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Student Profile in Histone Variant H3.3

Purbita Saha

Genetics, Development and Disease Graduate Program

Mentors: Laura Banaszynski, Ph.D.
Undergraduate Degree: Master of Science in Biotechnology
Undergraduate Institution: St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata, India
Hometown: Kolkata, India

Purbita Saha

How did you become interested in science and/or research?

My final years in high school helped me find my passion for science. Despite my introverted nature, I found myself seamlessly working as a part of a diverse group of students from across the country at a science camp. This research-oriented camp was my first introduction to biology beyond the high school textbooks. Eventually, during my integrated Master’s program in Biotechnology, I had internship stints in multiple different molecular biology labs which motivated me to pursue graduate studies as well as helped shape my current research interests.

Please describe your research.

I am interested in understanding chromatin-mediated regulation of enhancer activation during embryonic stem cell differentiation. Selective incorporation of histone variants into chromatin at regulatory elements like enhancers and active genes adds to the complexity of epigenetic regulation. It is therefore of great interest to investigate the functional relevance of histone variant H3.3-mediated chromatin dynamics in genome regulation – more specifically the role of H3.3-specific phosphorylation in stimulation of H3K27ac deposition at enhancers. My thesis work involves elucidation of the molecular mechanism by which histone H3.3 specific phosphorylation mediated signaling integration promotes the transcriptional program of mESCs.

Why did you choose UTSW for graduate school?

While applying to different graduate schools, I was looking for a school that had a strong background of exciting and innovative research and faculties who were exploring novel molecular mechanisms underlying diverse biological processes. UT Southwestern was a clear choice since its Umbrella Program for graduate studies provides different research program options facilitating an interdisciplinary approach to biomedical research. Moreover, UT Southwestern also offers a fantastic research infra-structure with exceptional professors, many of them Nobel laureates, and its sterling reputation as a world-renowned institute with major scientific breakthroughs both in the field of basic sciences and their clinical applications.

What do you think makes the Genetics, Development and Disease Program one of the best?

I have benefitted immensely from the focused training provided in the GDD program which warrants our participation in different small group discussions as well as intellectually exciting seminars and lectures on the current advancements in the field of basic molecular, developmental and disease biology. The positive and inclusive scientific environment fostered by the faculty members in the program, as well as UT Southwestern in general, provides encouragement and opportunity for us to broaden our scope of research and to connect and network with the scientists leading their respective field of expertise.

What do you love about the Genetics, Development and Disease Program?

I have always felt very appreciated in this program, due to the different opportunities that were provided in terms of collaborations and platforms to present our work in front of diverse scientific communities. Apart from the different in-house meetings and seminars, the program also hosts a wonderful yearly retreat where the vibrant GDD research community is celebrated by focusing on a healthy exchange of innovative research ideas among the faculties and graduate students alike, which delivers vital encouragement to overcome the challenges of graduate school.

– Purbita Saha

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