CSCI Trainee Spotlight

Each month, the CSCI Trainee Council will feature a trainee of the CSCI member labs to learn about what inspired these talented researchers, what brought them to their field of study, and the questions that drive their work.

March 2023: Hemanta Sarmah

Role in Lab: Postdoctoral Research Scholar

Name of Lab: Stem Cell Core

What is your academic background?

BS-MS Int. (Biological Sciences) IISER Kolkata, India

PhD, OIST Graduate University, Japan

What is your current research? What do you like most about it and how do you feel it contributes to the bigger picture?

My current research involves exhaustive application of CRISPR-Cas9 based gene editing in pluripotent cell types such as iPSCs and ESCs as an in-vitro model to study the genetic basis of various human diseases. Our research method involves a two-pronged approach – (1) Investigating mutations, SNPs and other forms of allelic variations in patient cohorts of a certain disease, and using gene-editing technology to recover regions of the genome that is likely to cause the disease, and (2) Using reverse genetics to model a disease or pathophysiological condition in wild-type cells.

Pluripotent stem cells can be tuned to recapitulate a state of early embryonic development. They can be used as excellent in-vitro models to study genetic and environmental contributions to various diseases. As part of the Columbia Stem Cell core, I am involved in provides tools and resources to researchers both within and outside the university. We strive for excellence at every possible level that can help improve human health and welfare.

What inspired you to choose the stem cell field?

I don’t think I chose the stem cell field. During my graduate school training, I has a hard time studying mouse gastrulation using in-vivo tissue samples. In a way I was forced to come to terms with ES/iPS cell biology and its immense potential to model embryonic development, in-vitro. Thus began my journey into the stem cell field that gets more and more fascinating with every passing day.

How did you get interested in science?

The objective approach appealed more during my early days.

What is the most important lesson you have learned in your career so far?

Hard work is simply not enough, smart work (and collaboration) is the way to go.

 As a senior lab member, what advice do you have for a new lab member?

Three things: (1) Patience and perseverance is paramount for any kind of research to succeed (2) It is very important to regularly revisit/critique the original hypothesis/model with emerging data. (3) Understanding phenomena at the best possible detail refines our interpretation and often provides surprises that others may have missed.

How would you describe your overall experience as part of CSCI community so far?

Although I am very new to CSCI, I consider it as excellent community of very energetic and talented scientists that support each other, not only in research activities but also in extracurricular activities. So far, my experience has been enjoyable.

What are your scientific interests?

iPSC/ESC derived cell therapy against refractory diseases

Biology of rare diseases and molecular/cellular therapeutics

Early embryogenesis and developmental biology

What are some of your personal interests?

Besides work, I enjoy reading popular science, outdoor runs, and playing cricket.


This blog is an initiative of the CSCI Trainee Council. If you want to be a featured trainee, please contact Maria Caterina De Rosa