Visitor of the Week: Sulagna Das


Meet Sulagna Das of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. A postdoctoral fellow in Robert H. Singer’s lab, Sulagna was on campus for her first CSHL meeting, Single Biomolecules. She also presented a talk titled “Simultaneous imaging of activity-regulated endogenous mRNAs in hippocampal neurons.”

What are your research interests? What are you working on?
My research focuses on visualizing single mRNAs in space and time in hippocampal neurons, and understanding how their dynamics contribute to long-term memory formation and maintenance.
How did you decide to make this the focus of your research?
I have been studying neuroscience since my first foray into research! Our amazing capability to learn and remember relevant information always intrigued me, and when I learned from Eric Kandel’s work that underlying memory storage is a dialogue between genes and synapses, I decided to focus on this exciting field. To understand how this dialogue is maintained over space and time, the live single molecule imaging of mRNAs and proteins in neurons is important. 
How did your scientific journey begin? 
I was inspired by my grandfather who was a scientist and solving equations about mechanical fatigue even at the age of 80. He always said that the power of observation can unravel lots of scientific mysteries which triggered my interest in biology, a dynamic system where you can learn a lot by observing complex cellular behavior. 
Was there something specific about Single Biomolecules meeting that drew you to attend?
The first Single Biomolecules meeting at CSHL is very timely, especially since the field is rapidly expanding. More and more people have adopted single molecule imaging to understand the complex dynamic behavior of their favorite biomolecule. I was specifically interested in the new improvements to the imaging technologies, better image analysis methods, and how one can use these technologies to understand gene expression.   

What is your key takeaway from the meeting?
How biological systems work is an example of how chemicals interact in different physical dimensions to bring out the complex behavior. The Single Biomolecules meeting brought together physicists, chemists, and biologists with the sole aim of trying to deconvolve complex biological systems to single molecules and understand how each of these molecules interact to determine cellular structure and functions.  

What did you pick up or learn from the meeting that you plan to apply to your work?  
One of the challenges in single molecule imaging is to discern signal from noise in our live imaging datasets. To analyze the datasets with robustness and precision is something I tried to pick up from the meeting. I have established contacts, where an exchange of resources for data analysis will help me in my future experiments.  

If someone curious in attending a future iteration of this meeting asked you for feedback or advice on it, what would you tell him/her?
This meeting was a great learning experience and the close interactions developed during the meeting can lead to potential collaborations in the near future. I would strongly encourage everyone working on single molecule imaging or planning to work on it, to attend this meeting. It was the perfect combination of the technological advancements in the field and the applications to various biological problems.  

What do you like most about your time at CSHL?
My time at CSHL has been rewarding both scientifically and as a way to take a break from the hustle of city life! This is a great place to do and think about science while you take a long walk in the campus soaking in the great views and incredible history of the place.

Thank you to Sulagna 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.

Photo by: Sulagna Das