"I was a little bit of a late bloomer," admits Mitra '07, referring to the time it took him to decide to focus all his energy on biochemistry at ESU.
Looking at his accomplishments, it's hard to believe that this recent winner of one of the world's most prestigious postdoctoral fellowships was ever anything but focused on his path to a career in cutting-edge research.
Mitra, who received his Ph.D. in analytical chemistry from
The Alexander von
Mitra and German colleague Dr.
Cells respond to nutrient availability, extracellular stimuli and stressors with rapid and reversible modification of glycoproteins, or proteins that contain carbohydrates. Mitra explains protein glycosylation (an enzymatic process that modifies the glycan component of proteins) as a kind of "volume knob to associated biochemical activity or pathways." This signaling is intimately related to certain diseases, including diabetes and cancer. Using a combined biological and chemical approach and microfluidic technologies, the project will be able to track hundreds of different conditions on single cells to reveal how certain glycoproteins are involved in cellular signaling.
He credits ESU's small size and supportive faculty for nurturing his interests and talents and helping him to settle on earning dual degrees in biochemistry and chemical biotechnology.
"I think it would have been much different if I had gone to a bigger school," he said. "The undivided attention I got at ESU made all the difference in gaining confidence."
After graduation from ESU, Mitra worked in the toxicology division at Hoffmann-La Roche in
Analytical chemistry is the field of measuring chemical components in natural and synthetic materials. With the development of better methods and instrumentation, scientists are able to make more accurate, precise and sensitive measurements of trace and unstable materials, as well as to analyze materials or processes never before studied.
At IU, Mitra's research included pioneering methods for disease screening by microchip electrophoresis of glycans and developing chemical strategies for quantitative and structural analysis of glycans, which can change with disease progression (for example, the development of cancer). Comparing changes in glycans in blood samples from cancer patients and disease-free individuals may identify biological markers for the diagnosis and prognosis of cancer and precancerous conditions.
Among his other accomplishments are a half-dozen peer-reviewed publications in international journals, as well as numerous invited lectures at national and international meetings.
In the future, Mitra is more interested in research than teaching. The Humboldt application stemmed partially from the desire to continue his research and partially from a desire to live abroad. His wife,
Kelly said that Mitra is the first ESU chemistry student he can recall who has won such a major fellowship. He adds that Mitra has the perfect personality and skill set for a career in analytical chemistry, but even allowing for a natural fit, he calls his former student "very special."
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