Visitor of the Week: Parul Maheshwari


Meet Parul Maheshwari of the Pennsylvania State University! A member of Prof. Reka Albert’s lab, the graduate student participated in this week’s Cellular Dynamics & Models meeting. And at her first meeting in CSHL, she presented a talk titled “Causal logic analysis of a dynamic model of plant signaling uncovers new, experimentally verified regulation”.

What are your research interests? What are you working on?
My research interests are modeling and simulation of intracellular biological networks. I am currently working on improvising a Boolean network model for guard cell signaling which models the closing of stomata in response to abscisic acid (ABA).

How did you decide to make this the focus of your research?
I had worked on causal logic analysis of Boolean networks earlier and I was looking for an interesting biological network to apply this method to. The ABA network is one of the few networks that have a great scope of iterative experimental and simulations-based analysis and the questions currently posited with this model have significant correlation with the theoretical understanding of the underlying network structure and dynamics. Hence, causal logic analysis of the different versions of this model proved to be definitely an interesting way of understanding the biological likelihood of those model versions.

How did your scientific journey begin?
In high school, I visited the space research center in my town (Ahmedabad, India) where some of the scientists that work there showed some really amazing pictures they’d taken during their work. It actually motivated me to pursue astronomy which turned into an aspiration to pursue astrophysics. However, different courses in college changed my interests over time and led me to biophysics.

Was there something specific about the Cellular Dynamics & Models meeting that drew you to attend?
It was mostly encouraged by my colleagues who had been to this meeting in the past. They told me of how this meeting is very relevant to my work and encouraged me to attend.

What is your key takeaway from the meeting?
While I have been working with intracellular networks during most of grad school, the work presented at this conference made me realize the major significance, complexity and variety of cellular dynamics research. In addition, and though not a direct takeaway, this meeting made me realize that--especially as a grad student--it is highly important to be involved in research that excites you more than anything else.

What did you pick up or learn from the meeting that you plan to apply to your work?
I learned about various approaches to model intracellular networks and it definitely encouraged me to think in a certain way to approach the research problems I am currently working on. I also met with people who are working on very similar systems as I am and I think these interactions could lead to a fruitful collaboration at some point!

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?
I would advise that this meeting pertains to a rather specific topic of cellular dynamics and model and if their work is related to it, they’ll likely get a lot of interest and feedback here. Not only are most attendees highly enthusiastic about their own work, they are also very interested in everyone else’s work. Especially when it comes to giving a talk, your experience is a lot improved if the audience is highly interested in what you’re speaking.

This is your first meeting at CSHL - what did you think it?
This CSHL meeting itself is a lot like what I’d imagined it would be like. It is small but still full of varied presentations. I expected the laboratory itself to be more like a tall building located on the harbor but I am surprised and very pleased by the fact that this place is a lot more spread out, rustic, and integrated with its surroundings; plus a beautiful hiking trail and beach area!

What do you like most about your time at CSHL?
I love the location of the Cold Spring Harbor Lab--it is very serene and calming! I am also having a lot of fun talking with the other graduate students attending this meeting. We’ve found ourselves discussing a lot of non-science stuff like popular and social dynamics, politics, etc. It is interesting how I have met many other graduate students here whose major is not biology but other relevant sciences like Math, Computer Science, Physics, etc.

Thank you to Parul 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.