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Featured Research Trainee: Q&A With Namrata Kumar, PhD

Published on May 8, 2024 in Cornerstone Blog · Last updated 2 months 2 weeks ago


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Featured Research Trainee: Q&A With Namrata Kumar

Editor’s Note: Our Featured Research Trainee for May, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, is Namrata Kumar, PhD. She earned her undergraduate degree in biotechnology engineering from the University of Pune in India, followed by a master’s degree in biotechnology from the University of Texas at Dallas. After pursuing her doctorate at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, she joined the lab of Matthew Weitzman where she currently works as a postdoctoral researcher at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. In this Q&A, Dr. Kumar shares her research and her experiences at CHOP, as well as the importance of recognizing contributions made by the AAPI community to science.

Namrata Kumar
Namrata Kumar, PhD

What message do you hope people take away from celebrating AAPI Heritage Month?

I firmly believe that diversity serves to enrich and enhance any community. AAPI Heritage Month is a time for reflection, support, and celebration of the valuable contributions made by the AAPI community to the nation’s economic, technological, social, and political landscape while navigating significant systemic and cultural obstacles.

The Federal Asian Pacific American Council  AAPI Heritage Month 2024 theme, “Advancing Leaders Through Innovation,” underscores the importance of amplifying the voices of the AAPI community. It provides a platform for advocacy and promotion, fostering a collective effort toward inclusivity and progress.

What is a research project you are working on, and why is it important?

My main interest lies in understanding the mechanisms behind cellular DNA damage repair and the dysregulation of DNA repair pathways in disease states. The DNA damage response is critical for maintaining genomic stability. Defects in DNA repair pathways are closely linked to aging, cancer, and neurodegeneration. During my graduate studies, my research focused on clarifying the repair mechanisms of oxidative DNA damage, which involves the coordinated action of various DNA repair pathways.

My current project investigates the manipulation of DNA damage and repair pathways during viral infections. Viruses exploit numerous cellular pathways for replication, prompting my focus on the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1) and its interactions with DNA repair proteins. Through this project, I aim to advance our understanding of virus-host interactions while uncovering new roles for DNA repair proteins in the context of viral infections.

What are some of the most salient training experiences you’ve had at CHOP thus far?

CHOP offers exceptional opportunities for professional growth, and I am actively engaged in the Academic Certificate in Teaching program. This program equips postdoctoral fellows with the tools and knowledge to excel in teaching roles within academia.

Furthermore, CHOP provides valuable mentoring and teaching prospects through its summer research programs. I have had the pleasure of contributing to these programs by facilitating interactive skill development sessions for the students, which is an experience that brings me great joy and fulfillment.

Aside from research, what do you consider your biggest accomplishment?

My most significant achievement is my commitment to giving back to the community that has supported me. I deeply appreciate the network of mentors and friends who have guided me, and I am dedicated to paying it forward. Currently, I am co-chair of the CHOP Postdoctoral Alliance, where I aim to enhance the postdoctoral experience for my peers by providing support and resources.

Additionally, I actively participated in various organizations throughout my academic career, including the Women In Science Pittsburgh chapter. As the programming chair, I worked to amplify the voices of women leaders in the life sciences field and foster a culture of inclusion.

What do you do for fun when you’re not working?

Outside of work, I love spending time with family and friends. I enjoy reading – I am particularly drawn to nonfiction literature at present – hiking, and watching movies from diverse cultural backgrounds. Moreover, to maintain a healthy work-life balance, I engage in physical activities such as playing badminton or attending dance fitness classes during the week, which keep me active and serve as outlets for relaxation after work.