I am a neuroscientist and biomedical engineer. I will be starting my lab on Sensorimotor Neuroengineering as an Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery at the Indiana School of Medicine (IUSM), Indiana University, Indianapolis, in Jan 2021. My lab will be located in the Stark Neurosciences Research Institute – an interdisciplinary research institute affiliated with Indiana School of Medicine. I will be involved in pre-clinical animal research as well as clinical research at IUSM. I am currently transitioning from a postdoctoral associate position in the Neurosurgery Department of Duke University Medical Center.
I build neural engineering technologies with the aim of treating neurological disorders. I work in an area that encompasses multiple interdisciplinary domains of research including engineering, neuroscience, and medicine. My areas of specialization are brain-machine interfaces and neuromodulation. I use multi-electrode neurophysiological recordings and electrical stimulation of the nervous system to design therapeutic strategies for treating disorders that affect the nervous system; I also use these same tools to probe and learn how the brain works.
Before moving to the US for graduate school, I grew up in India. My foray into neuroengineering stems from my interests in ideas of transcendence and human augmentation which I came across while reading books on science fiction and Indian philosophy during my adolescent years in India. After moving to the US I realized that the field of neuroengineering, and more specifically brain-machine interfaces, would one day allow humans to transcend the limits of our physical and mental existence. This naturally gravitated me to the laboratory of Dr. Miguel Nicolelis at Duke University where I obtained my Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering. During my graduate work in the Nicolelis lab, I learnt several skills which enabled me to develop novel research ideas, build neurotechnologies, and apply these technologies to the treatment of neurological disorders. To Dr. Nicolelis’s credit, he gave me immense freedom to pursue my own independent ideas right from day one of my PhD, a trait that I hope to emulate while training my own students and trainees.
I performed my first scientific experiment in mice when I was mentored by two talented postdocs in the Nicolelis lab: Dr. Romulo Fuentes; and Dr. Kafui Dzirasa. All of my PhD work was performed with rats. The work I developed during my PhD had several clinical applications, and hence I decided to move up the evolutionary chain during my postdoc and test my ideas in monkeys. Although this was a steep learning curve, working with monkeys was an extremely rewarding experience. Once I was confident that my ideas worked in monkeys, I decided that it was finally time to test them in humans. Therefore, currently I am working as a postdoc in Duke Neurosurgery, where I collaborate with several neurosurgeons to implement and test my ideas in patients. In my experience, transitioning from monkey research to human research has been far more challenging than going from rodents to monkeys because of the extremely tedious process of getting IRB approvals for human work. This has been a great learning experience for me and I can proudly say that I’ve gradually worked my way from small animals (rodents) to large animals (macaques) to humans.
As an Assistant Professor in the department of Neurological Surgery I aim to continue building neurotechnologies for brain-machine interfaces and spinal cord neuromodulation. I plan to continue working with surgeons, clinicians, scientists, and engineers to augment, improve, and restore the human condition — which we so deeply cherish and yet which is so susceptible to diseases and disorders.