Where Are They Now? Kellogg School Alumnus Satchidananda
Position: Institute Fellow, Genomics Institute of
the Novartis Research Foundation (GNF)
Research: Panda is conducting a variety of projects
investigating circadian rhythms, the biological processes
that fluctuate daily, rising and falling at predictable times
of day and night.
One recent study used a genomics approach in both Drosophila
and laboratory mice to identify genes expressed rhythmically
over a 24-hour period. "We found hundreds of genes regulated
in a circadian pattern," says Panda. "Few other biological
systems affect so many different genes in so many different
tissue types." (Cell, May 3, 2002; The Journal of Neuroscience,
Nov. 1, 2002). Further studies will expand this investigation.
In another line of research, Panda has worked with colleagues
to understand the mechanisms that reset the circadian clock
and thereby help us adjust our body clocks to different time
zones and to different day lengths with change of season.
The scientists demonstrated that the gene Opn4, which codes
for the light-sensitive protein melanopsin, is involved in
this process (Science, December 13, 2002). The scientists
went on to demonstrate that both melanopsin and rod/cone opsinslight-capturing
proteins in eye's rods and conesare necessary for optimal
synchronization to a 24-hour cycle, but that either protein
helps to compensate if the other is lacking (Science,
July 25, 2003).
Recently, Panda has also become interested in the developmental
biology of the eye, especially in the gene expression and
regulatory network that determines eye function.
Recent Honors: Panda's work on melanopsin was cited
by the Science magazine among the top ten breakthroughs
of 2002. In 2003, Panda was recognized as a finalist for the
Science-Eppendorf Neuroscience award.
Education: B.S., Orissa University of Agriculture
and Technology, India; M.S., Tamilnadu Agricultural University,
Graduated from The Kellogg School of Science and Technology
at The Scripps Research Institute: 2001
Thesis Title: "TEJ Defines a Role for Poly (ADP-Ribosyl)ation
in Establishing Period Length of the Arabidopsis Circadian
His Advisor Recalls...: Professor Steve Kay, who
was Panda's advisor at Scripps Research, says, "From the very
first time he approached me, I knew Satchin was someone special.
He e-mailed me from the wilds of Canada to challenge one of
our papersit was one the most salient critiques of our
work I had ever read. In the lab he has the unique ability
to both innovate and execute. I hope he remains in
the San Diego communityI would welcome him as a long-term
colleague. His ability to command new fields is inspiring."
Panda Recalls...: "When I started graduate school,
10,000 entries were in Genbank. When I finished, there were
10 million. Steve is exactly the kind of forward thinker a
student wants as an advisor in this rapidly changing field.
In general, Scripps Research offers its students a unique
learning environment. Because there are more faculty members
than graduate studentsand many more postdocsstudents
are largely treated as junior colleagues."
Career Goals: A position in academia conducting research
that draws on strategies used in industry. "In industry, it
is not uncommon to work on five to ten different problems
at once. It is also commonplace to collect input from a team
of experts with different specialties. In most cases, one
gene does not determine one phenomenon, but many. Collaborations
across disciplines are necessary to determine how a gene affects
a whole system."
Extracurriculars: Playing with his one-year-old daughter.
Also, photography. "When you have a child, you become a photographer."
Panda now has several cameras and a darkroom to develop prints.
Send comments to: mikaono[at]scripps.edu