Dr. Manveen K Sethi serves as Instructor of Biochemistry at the Boston University School of Medicine, USA. She did her Ph.D. at Macquarie University (MQ), Australia, under the primary supervision of Dr. Morten Thaysen-Andersen,where she utilized mass spectrometry proteomics and glycomics analysis to understand underlying molecular mechanisms in colorectal cancer . After her Ph.D., she joined Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), USA, as a postdoctoral associate under Prof. Joseph Zaia, where she is currently employed in a research faculty-track position of Instructor. Her research work involves identifying and characterizing biomolecules such as proteins and glycans using mass spectrometry techniques and utilizing this information to understand biomolecular deregulation in human diseases, such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Recently, she received a Bright Focus Foundation fellowship award to investigate extracellular matrix changes in Alzheimer’s disease.
I was born and raised in India, a highly diverse and multicultural country, yet one where patriarchy holds power and women are presumed weaker. I grew up in a middle-class family and was the middle child with an elder sister and a younger brother. Even though we were raised with equal opportunities with respect to education and well-being, I have seen the disparity in other households where a male was allowed opportunities not open to a female. Thus, growing up, I always wanted to prove that females are no less than males; they can go beyond the household, achieve and fulfill their dreams, and excel professionally. I believe my unique personal circumstances and surroundings made me a hard worker who overcomes challenging problems with creativity and perseverance. Unfortunately, even science is not immune to such disparities and inequalities, with only one-third of women researchers globally. Thus, I realized at the very beginning that being a female in the world of science is not easy. I have to work hard to fit in with the challenging science world. On one side, I have to tackle my job. On another side, I have to tackle my personal life as a wife and a mother but creating a balance in scientific and personal life is essential to embrace life both as a scientist and a woman with dedication and diligence.
I have lived a cosmopolitan life, traveling and living in different countries and attending conferences worldwide. I have studied in India and Australia and worked in India, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Thus, I have been exposed to diverse peoples, cultures, and traditions. I believe the cross-culture experience helped my personality development and played a significant role in my personal and professional life.
I have always been inquisitive. When I was a child, I questioned the smallest day-to-day things from “why a firefly light” to “why onion made us cry.” With a childhood science interest, I eventually pursued a bachelor in science (honors.) in chemistry, followed by a master in science chemistry degree from Delhi University, India.
After completing my master’s degree with an academic excellence award, I attained UKIERI (UK-India education research initiative) fellowship to work as a trainee research chemist at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), United Kingdom. This was an exceptional opportunity that enhanced my professional and personal skills. I also received a GSK reward and recognition for my work. After this, I briefly worked as a research chemist in India before attaining International Macquarie Research Scholarship (IMQRES) to pursue a Ph.D. degree at Macquarie University, Australia, with Dr. Morten Thaysen-Andersen, who is an internationally recognized researcher in the field of glycomics and glycoproteomics. Early in my career, I have had a desire to study human health and disease. During my Ph.D., I became devoted to making an impact in the field of cancer, evident by my scientific contributions to the field, including my frequently cited CRC paper (Sethi MK et al., J Proteome Res, 2014, IF 4.3, 85 citations, Sethi MK et al., J proteomics, 2015, IF 3.5,53 citations). My article Sethi et al., Glycobiology, 25(10):1064, 2015 (IF 4.0, 54 citations), due to its innovation and novelty, was selected as a front cover on all 12 journal issues throughout 2016. After my Ph.D., I was offered a postdoctoral research fellowship at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), USA, under Prof. Joseph Zaia, an internationally acclaimed leader in mass spectrometry (MS) and Glycoscience. Currently, I work at Boston University as the Instructor of Biochemistry, a research faculty track at BU, and my next position will be Assistant Research Professor. At BU, I have learned (and further developed) MS-based techniques of proteoglycans (PGs) and glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) (Sethi MK et al., Mol Omics, 2020; Raghunathan R, Sethi MK, et al., Methods X, 2019) and applied these techniques to disease models in neurodegeneration including Schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) as evidenced by my recent publications (Muraoka S*, DeLeo AM, Sethi MK* (*co-first author) Alzheimer’s Dement. 2020; Chen J, Kawamura T, Sethi MK, et al., Sci Rep, 2017).
I have been fortunate to provide my service to the scientific community as an Instrument Manager for Thermo QExactive HF mass spectrometer at Center for Biomedical Mass Spectrometry, Boston University, President of Boston Glycobiology Discussion Group (BGDG), and as a reviewer for many renowned scientific journals. I have widely disseminated my research at prestigious national/international conferences with the aid of several travel awards and research fundings that I attained independently throughout my career, which has augmented my communication and collaboration skills. I have always believed that “education goes beyond the formal delivery setting,” and thus, with limited teaching opportunities, I have found ways to teach/ mentor students in laboratory research and remote learning settings.
My graduate and postdoctoral research career has set the stage to pursue an independent career to address complex bioanalytical chemistry and neurobiology questions. I have recently been awarded my first fellowship grant as an independent principal investigator from the Bright Focus Foundation. I intend to investigate the role of extracellular matrix components in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). I plan to expand further my findings and accomplishments from this project with the aid of successful future grant applications to solve major challenges in AD, expedite clinical and translational research and discovery, uncover therapeutic options, and build a knowledge base. My long-term career objective is to establish an analytical glycobiology research group focusing on unraveling the biomolecular deregulations in neurodegenerative disorders, specifically AD. I am confident that with my strong theoretical and practical background, research expertise in biochemistry and analytical chemistry, and a multidisciplinary profile, I will contribute to society’s welfare and strengthen scientific research and discovery to improve patient health and quality of life.
Written by: Manveen K. Sethi
Edited by: Govinda Raju Yedida (Volunteer, Bio Patrika)