State University, USA. 
​June 2015 - August 2015

 

  • 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.  

 

Summer Research Fellow - Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology, Kerala, India.
​June , July 2013​

  • 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. 

 

Skills
  • RNA-seq

  • Methyl RAD

  • SEM-EBSD (Scanning Electron Microscopy - Electron Back Scatter Diffraction)

  • Vicker's hardness test

  • TGA - Thermal Gravimetric Analysis

  • Standard molecular and microbiology techniques

  • Oyster aquaculture

Programming
Languages
  • English

  • Tamil

Awards
Online people's choice award - HKU three minute thesis competition (3-MT)
 
  • 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 research communication skills. 

  • Watch my talk in the HKU finals 'here'

3MT%202_edited.jpg

Left to right: Jessie (Lab technician), Dr V. Thiyagarajan (PhD supervisor), Alessia Carini (Lab mate, friend), and I. At the HKU 3-MT finals, when they came to cheer and support me! Credit: HKU KE-Ofice 

Universitas 21 – Graduate Collaborative Research Award worth USD 5800 (2018 – 2019)
 
  • To organize a workshop to teach  Scanning Electron Microscope - Electron Back Scatter Diffraction 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.

Credit: From HKU review booklet 2018

EBSD workshop.PNG

Participants from the hands-on EBSD workshop (left to right - top) Dr V. Thiyagarajan (PhD supervisor), Amelia Hesketh (PhD Candidate, University of British Columbia), Alessia Carini (PhD Candidate, University of Hong Kong - HKU), James Yong Kian, PhD Candidate, HKU), Bovern (PhD Candidate, HKU), Khan Cheung (Research Assistant, HKU). Left to right Bottom: Meng Yuan (Post doctoral Research Assistant HKU - Co-instructor for the workshop ), Kanmani (Instructor and organisor of the wokshop, Jenn Jury (PhD Candidate, University of Auckland). Participants: Priti Rath (M Phil Candidate, HKU dentistry) and Wei Qiao (PhD Candidate, HKU medicine) are missing in the picture). 

Post Graduate Scholarship for PhD research from the University of Hong Kong (2016 – 2020)
  • Awarded based on academic merit

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

  • Award worth HKD 8000 for presenting PhD research findings.

  • Criteria: Research findings, presentation skill.

GRAMMER.PNG

Receiving the first best presentation award at GRAMMER from Prof. David Sedlak, UC Berkeley. Credit: CityU, GRAMMER organising committee. 

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. 

Dr Heedeok Hong (mentor for the Khorana fellowship) and his lab members.

​​​

M.Tech – Scholarship from Department of Biotechnology, Government of India (September 2015 – May 2016)
  • Based on All India Rank 4 in the Combined Entrance Exam for Biotechnology (CEEB-2014) conducted by Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India.

Summer Research Fellowship awarded by Indian Academy of Sciences (June – July 2013)
  • Based on academic merit 

  • Awarded to Indian science students for performing a summer research project in one of the leading research institutes in the country. 

Scholarship for academic excellence during B.Tech (Biotechnology)
  • Awarded by Mepco Schlenk Engineering College, Sivakasi, affiliated to Anna University - Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India in the years 2010, 2011, 2012

Education
PhD (Biological Sciences), School of Biological Sciences, The University of Hong Kong. 

​2016 - present

 

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

M. Tech (Biotechnology), Centre for Biotechnology, Anna University - Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India. 

​2014 - 2016

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

B. Tech (Biotechnology), Mepco Schlenk Engineering College - Sivakasi, Affiliated to Anna University - Chennai.
2010 - 2014
  • Thesis title: Identification of genetic markers for species specific diagnosis of Leptospira.