October 11th, 2021

By Aparajita Bhattacharya    


Growing up, I was utterly fascinated with the inner workings of the living world. This fascination as well as curiosity led me to major in molecular biology during college. However, my senior year, I found that I lacked work experience in the field and didn’t know how my knowledge from class would apply in the real world. Intending to fill this gap, I landed a credit-based volunteering opportunity in a genetics lab that used Drosophila as a model organism to understand aging and Alzheimer’s disease. This lab experience not only gave me a taste of the world of science, but also helped me to get my first job as a research assistant studying the molecular mechanism of Alzheimer’s disease. We sought to map the molecular causes of protein dysregulation, which lead to amyloid accumulation in the brain, and  eventually result in dementia. Since I am interested in more readily applied research, this project caught my attention. In my own small way, I was addressing a challenge facing human health by advancing the understanding of the origin of Alzheimer’s disease. Feeling fired up from my stint in the research lab, I entered a Master of Research in Molecular and Cellular Biology (MRes), which was like a mini-Ph.D. The program allowed me to assess whether I’d be interested in the commitment of a Ph.D. program.

Aparajita Bhattacharya, PhD Candidate 


As a part of the MRes, I worked in two labs executing two Master’s thesis projects. In the first, I investigated the unorthodox idea of translation in the nucleus using a yeast model in the School of Biosciences. In the second, I studied the effect of specific micro RNAs on insulin resistance at the School of Medicine at the University of Birmingham (UK). These experiences in graduate school gave me the certainty and experience I needed to confidently apply for Ph.D. programs. I felt that my feet were firmly planted and pointed in the right direction. Once I got into the Ph.D. program at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University, I did two rotations in labs that were focussed in similar research areas investigating disease pathways of cardiovascular disease. Although intriguing and highly worthwhile endeavors, I soon realized that the research was not a good fit for me. Additionally, I found that I wanted to work on translational research which has potential to affect patients more directly. Therefore, after two other short stints in Downstate’s labs, I reached out to Dr. Jin Montclare at NYU Tandon. Due to the ties between SUNY Downstate and NYU Tandon, I had heard about their work from some of my fellow graduate students. Once I joined the lab, I immediately found the research to be a good fit. My work in the Montclare lab involves engineering nanoparticles that have the potential to work as cancer therapeutics and diagnostics. This work has made me feel good about the impact I am making in the world of research and in the lives of people suffering from cancer. I have found my new home and couldn’t be more thrilled about it.

 -Edited by Eliza Neidhart