New GDCB faculty member Mohan Gupta investigates microtubule dynamics

February 10, 2016

Mohan Gupta
Professor Mohan Gupta

Professor Mohan Gupta joined the GDCB department as an assistant professor this past fall.  Dr. Gupta earned a B.S degree and Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Kansas in Lawrence, KS. After training as a postdoctoral fellow at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, he joined the faculty of the Department of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology at the University of Chicago in Chicago, IL. He was recruited to Iowa State University last year.

Dr. Gupta’s research program investigates microtubule dynamics. Microtubules are common to plant, animal, and microbial cells, and they play essential roles in development, cell division, and function of the nervous system. In humans, mutations in microtubule genes have been linked to neurological disorders, and pharmaceuticals that disrupt microtubules have been employed in chemotherapy treatments. Dr. Gupta’s group uses multiple strategies to understand how microtubule assembly and disassembly are controlled within the cell, and these include genetics, biochemistry, and high-resolution microscopy.

Dr. Gupta has always been interested in biology and how animals interact with their environments. He was also attracted to problem solving and engineering, but when he took a biochemistry course he realized the activities inside the cell were what really allowed organisms to live and to perform specific functions.  He found proteins that perform work such as transporting supplies to the tips of axons or segregating DNA when cells divide to be particularly fascinating.  “To me they were like little animals operating within the environment of the cell,” Dr. Gupta explains. “How these proteins all work together was such a mystery, with important implications for understanding basic biology and health issues, that I was hooked. I decided I wanted to solve this problem.”

Dr. Gupta enjoys teaching and finds teaching students in the laboratory rewarding because he gets to see students transforming into scientists. In the classroom, he enjoys teaching biochemistry and cell biology because it allows him to introduce students to the results, interpretations, and limitations of classic experiments, as well as introduce current questions and modern techniques.  “To me,” Dr. Gupta said, “it’s exciting to see where all the knowledge in our textbooks came from and how it’s continuing to move forward.”

“Becoming part of GDCB has been a wonderful experience” Dr. Gupta said. “The faculty are so accessible, and I find the breadth and depth of research to be invigorating.  Overall, Ames is such a welcoming and friendly community. It’s a great college town and we’re excited to be here!”

Outside the lab, Dr. Gupta enjoys spending time with his wife and three children.  An activity at the top of his list if he has spare time is fishing.  He used to enjoy computer programming and in an alternate life he would be a video game programmer.  “I used to be good at computer games,” he said, “but now my kids embarrass me whenever I try to play with them.”

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