Sumona Dhara: Graduate Researcher Profile

Sumona Dhara earned her MS in Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine from the University of Sheffield in the UK, and then worked for three years as a Molecular Biologist and Project Lead at a Biotech company (Nanosniff Technologies) in Mumbai, India. Since joining the lab of Ava Udvadia in the Biological Sciences Department at UWM in 2016, Sumona has made important advances in understanding the genetic pathways involved in regeneration of neural connections following the damage to nerve cells in the central nervous system (CNS). Sumona’s dissertation work focuses on the regulation of gene expression and neural connection regeneration in the optic nerve of zebrafish, a model organism that is widely used for investigation of vertebrate development and gene function. Her recent discoveries provide valuable insight into the regulatory logic driving successful vertebrate CNS axon regeneration, revealing key gene and gene regulatory candidates for therapeutic development (Dhara et al., 2019Rau et al., 2019).

Sumona has presented her work at several local and national meetings and has been the recipient of several awards while in residence at UWM. This fall she was awarded the competitive R1 Distinguished Dissertation Fellowship from the UWM Graduate School to complete the final chapter of her dissertation research. Sumona’s post-doctoral plans are to continue training in the stem cells and regeneration field with the ultimate goal of returning to the biomedical sector. Sumona envisions a career that will enable her to harness knowledge from fundamental research to implement cell–based therapies that focus on addressing the causes of the disease instead of just treating the symptoms. She says of her experience at UWM: “The guidance of the top-notch faculty in the department has helped me to excel as a scientist and has greatly increased my competitiveness in my field of specialty, regenerative biology. Being part of a university with such a diverse population of students has given me the much-needed international exposure. Thus, a graduate degree from the Biological Sciences department at this R1 University will help launch my scientific career and is an ideal preparation for the type of advanced research I hope to accomplish in my future.”

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