My background and training is in physics and my thesis research involved analysis of disordered systems using statistical mechanics and computational modeling. As a postdoctoral researcher, I started to use these approaches to analyze biological processes and networks. Using bioinformatic approaches, I made theoretical predictions for small RNAs in the quorum-sensing pathways in the Vibrios which were validated by our experimental collaborators. This project was a wonderful interdisciplinary research experience which taught me how the successful integration of bioinformatics, computational modeling and experimental molecular biology can lead to novel discoveries and high-impact research.
My current research focuses on stochastic modeling of gene expression and its regulation by non-coding RNAs. I have mentored postdoctoral researchers, graduate students and undergraduate students in these topics. All my group members have been well-placed after leaving the group, securing postdoctoral positions in Universities such as Stanford and Duke, and faculty positions in England and India. The undergraduate students I have mentored have received multiple awards related to their research including the Barry M. Goldwater Fellowship and have gone on to graduate school at Universities such as UC Davis and Harvard.
My current research focuses on the application of bioinformatic and modeling approaches to projects involving the role of non-coding RNAs in cancer. Specifically, I am collaborating with the groups of Dr. Pier Paolo Pandolfi (DF/HCC) and Prof. Kourosh Zarringhalam (UMass Boston) towards the discovery and analysis of non-coding ceRNA regulators of the tumor suppressor gene PTEN. We have currently made predictions for long non-coding RNAs which can potentially function as ceRNAs of PTEN which are being validated in the Pandolfi lab. The application and extension the approaches developed by my group to modeling post-transcriptional regulatory networks in cancer presents an exciting opportunity. In summary, I believe that my previous research efforts, in combination with current collaboration with experimental groups at DF/HCC, have the potential to lead to significant new discoveries in current research focusing on the role of non-coding RNAs and stochastic gene expression in cancer.