Post-doctoral Research: Stem cell-driven organ regeneration in planaria

Cornell University
A planarian flatworm with pharynx (feeding organ) extended

Planarian flatworms are champion regenerators possessing abundant stem cells that fuel regeneration

of every organ. The Adler has lab established a novel method to completely remove a single planarian organ,

the pharynx, without injuring other tissues. This strategy provides a simplified regeneration response, allowing us

to precisely dissect how stem cells are regulated to restore a specific organ.

The objective of my postdoctoral research is to take advantage of our selective amputation method to

determine how stem cells are regulated to facilitate precise regeneration of the pharynx. Specifically I am aiming


1) resolve if stem cells respond explicitly to the types of tissue lost to induce organ-specific regeneration.

2) establish how stem cells are induced to initiate pharynx regeneration following amputation.

3) identify the molecular cues that normally limit stem cells from initiating pharynx organogenesis.

These complementary approaches will uncover how stem cells are precisely controlled to regenerate specific missing tissues without overgrowth in an adult animal. In addition, identification of mechanisms limiting stem cell activity may reveal potential barriers to regeneration in mammals.

Adler Lab members, Carrie, Tisha and Divya holding up signs in rain jackets at the D.C. March for Science 2018
Adler Lab
A C.elegans germline with DNA in purple and punctate nuclear membrane proteins in nuclei in blue

Graduate Research: Regulation of early prophase events and checkpoints in C. elegans meiosis

University of California Santa Cruz
University of California Santa Cruz
Bhalla Lab circa 2016
12 Bhalla Lab members in 2016 on a merry-go-round

My graduate research contributions focused on understanding how cell cycle surveillance mechanisms function to ensure that chromosomes segregate correctly during cellular division. Since defects in chromosome segregation is highly correlated with cancer and is a leading cause of infertility and birth defects, my graduate research yield important insights into the potential origins of diseases linked to chromosome mis-segregation. Specifically, I took advantage of the fact that, unlike other organisms, early prophase events in C. elegans are not interdependent. This unique aspect of C. elegans allowed me to dissect the surveillance mechanisms that regulate and contribute to the fidelity of two events in early prophase required for proper chromosomes segregation, namely synapsis and recombination. With this approach, I elucidated previously uncharacterized roles for conserved cell cycle checkpoint proteins in monitoring and regulating early meiotic prophase events, uncovering novel mechanisms that protect against defects in chromosome segregation. These data have resulted in three first author manuscripts, two of which I mentored four undergraduates in co-authorship. Also, I gave numerous oral and poster presentations, one of which yielded an international poster award.

Research Internship: Use of a conserved gene family, Sfrps, across development of vertebrate species

Trinity College Dublin
Chick embryo with Sfrp expression

During a Science Foundation of Ireland funded summer research internship, I investigated how differential use of conserved modulators during development have been involved in the diversification of the vertebrate body form. I accomplished this by constructing a large data set to compare the expression patterns of conserved Wnt modulators throughout various stages of development in the mouse and chick.

Mouse embryo with Sfrp expression

Undergraduate Research: Genetic regulation during development

California State University Channel Islands
Image of a drosophila embryo with deveopmental stripes in black and brown

As an undergraduate that have contributed understanding how development is regulated in a variety of species. Since developmental mechanisms are typically highly conserved, understanding their functions can lend insights into evolution and human diseases. In my first project, I demonstrated that the even-skipped gene is required for formation of the mandibular segment during Drosophila development. In my second project, I contributed to the exploration of how myoglobin expression in sea mammals might respond to developmental changes, or environmental exposure from learned animal behaviors, such as dive-induced hypoxia.