Two Indian American researchers, Dr. Sohini Ramachandran of Brown University, and Dr. Salil Lachke of the University of Delaware, were among 22 of the nation’s most innovative young researchers who were named Pew Scholars in the Biomedical Sciences June 14 by The Pew Charitable Trusts.
The scholars, who receive $240,000 over four years to pursue their research, join a prestigious community that includes Nobel Prize winners and MacArthur Fel.
Research in Ramachandran’s lab addresses problems in population genetics and evolutionary theory, using humans as a study system. The work uses mathematical modeling, applied statistics, and computer simulations to make inferences from genetic data.
Ramachandran, who specializes in human economics and evolution, tries to answer questions like: Does variation on the human X chromosome reflect sex-specific processes in the past? Does genetic variation account for different cancer treatment outcomes? Do cultural traits "mutate" more quickly than genes?
The scientist received her bachelor's degree in mathematical and computational sciences from Stanford University in 2002 and her Ph.D. from Stanford in biological sciences in 2007. She was elected to the Harvard Society of Fellows in 2007 and did postdoctoral work with John Wakeley, studying coalescent theory.
Ramachandran joined the faculty at Brown University as an assistant professor in ecology and evolutionary biology in July 2010. She is also a faculty member in the Center for Computational Molecular Biology.
Lachke, a biologist whose research is yielding new discoveries about the world’s leading causes of blindness, is exploring the molecular defects that cause eye disorders such as cataracts and glaucoma. Lachke has identified a gene, TDRD7, which when mutated can lead to cataracts and glaucoma in mice and in humans. A novel online gene discovery tool he has developed and which is hosted at the UD Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, called “iSyTE” (for “Integrated Systems Tool for Eye gene discovery”), will help scientists more rapidly home in on previously unknown eye-associated genes and their functions.
Within the past three years, Lachke’s research using iSyTE has already led to the discovery of three new cataract associated genes, and many more are in the pipeline.
“Identifying new genes associated with eye diseases will help us understand how the eye develops and functions, in turn providing critical insights for regenerative therapies and targets,” Lachke said.
Lachke earned his doctorate in biology at the University of Iowa in 2003. He completed postdoctoral studies at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital before joining the UD faculty in 2011.