When not at work, I enjoy spending time with my 10-year-old daughter. We enjoy our time together discussing books she reads, baking or playing word games.
Tell us about your journey/career path that led you to your current role at DuPont Pioneer.
I’ve always been interested in understanding how different organisms interact. During my master’s coursework in biotechnology at Maharaja Sayajirao University, Baroda, India, I worked on a research paper about the interactions between plants and microbes, and I was hooked! Next, I pursued my doctorate in plant genetics and cell biology at Texas A&M University studying how legumes interact with bacteria synergistically. My postdoctoral training took place at Rockefeller University, New York, and the University of California, Berkeley, where I studied how plants respond to various pathogens. Around this time I also realized how critical large-scale data analyses are in plant sciences and moved into computational biology.
I joined DuPont Pioneer in 2008 at the DuPont Knowledge Center in Hyderabad, India and was responsible for building a computational biology group that developed novel strategies for discovery research. Currently, I’m leading a team at DuPont Pioneer headquarters in Iowa developing a cohesive strategy to effectively use CRISPR-Cas technology in a variety of potential product applications.
What do you love most about your job?
For me, it’s the people that I work with that make my job the most enjoyable. It is very exciting to build strategies and brainstorm scientific solutions to some of the most pressing agricultural problems with the energetic and creative team that we have.
Tell us more about your role applying CRISPR-Cas to develop sustainable agricultural solutions.
In order to develop sustainable solutions for farmers, we need to understand the problems that they face and identify areas where we can bring solutions. For example, farmers all over the world are constantly battling diseases that attack plants and decrease harvest yields. To solve this, my team and I ask questions about how crops fight diseases in nature and use the knowledge derived from nature to improve the plant’s ability to fight the disease. Once we hit upon an effective solution, we use CRISPR-Cas technology to implement it efficiently and precisely.
What excites you most about CRISPR-Cas and what it can do?
Having grown up in India, I have come to appreciate how much pressure farmers face, especially in the tropical regions – be it a disease, pests, weeds or decreasing land availability. To keep up with these ever-changing growing conditions, it is important for scientists to anticipate and respond to these challenges so that farmers can produce more and better food. CRISPR-Cas enables us to provide these ground-breaking solutions in a very timely manner. This will be a great advantage to farmers in all regions of the world.