Student Spotlight

Virginia Tech
Proteins Signaling Domains Laboratory

Q: What initially attracted you to biophysics?

I have always been intrigued by two questions: How we can describe a cellular process such as proteinligand interaction at a molecular level, and how can we correlate structure of proteins to their diverse cellular functions? I found biophysics, which defines all these cellular phenomena at an atomic resolution, to be the best place for me to find the answers. Later during my PhD studies, the more I learned about this subject and the different multidisciplinary techniques it employs, the more and more it fascinated me!

Q: What is your current research project?

I study the protein Toll Interacting Protein (Tollip), which is a negative regulator of Toll Like Receptor (TLR) signaling pathway and serves as an adapter protein for endosomal trafficking. My project is to find out how this protein is modulated by its binding partners such as ubiquitin and endosomal phospholipid Phosphatidylinositol 3-phosphate (PI3P) and exerts its role in TLR signaling pathway and protein trafficking.

Q: What do you hope to do after graduation?

My long-term career goal is to establish my own lab in a research based institute or university. Therefore, I would definitely try to find a postdoctoral position in a laboratory where I would be able to contribute my knowledge and at the same time learn some more exciting biophysical techniques to explore some key fundamental concepts of cell functioning.

Q: What do you see as the biggest challenge as a student of biophysics?

The two main challenges are in-depth knowledge of the basic science behind biophysics and critical thinking. Biophysics is a subject that uniquely combines biology and physics. For a biology student it imposes a challenge to understand the many mathematical concepts of physics. Biophysicists must think about the larger biological relevance of the basic work we do. We need to learn how to integrate and connect the structure we propose and the interactions we define to a broader cell biological perspective.

Q: Why did you join the Biophysical Society?

The Biophysical Society provides an excellent place for biophysicists around the globe to share their ideas, achievements, and the excellent research they are doing. Throughout the year the Society organizes several scientific seminars and an annual meeting and publishes a scientific journal and newsletters. As a member of this organization, I can take advantage of all of these resources that help me boost my knowledge, fulfill my scientific inquisitiveness and keep me up-to-date of what is happening in the outer world!

Q: When you’re not studying biophysics, what do you like to do in your spare time?

I am an ardent fan of classical music, so listening to music (and occasional singing) comes first on this list. Also being an amateur painter of nature, I like to sit down with my art book, pens, ink, pencils and charcoal whenever I get some time or need to feel ‘relaxed’! Last but not the least, driving just aimlessly with my car-buddy through the beautiful roads of Virginia!

Daniel Capelluto, Mitra’s PI says:

Sharmi joined my lab in spring 2009. Sharmi is highly motivated and inquisitive. She constantly talks about her excitement to remain in academia after graduation and to do postdoctoral work and eventually become a professor at a national university. These features make Sharmi an excellent role model for other students in my laboratory.

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February 2013 Table of Contents