Published January 8, 2018
Aesha Y. Desai, PhD, postdoctoral associate in the Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences, has earned an American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB)/European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) Minorities Affairs Committee Travel Award for her research in the role of nanophotonics in stem cell regulation.
She received the award for attending and presenting at the ASCB/EMBO meeting in Philadelphia in December 2017. She had submitted an abstract and was informed that she had won the award about a month before the meeting.
“Aesha is a hard worker, thinks deeply about her work, reads extensively, and is the lab member who most frequently comes to me with ideas and recent papers of interest,” says her mentor, Yongho Bae, PhD, assistant professor of pathology and anatomical sciences.
Desai’s engineering background has served her and the department well in current research. She earned a bachelor’s degree in biological science, a master’s degree in bioengineering and a doctoral degree in bioengineering, all from Clemson University.
She is currently working on research involving the Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences and the Department of Electrical Engineering.
“This project is in collaboration with three different faculty members and two different departments,” Desai says. “We are combining two different systems — nanophotonics and optogenetics.”
Michal K. Stachowiak, PhD, professor of pathology and anatomical sciences, and Bae are working on developing an optogenetics system while Josep M. Jornet, PhD, assistant professor of electrical engineering, is working on the nanophotonic aspect of the research by designing a new nanolaser.
“Aesha has been a bridge between pathology and anatomical sciences and electrical engineering due to her background in engineering,” says Stachowiak, Desai’s co-mentor.
“Aesha works independently on a daily basis, and in a few short months has improved our methodology for optogenetics, developed plasmid DNA-mediated overexpression of stem cells, 3D spheroids, and pioneered force mapping by atomic force microscopy,” Bae says. “I am extremely encouraged by her productivity and enthusiasm to date.”
Desai has only been at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences since May 2017, but is quickly garnering praise and recognition for her work.
“She’s been excellent as a supervisor of graduate students. Aesha’s role is not just as a researcher to conduct experiments, but also to supervise and mentor junior students who are in her team,” Stachowiak says.
In June 2017, Desai earned first prize for best incUBation report in the Department of Medicine’s Research Day for her presentation “Lamellipodin — A Potential Player in Vascular Smooth Muscle Cell Stiffness and Function.”
Desai was praised by Bae and Stachowiak for her energy and productivity. They both say she has been a strong addition to their labs.
“Aesha is an extremely pleasant person, yet very serious about her work and research career. She is always striving to find the most interesting and novel aspect of a research project,” Bae adds.
The research project is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation.
The travel awards are supported by an Innovative Programs to Enhance Research Training grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences/NIH.