Author: Amit Saha | Category: Final Words... | Biomedical Engineering (Ph.D.) | June 21, 2016
Your name, program, dissertation
Amit Kumar Saha, Joint graduate
program in Biomedical Engineering between UTSA and UTHSCSA, “Effect of cellular
cholesterol on monocyte biophysical response.”
Please tell me about yourself, why
did you pick UT Health Science Center, and your program.
I did my Bachelor of Technology in
Biotechnology (B.Tech) from Heritage Institute of Technology (Kolkata, India).
I had always wanted to gain a better hands-on understanding of research.
Technology is a passion for me and I have always strived for practical
understanding. Given the exciting
advancements in Biomedical Engineering, I decided to pursue my Ph.D. in the same.
Being from a developing nation, I always had the goal of improving human lives
with my work. I did research on the different programs available and found out
about the exciting research being done at UTHSCSA and UTSA. I also considered
the fact that San Antonio had great potential for the healthcare industry. I
took my GRE in the junior year of my undergraduate education and came to San
Antonio immediately upon completion of my B.Tech degree.
Please provide a few sentences
summarizing your dissertation.
I work on understanding the effect
of cholesterol on the biophysical response of monocytes. It is well known that
cholesterol plays an important role in maintaining the structure and
functionality of cells. Also, monocytes are one of the key players in the human
immune system. The role of cholesterol on monocyte biomechanics remains
understudied despite the well-established links between monocyte and
cholesterol in diseases like atherosclerosis and hypercholesterolemia.
I study biomechanics at a single
cell level. A great deal of my research consists of development and utilization
of microfluidic platforms. It is very
thrilling to be able to control the fluid flow at the micron scale (1
millimeter = 1000 microns!). I also
employ a variety of other biological and engineering techniques like
microscopy, flow cytometry, and rheology, among others.
I observe the various
biophysical responses of cells such as rolling, chemotaxis and adhesion among
others. In order to get a better understanding of the observed changes, I also
investigate the corresponding changes in the plasma membrane and cytoskeleton
as a function of the cellular cholesterol content.
The research that I am conducting
as part of my doctoral education will shed more light on the mechanistic
aspects of various inflammatory diseases and provide a better understanding of
a very important facet of inflammation and sepsis.
What was the experience like for you?
The path to a Ph.D. has been very
difficult for me. It was filled with unknown challenges and difficulties. Also,
the fact that I was an international student made things so much more
But I am glad I found several people within and outside my
university who have helped me along the way and have significantly contributed
to my development as an individual! And once I did start getting results, my
interest in the work kept on increasing.
The multidisciplinary nature of my
work is the most intriguing to me. It has helped me gain understanding in
different aspects of science. This in turn has enhanced my capability to have a
holistic view of a problem and address it using a multipronged approach.
Why are you passionate about your
research topic? How did you first become interested in it?
The very fact that I could
manipulate cells at a single cell level was very exciting for me. Also, the
designing and fabrication of microfluidic platforms really appealed to the
engineer in me. It was very hard to achieve anything at the beginning, but once
there were results, the joy was inexpressible.
The novel nature of my research
and the probable impact is the driving force for my passion towards my
research. My work has the potential to pave the path for novel therapeutic
approaches. The possibility of being able to help the community with my work is
something that gives me great joy and satisfaction.
What was your best memory during
graduate school or what did you learn?
In the second year of graduate
school, I went to Cornell University to gain a better understanding of
microfluidic techniques. It was an unbelievable experience both scientifically
and personally. Everyone was very helpful and really interested in sharing
And since it was my first trip outside Texas (and also my
University!), it also provided a great chance to explore. I am really grateful to my adviser to have
provided the support for me go there since it was truly a life changing
experience. Needless to say, I significantly enhanced my scientific knowledge,
but most importantly it was the first time I realized the importance of
collaboration. I realized if we put in significant effort from our end and seek
guidance hard enough, there is always someone to help!
I am graduating this August and am
actively seeking opportunities in the healthcare industry. I am mostly
interested in a career path where I can have a holistic application of my
scientific knowledge and problem solving skills. On top of my list is a career
as a medical science liaison or a consultant.
Any advice for your fellow
Do not give up! I know from
personal experience that it can get really, really frustrating. However, it is
always important to remember that if things don’t work out, your attitude
should be “always a lesson, never a failure.”
Most of my time as a grad student
was spent with things not working out as planned. But after five years, I can
certainly say that all those experience only made me better!
Also, I would strongly advise my
fellow grad students to have a good balance between their professional and
personal lives! Pick a hobby, learn a new skill, visit a new place, anything at
all! But it is important that at the end of the day you maintain some balance.
Lastly, I would like to talk about
collaboration. I cannot emphasize the importance enough of this simple term!
Personally I have been grateful to have come across some wonderful individuals
who were willing to help. It is vital to develop these collaborations for both
professional and personal developments both now and in the future.
I know some
of the students are not very comfortable in reaching out to unknown
individuals. But I can assure you there are always good people who remember the
fact that they have been at your position in some time of their life. At the
bare minimum, you will develop your skill of speaking!
Try to enjoy whatever it is that
you do! Good luck!
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