About the PI

I am a structural biochemist, molecular biophysicist, and molecular and cellular biologist with research interests focused mainly upon proteins (i.e., the science, design and engineering of proteins, as well as protein-related or protein-derived technologies). I work, or have worked, with questions relating to the folding, misfolding, stability, activity, and interactions of a wide variety of recombinant, naturally-occurring and designed/redesigned proteins from the mesophile, thermophile, hyperthermophile and psychrophile domains of life, which have been expressed and purified from microbial cell factories in their native or engineered forms.

I use (and teach) over twenty five different biophysical and biochemical techniques, ranging over electronic absorption, fluorescence, and circular dichroism spectroscopies in the equilibrium and stopped-flow modes, vibrational (FTIR) spectroscopy, mass spectrometry, dynamic and static light scattering, differential scanning and isothermal titration calorimetry, scanning probe microscopy, confocal and widefield as well as super-resolution optical microscopy, analytical ultracentrifugation, surface plasmon resonance-based as well as biolayer interferometry-based methods, fluorescence-activated cytometry, microscale thermophoresis, and various biomolecular (electrophoretic and chromatographic) separation methods in the synthesis, sequencing, preparation, purification or analysis of proteins, DNA and carbohydrates.

In collaboration with others, I also use nuclear and electron spin spectroscopies, X-ray diffraction and molecular dynamics and other computations, as well as scanning and transmission electron microscopies. I like to work with different protein systems, questions and methods to expand my own horizons, and those of my students and coworkers, and to learn more and more about the range of behaviors that proteins show.

I study many proteins in many different ways, and in respect of many different research questions having to do with protein folding, misfolding, structure, stability, activity and interactions with proteins and with other molecules. The diversity of my group’s interests and contributions make it difficult to create a summary, but it would not be out of place to say that my group has engineered more proteins in more ways, to ask (as well as answer) more types of questions, and also develop and demonstrate more approaches in protein engineering than any other contemporary research group that we know of. A lot of the group’s work is published, but a substantial fraction of it is either in the pipeline to publication, or in preparation for publication.

Key contributions include a patented method for surface transplantation between globular proteins with a high degree of backbone atom structural homology, and the discovery and elucidation of novel structure-dependent excitation, fluorescence and circular dichroism phenomena in peptides and proteins,  from peptide bonds (originating in delocalized electrons that hop over hydrogen-bonds to other molecules, or to other parts of the same protein molecule, from the carbonyl oxygens in peptide bonds).

CURRENT POSITION : Since 2010, I have been a full Professor at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Mohali, Punjab, India (which is an educational and research institute run by the government of India, like the Indian Institutes of Technology, or the Indian Institutes of Management). Since July of 2023, I have been a professor in the Higher Administrative Grade (HAG).

MENTORING AND SUPERVISION : So far, 18 Ph.D students have graduated from my lab, and there are 5 others in the pipeline; over 15 MS thesis students have also graduated; I have mentored and advised numerous project assistants and research interns, as well as 6 past and current postdoctoral fellows.

PREVIOUS RESEARCH POSITIONS : I am a Principal Investigator (PI) in the area of protein science, design and engineering; I’ve been a PI in these areas since 1996, when I began my first independent position at the age of 30; before moving to IISER, and until 2010, I worked for 14 years as CSIR-Scientist C, EI, EII and F, at the Institute of Microbial Technology (IMTECH), Chandigarh; before that, I was a Wellcome Trust International Fellow at the Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge, working with Prof. Richard N Perham, in the mid nineteen nineties (1994-1996); prior to that I did my Ph.D (graduating in January 1994) at the CCMB at Hyderabad, with Prof. D. Balasubramanian; I started my Ph.D after graduating from BITS Pilani (1983-1988) with dual degrees in science and engineering;

PAPERS AND PATENTS : My research group has published close to eighty research papers, with over a dozen others in the pipeline; papers in the pipeline emerge slowly due to current administrative and teaching preoccupations; my research group holds several process and product patents in the area of Protein Engineering, in India, Australia, four countries in Europe (UK, Germany, France and Denmark), and a US process patent. We also have numerous knowhows relating to protein reagents which we will be happy to share with companies that are interested. Please go through the relevant section on the website.

ADMINISTRATION AND COMMUNITY SERVICE IN SCIENCE : I have been the founder Head of the Department of Biological Sciences at IISER Mohali, which is now a thriving department with twenty five independent research groups in all areas of biology; I have also been the Dean, Research and Development, at IISER, as well as Director of a Center of Excellence in Protein Science, Design and Engineering (CPSDE), and the Coordinator of IISER’s upcoming Technology Business Incubator (TBI) at IISER. I have been an executive secretary of the Indian Biophysical Society; I have participated in numerous government task forces on Enzymes, Energy Biosciences, Basic Biomolecular Sciences, and in the scientific advisory councils of several research entities. I am currently the Dean of Faculty Affairs at IISER Mohali.

TEACHING : I have taught over 25 courses at the BS-MS and Ph.D levels since I joined IISER in 2010; one of these courses, which has been extremely popular, is called ‘Principles underlying instrumental methods of biomacromolecular analyses’; in this course, I typically teach the underlying principles of over twenty different techniques; two other popular courses that I have taught have been ‘protein engineering’ and ‘advanced biochemistry’. I also teach numerous mandatory courses like ‘laboratory on biophysical and spectroscopic tools’, and have taught ‘introduction to cell biology’.