Somya Vats, a PhD student from JNCASR Bangalore, was awarded a Newton Bhabha PhD placement to join Dr Sovan Sarkar in the Institute of Cancer and Genomic Sciences at the University of Birmingham. Somya shares her experience of the programme and gives advice to future applicants to the scheme:
“I was looking out for an opportunity to apply the work that I had done so far in a fresh and experimental environment. This is when I came across the Newton-Bhabha placement programme. This was an ideal option for me because my institution JNCASR Bangalore already had a successful ongoing collaboration with Dr. Sovan Sarkar from the University of Birmingham. Additionally, Dr Sarkar is a renowned researcher in the field of autophagy and I was really interested in the work that his lab has been doing. The primary aim of the project was to test the translational potential of few small molecules in hESC derived cell types such as neurons. We envision that upon completion this would be a novel study testing the autophagy inducing properties of small molecules in hESC derived cell types.
To students who wish to apply for this fellowship, I would like to say that this a unique and prestigious opportunity. It is important to allow plenty of time to prepare the application and think carefully about the project. Newton – Bhabha programme encourages long-term collaboration and this should be kept in mind while deciding the project and the principal investigator.”
Somya Vats, PhD Student, JNCASR Bangalore
Birmingham Research Fellow Dr Sovan Sarkar describes his experience of the programme as a hosting supervisor and shares his advice for a strong application:
“My lab works on the regulation and therapeutic manipulation of autophagy in human cellular contexts using human stem cell based models. I have ongoing collaborations with research institutions in India, one of which is with Dr Ravi Manjithaya at Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR) in Bangalore. Ravi’s lab primarily works in yeast model system where they have performed a large chemical screen to identify modulators of autophagy. The next step was to validate the key hits in relevant human cell types for biomedical applications. For undertaking this in my lab, the Newton Bhabha PhD Placement Award to Somya Vats was instrumental. Somya’s work led to generation of new data related to the efficacy of these compounds in human neurons that have been differentiated from human embryonic stem cells, and this platform could be relevant for identifying potential candidate drugs for the treatment of certain neurodegenerative disorders. This study will lead to a joint research paper in the near future, with the possibility of international grant application as well.
The key to this award is strongly based on the collaborative link or potential between the UK and India labs coupled with their complementarity of expertise. Aspiring students should discuss the application with their PhD supervisor and the international collaborator in order to make a strategic case.”
Dr Sovan Sarkar, Research Fellow, University of Birmingham