Where Are They Now? Kellogg School Alumnus Satchidananda Panda

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 opsins—light-capturing proteins in eye's rods and cones—are 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, India.

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 Oscillator"

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 papers—it 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 community—I 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 students—and many more postdocs—students 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




Satchindananda Panda (class of '01) conducts research on circadian rhythms. Photo by Kevin Fung.