Written by Nóra Lehotai and Debojyoti Das.
I had a chat with Debojyoti Das, a senior research assistant in the Bushell lab. He joined MIMS in January 2020 and since then he is balancing his time between different countries, traveling to visit his wife who has recently joined as an assistant professor in their home country, India.
Picture: Debojyoti Das in Jasmund National Park, Rügen island, Germany, photo credit: Moupriya Das.
Can you tell us about your role at MIMS, what are you working on now?
“Currently, I am a senior research assistant in Dr. Ellen Bushell’s lab, which is part of MIMS and the Department of Molecular Biology. The lab primarily works to understand the molecular mechanisms that underpin the malaria infection that would hopefully eventually lead to the development of new anti-malaria drugs and/or vaccines.”
The group studies the rodent malaria parasite, Plasmodium berghei, and employs high throughput phenotyping methods that combine pooled transfections and barcode sequencing technologies to phenotype hundreds of gene knockout mutants in parallel.
“My role in this project is to process the generated next-generation sequencing (NGS) library data, using both existing and new bioinformatics pipelines that we developed in-house, in our lab. I am also involved in the development of novel single-cell sequencing methods in collaboration with Johan Henriksson, who is another PI at MIMS.”
What were you doing before you joined MIMS and what attracted you to start a position here?
Debojyoti did his doctoral studies in India. Then he was a postdoc in the US for 3,5 years, in two labs.
“My first postdoc was at Harvard for one and a half years, where I was studying polymersomes. I was studying phenomenological equations that dealt with polymersomes. The idea was that oscillatory reactions enclosed in the polymersomes would induce fission and mimic the mitotic division. We were trying to come up with mathematical models to understand these processes.”
Then he switched fields completely and joined the next lab at the University of North Dakota.
“There, I worked on a project which needed me to assemble snapping turtle genome.”
Snapping turtles lay eggs and cover them with soil. After that, based on the incubation temperature, either male or female turtles are born. High temperature gives rise to females while lower temperatures produce all males. Turtles in general are endangered, so this study can give some information about the impact global warming can have on such species.
Debojyoti is truly an interdisciplinary researcher who moved from chemistry and mathematical modeling to bioinformatics.
To the question of what attracted him to MIMS, he tells:
“My wife was in Boston at the time when I was in the US as well but then she transitioned to Dresden in Germany. I was looking for the next step of my career to be closer to her in Europe. I found the advertisement for Ellen and Johan’s joint project very interesting, and I applied for the position and was subsequently hired.“
If you would not have your current profession, what do you think you would be doing?
“I would be a teacher, I guess. I could teach chemistry, math, and physics. I wanted to be a medical doctor, but it is very competitive in India to get into the program. Eventually, after a Master’s degree in Chemistry with Physical chemistry specialization, I decided to enroll in the doctoral program. I enjoy my life as a researcher and hope to stay in academia for the rest of my life.”
Picture: Annual cross country skiing relay (KBC-stafetten 2022). In the picture Shishir Upadhyay, Shruti Choudhary, Anju Bala, and Debojyoti Das (From left to right.) photo credit: Pooja Dixit.
What do you do in your free time and what are you most enjoying in living in Umeå, Sweden?
“I go to IKSU a lot. I play badminton and beach volleyball with my friends in the department/ University. I like to hike a lot. I had no hiking experience before moving to Sweden, but I really enjoy it now. Besides, there are many potluck dinners and parties with friends that I enjoy a lot.
I think that there is a great work-life balance here. You can choose your working hours, you can invest time, and have your personal space. For me, coming from a super densely populated area, I really appreciate the life here. Sweden is very clean, and the scenic beauty is unmatched.”
Is there a little known/interesting fact about yourself?
“I am an atrocious singer, and my friends hate me for it, but I like to do it anyway.”
Another little secret: Sophia Hernandez (lab colleague) and I are birthday twins. Interestingly, two other former postdocs in the department are also birthday twins. “