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Celebrating a Research Milestone: Ashoka’s First Science Ph.D. Graduates from the Department of Biology

Ashoka University is delighted to announce that Basabi Bagchi, its first Science Ph.D. graduate, will be conferred her degree at the Convocation 2024 ceremony on May 24th, 2024

Ashoka University proudly celebrates the graduation of Basabi Bagchi from the Department of Biology, marking her as the first graduate from the sciences. Under the supervision of Prof. Imroze Khan, Basabi conducted research in the field of Evolutionary Immunology. Since childhood, she has been fascinated by the natural world and its mechanisms, particularly intrigued by the interplay between pathogens and their hosts, with a specific focus on Evolutionary Biology, the study of how species evolve and adapt over time.

Prof. Imroze Khan’s research in Evolutionary Immunology instantly resonated with Basabi’s interest. Her eagerness to understand various facets of immune system evolution led her to choose Ashoka University for her Ph.D. As one of the pioneering students in the Department of Biology, Basabi encountered unique and sometimes challenging experiences during the initial months of her Ph.D. She played a key role in setting up a new laboratory space, an initially overwhelming task that proved immensely valuable for her. This opportunity allowed her to grasp the intricate details associated with establishing a new lab from scratch, from equipment set up to ensuring safety standards. This experience not only enhanced her practical laboratory skills, but also deepened her appreciation for the logistics involved in creating a research environment.

The immune responses of our body against harmful diseases can cause unintended damage to the healthy tissues and cause mutations in the DNA sequence. Basabi’s research focused on studying the transgenerational inheritance of genetic errors. She worked with a species of beetle, Tribolium castaneum, infecting them to observe how mutations induced by infection could be passed down to future generations. This work showed how infection in parents can lead to progressive decline in progeny fitness over generations

She then delved deep to understand whether evolution could offer a solution to mitigate these harmful effects? Further experiments with Tribolium lines subjected to intense pathogen exposures over multiple generations helped answer this question. Astonishingly, she found that the evolved lines exhibited a significant reduction in mutation transmission to subsequent generations and continued to produce healthy offspring despite facing infections. This suggested a rapid evolution of germline repair mechanisms to counteract the infection. Thus, her study revealed the transmission of mutations could have an unrecognized cost of immunity. It also demonstrates the ability of organisms to adapt to adverse conditions.

She recalls her research journey as a Ph.D. scholar at Ashoka University to be immensely fulfilling. The university’s emphasis on interdisciplinary learning has played an instrumental role in shaping her academic journey. The faculty and peers at Ashoka helped cultivate a supportive research environment with a strong emphasis on open communication and collaboration. During Basabi’s time at Ashoka, she had the opportunity to attend various seminars, workshops, and conferences held on campus, which greatly expanded her perspective on different areas of interdisciplinary sciences.

Additionally, the Research and Development Office at Ashoka University empowers Ph.D. scholars to participate in conferences and workshops at both national and international levels. This support enables Basabi and her peers to connect with leading researchers in their respective fields.

Currently engaged in post-doctoral research at the University of Montana, Basabi’s doctoral experience has equipped her to explore new projects and deepen her understanding of Evolutionary Biology. With a passion for both research and teaching, she aspires to pursue a career in academia. Ashoka University extends heartfelt congratulations to Basabi Bagchi and wishes her continued success as she embarks on this exciting new chapter.

Written by Kangna Verma (Intern, Academic Communications, RDO) and edited by Yukti Arora (Senior Manager, Academic Communications, RDO)

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