Hear from our India Institute Fellows

We're collaborating with scholars from leading Indian Institutions to tackle global challenges.

Hear from our India Institute Fellow: Komal Shukla, School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

In academic year 2018-2019, we welcomed ten outstanding fellows to come to Birmingham and work with our academics on joint research projects. Many of them came from our Indian partners such as IIT Bombay, IIT Delhi, ICGEB Delhi, TERI School of Advanced Studies, Panjab University. 

Women leaders and scientists are important for any society's progress and development, and yet various studies have shown that there is a significant leadership diversity gap. Promoting equality and encouraging inclusive leadership in Higher Education, Business and Science will help organisation in these sectors to achieve greater prosperity. In 2018-19, 80 per cent of fellowships were awarded to Indian women scientists and researchers. They have ranged from young researchers to senior scientists and professors employed in reputed private and public institutions. 

You can hear what some of our fellow's research involves and how the Fellowship boosted their research:

Surbhi Verma (ICGEB, New Delhi)

India Institute Fellow in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Surbhi Verma - India Institute Fellow, School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

A successful senior research fellow at ICGEB, New Delhi, Surbhi works on the role of autophagy in regulating homeostasis and antibacterial mechanisms in macrophages. During her fellowship at the Institute of Cancer and Genomic Sciences she is undertaking a short-term research project that will identify compounds influencing autophagy, which is a biological process essential for cellular homeostasis, in human pluripotent stem cell-derived macrophages. The objectives are to undertake an image-based chemical screen to identify potent autophagy modulators that are effective in human macrophages, and further characterize the screen hits and the target pathways for their effects on autophagy. This will be important to understand how autophagy is regulated in macrophages for therapeutic applications. The research will involve cell culture of human pluripotent stem cells and their differentiation into monocytic cells and macrophages, high-content microscopy, confocal microscopy, immunoblotting, immunofluorescence, and autophagy and apoptosis assays.

Dr Sonali Sengupta (Vellore Institute of Technology)

India Institute Fellow in the Institute of Clinical Sciences

Dr Sonali Sengupta, India Institute Fellow in the Institute of Clinical Sciences

From the Vellore Institute of Technology, Sonali’s research project here at the University of Birmingham is looking in to determining the roles of long non coding RNAs in Apoptosis and Tumourigenesis in the School of Biosciences. Satellite DNAs, which are highly repetitive non-coding tandem arrays have been found in the centromeric and pericentromeric regions of almost all eukaryotic chromosomes. Because of their heterochromatin locations, satellite DNAs has been considered silent. However, recent studies have revealed that they are actively transcribed, particularly under disease or stress conditions. Sonali's research and research group have taken the initiative to address physiological and pathological roles of satellite III repetitive sequences (Sat III). Intriguingly, human Sat III transcripts share extensive similarities with Drosophila hsrω transcripts which are also strongly induced in response to thermal stress. Recent studies from Sonali's group reveals Sat III is expressed in majority of the colon (HCT-15) and breast (ZR-75-1) cancer cells in normal condition. Sat III expression helps the cell to maintain its tumorigenic state and hence has a pathological consequence. Sonali looked at the function of hsrω and Satellite III RNA, in apoptosis and apoptosis induced proliferation pathway (AiP). Her primary observations reveal that, downregulation of hsrω suppressed the AiP phenotype thereby implicating important roles of hsrω and Sat III in apoptosis and AiP pathway. As AiP is related to cancer, hence the outcome of the project has promising roles in cancer therapeutics in future.  

Satchithananthi Aruljothi (IIT Bombay)

India Institute Fellow in the Institute of Clinical Sciences

Satchithananthi Aruljothi, India Institute Fellow in the Institute of Clinical Sciences

From IIT Bombay, Satchithananthi worked with the Institute of Clinical Sciences on Overactive bladder (OAB) syndrome, which is a chronic medical condition which can affect the quality of life in a significant amount of the population. Currently there are no treatments available to cure OAB. This is because of the lack of comprehensive understanding of how different elements in the bladder communicate with each other. As more and more people in the ageing population are getting affected by bladder related problems, there is growing interest in better understanding the hidden mechanisms in the functioning of the urinary bladder. One possible reason behind OAB is associated with increased spontaneous contractions of the bladder wall caused by chemical agents released from the inner layers of the bladder. It has been shown that slightly heating the bladder without damaging the tissue integrity resulted in reduced spontaneous contraction which could be a potential therapeutic treatment for OAB. However the mechanisms underlying in the decrease in spontaneous contraction are not very clear. Satchithananthi’s fellowship at the University of Birmingham is focused on identifying the mechanisms that causes the reduction in spontaneous contractions using a series of experiments in imaging and electrophysiology. Through her research, the proposed experiments could uncover key biochemical mechanisms involved in the treatment of OAB.

Professor Amita Aggarwal (Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Lucknow)

India Institute Fellow in the Institute of Clinical Sciences

Professor Amita Aggarwal, India Institute Fellow in the Institute of Clinical Sciences

Amita’s research focuses on enthesitis related arthritis in children, multi-institutional lupus cohorts and the impact of rheumatic diseases on patients’ lives. As a long established academic and a trained medic from the Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Lucknow, Amita focused on rheumatology and immunodeficiency diseases and has authored over 250 papers. Key journals including, ‘The Hindi version of the Juvenile Arthritis Multidimensional Assessment Report (JAMAR) for the Paediatric Rheumatology International Trials Organisation (PRINTO)’ and work on ‘urinary haptoglobin, alpha-1 anti-chymotrypsin and retinol binding protein identified by proteomics as potential biomarkers for lupus nephritis’. Through the India Institute Amita’s fellowship has provided the opportunity to build the next logistical steps for an external grant whilst synergising and strengthening the rheumatology collaborations between the Institute of Clinical Sciences and Indian teams to create a multicentre based study. 

Back to Fellowship Scheme 2019/20