Copyright: Hubrecht Institute; Picture credit: Thijs Rooimans
I am a Miller Research Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, hosted in the labs of Dr. Richard Harland and Dr. Megan Martik in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology. I recently completed a one-year term as a postdoctoral researcher with Dr. Hans Clevers at the Hubrecht Institute in Utrecht (The Netherlands) funded by the Schmidt Science Fellowship in collaboration with the Rhodes Trust (UK). My current work focuses on the development of an embryonic stem cell population called the neural crest. I am employing both in vivo and in vitro models to understand how these stem cells form various derivatives in the developing embryo. I am also interested in developing new adult stem cell models and genome engineering tools to understand the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition of metastatic cancer cells in colorectal adenocarcinomas.
I received my Ph.D. in Developmental Biology in Dr. Marianne Bronner’s research group at the California Institute of Technology. My Ph.D. work took a systems-level approach to address the long-standing question of what confers the neural crest with its unique ability to form cardiovascular derivatives. I uncovered the gene regulatory circuitry that controls the acquisition of cardiac identity in the neural crest and used this genetic information to "reprogram" other neural crest populations to a cardiac-like fate. I developed new tools for chick developmental biology to enable these discoveries, including methods for genome engineering, retroviral lineage tracing, and single-cell transcriptomics.
Prior to Caltech, I received a master’s degree in Systems Biology and Bioinformatics at New York University, with Dr. Lionel Christiaen at the Center for Developmental Genetics. I adapted CRISPR-Cas9 loss-of-function methods to the marine invertebrate Ciona intestinalis, and identified molecular mechanisms that govern a fate-switch between head and heart muscles from bipotent precursors. I also devised a machine-learning-based approach to identify and predict the efficiency of all possible guide RNAs targeting the Ciona genome, a database that is publicly available on the UCSC genome browser.
Ph.D., California Institute of Technology
Major: Developmental Biology
Thesis Advisor - Dr. Marianne Bronner
M.S., New York University
Major: Systems Biology and Bioinformatics
Thesis Advisor - Dr. Lionel Christiaen
B.E., Panjab University