Name: Dr. Ajit Prakash
Current Title: Research Associate
BCBP Lab: Sharon Campbell lab
Years affiliated with BCBP: May 2018 – present
What projects are you currently working on?
I am currently involved in a multifaceted research portfolio that combines my expertise in biochemistry, biophysics, and cell biology. My primary focus is on two impactful projects with direct applications to human health. The first project involves characterizing the function of the Gαi protein in intracellular pH sensing, particularly its relevance to ischemic heart diseases. Through the application of various biophysical techniques and cell-based assays, I uncovered a novel mechanism of pH sensing by Gαi, shedding light on its potential role in ischemic heart disease. Simultaneously, I engaged in cancer drug discovery by targeting the KRAS protein. In this project, I have identified a novel small molecule capable of inhibiting KRAS protein, contributing to the ongoing efforts to develop effective cancer treatments.
What was your background before coming to BCBP?
I did most of my schooling in India and earned my B.Sc. in Biotechnology from Jamia Millia Islamia, India. Later pursued my M.Sc. in Genomics from Madurai Kamaraj University, India. After my M.Sc., I moved to Singapore and acquired my Ph.D. degree in Biological Sciences from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, where my research focused on characterizing the DNA binding properties of FKBP25 protein. Following the completion of my Ph.D., I embarked on postdoctoral training at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. For a short period, I moved to India to join Lovely Professional University as an assistant professor, aiming to conduct independent research and enhance my teaching skills. Further, I made the strategic decision to gain more expertise in biophysics and cell biology and moved to the USA to join Sharon Campbell’s lab at UNC, Chapel Hill for my second postdoctoral training.
What motivates you to do what you do?
My motivation to pursue research stems from a personal and familial connection to science. My father, my first science mentor, used to share captivating stories of great discoveries, igniting in me a desire to become a scientist. The turning point occurred during my school days when my grandfather was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Witnessing the impact of such health challenges fueled my determination to become a researcher and contribute meaningfully to human health. Since that pivotal moment, I have embraced a profound enthusiasm for science, driven by the quest for answers to unanswered questions. The prospect that my drug discovery initiative could make a meaningful impact on the continuous pursuit of finding effective treatments for cancer serves as a constant source of motivation for me.
What have been some of your best experiences with BCBP?
Working in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics has been a rewarding journey filled with valuable experiences. One of the highlights has been the opportunity to engage in cutting-edge research projects, allowing me to contribute to the advancement of scientific knowledge. I’ve particularly appreciated the department’s commitment to fostering a collaborative and innovative research culture. The chance to attend talks, seminars, and workshops organized by the department has not only broadened my perspective but has also enabled me to stay abreast of the latest developments in biochemistry and biophysics. Moreover, being part of projects that translate fundamental research into practical applications has been especially fulfilling. I served as the vice-chair and then chair of the departmental postdoctoral committee consecutively, contributing to a rewarding leadership experience and enabling me to support the postdoctoral community effectively.
Do you have any advice for current or future trainees at BCBP?
For current and future trainees in our department, I advise embracing curiosity and collaboration. Prioritize effective time management, seek mentorship, and view setbacks as learning opportunities. Stay updated on literature, enhance communication skills, and participate in conferences. Maintain a healthy work-life balance, and, above all, sustain your passion for research. Your time here is an opportunity for growth and meaningful contributions to our scientific community.
What are your favorite activities outside of lab?
I actively participate in social endeavors, such as assisting new Indian students in settling down through my Facebook group “Indians in Chapel Hill.” I create educational content by producing science experiment videos for children, which I share on my YouTube channel, “Science Beyond Books.” On the same platform, I host discussions on science research through my series titled “Science and Research Simplified.” I find joy in spending quality time with my family, particularly by watching movies together. I enjoy both watching and playing cricket with my friends.
Our next post-doc spotlight will be published in the Spring 2024.