Visitor of the Week: Viraj Doddihal

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Meet Viraj Doddihal of the Stowers Institute for Medical Research. The Indian national is a graduate student in Alejandro Sanchez Alvarado’s lab and, for two weeks, was on campus for the Proteomics course. 

What are your research interests? What are you working on?
I am studying animal tissue regeneration, using the planarian flatworm as a model system. My project focuses on studying the role of protein phosphorylation in the planarian regeneration. 

How did you decide to make this the focus of your research? 
I was introduced to regeneration biology during my undergraduate studies at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research in Pune, India. I was fascinated by this phenomenon and worked a semester with Dr. Girish Ratnaparkhi studying Hydra regeneration. I next worked on planarian regeneration with Dr. Dasaradhi Palakodeti at the Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine (inStem) at NCBS in Bengaluru, India. These early experiences in regeneration biology helped me choose my current project at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research.     

How did your scientific journey begin? 
I think it is to a large extent because of my parents and my family. They have always allowed me to question and explore as per my curiosity. In addition, they made sure I received the best possible education which led to me attending high school at Sri Ramakrishna Vidyashala in Mysuru. My very inspirational high school teachers laid the foundation for my career in science.

Searching for proteins. Photo: Viraj Doddihal

Searching for proteins.
Photo: Viraj Doddihal

Was there something specific about the Proteomics course that drew you to apply?
The course has a good balance of theory, experiments, and data analysis. I wanted to learn how to use mass spectrometers (MS), and analyze the big data sets generated from discovery proteomics experiments.  

What and/or how will you apply what you've learned from the course to your work? 
The course gave me an in-depth understanding of MS and other techniques that are available to study proteins in conjugation with MS. I plan to utilize these techniques as a new tool kit to probe regeneration in planarians.  

What is your key takeaway from the course?
In addition to understanding the power of mass spectrometry to study proteins in cells and tissues, the key takeaway for me was to always design orthogonal experiments to address any question. We, the students of the course asked a variety of fundamental biological questions, but are all using proteomics as an approach. This helped me appreciate the power of proteomics to answer questions in biology.

Sailing trip Photo: Viraj Doddihal

Sailing trip
Photo: Viraj Doddihal

If someone curious in attending this course asked you for feedback or advice on it, what would you tell him/her?
I would strongly encourage them to attend the course. Anybody interested in understanding the workings of MS and design of proteomics experiments should definitely attend the course. Additionally, the course provides a good balance of academia and industry thus giving students an opportunity to explore both the fields. 

What do you like most about your time at CSHL?
I really enjoyed our walks to the beach and the student gatherings we had there. We all enjoyed our sailing trip. The daily hike up the beautiful hill for the classes made sure that I got some exercise after sumptuous meals. 

I would like to thank the instructors and TAs for relentlessly answering all our questions and making the course fun and fruitful. Also, a big thank you to all my friends from this course who made it a memorable experience. 

Thank you to Viraj for being this week's featured visitor. To meet other featured scientists - and discover the wide range of science that takes part in a CSHL meeting or course - go here.