30 under 30: Paving the Way for Medical Nanorobots

Each year hundreds of the best and brightest researchers gather in Lindau, Germany, for the Nobel Laureate Meeting. There, the newest generation of scientists mingles with Nobel Prize winners and discusses their work and ideas. The 2013 meeting is dedicated to chemistry and will involve young researchers from 78 different countries. In anticipation of the event, which will take place from June 30 through July 5, we are highlighting a group of attendees under 30 who represent the future of chemistry. The following profile is the 11th in a series of 30.

Name: Aniket Magarkar
Age: 28
Born: Amaravati, India
Nationality: Indian

Current position: PhD Student in Computational Nanomedicine at the University of Helsinki, Finland
Education: Bachelor’s degree in biotechnology from the University of Mumbai, India; Master’s degree in bioinformatics from the University of Pune, India

What is your field of research?
I am investigating in silico approaches to hypothesis-driven drug delivery. I am dealing with drug delivery liposomes [essentially artificial bubbles composed of lipids] surface structures and their interactions with elements of the bloodstream and small molecules. Once these structures and interactions are understood at the atomic level, that knowledge will help scientists build advanced nanorobots for future drug delivery.

What drew you to chemistry, and to that research area in particular?
I was fascinated with the amount of interactions going on in biological cells and I wanted to understand them in detail. I believe chemistry is the language of biology, and in order to understand biological principles, one needs to know the laws of chemical interactions and physical chemistry better. This drew me toward research in general. Later, I decided to move into computational modeling and data mining of biochemical structures. This field allows me to test many hypotheses quickly. Hence I decided to pursue computational chemistry and modeling for my research.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
It is really difficult to say right now as the science is evolving at a phenomenal pace. However, I would like to be involved in multi-dimensional research in systemic biology, an area where I could contribute my expertise in drug discovery and delivery toward tackling new strategies to fight diseases in a smarter way.

Who are your scientific heroes?
Craig Venter, Michael Faraday, Robert Langer and Francis Crick

What is your dream study or experiment? If you had unlimited resources, what kind of research would you conduct?
I would like to understand the process of synchronization among the interactions of the biological cell’s chemical components. I would like to re-create that process from the ground up—from making individual components—and then see it replicate.

What activities outside of chemistry do you most enjoy?
I like to play chess and Judo, and love spending my time with the latest gadgets—as I love technology a lot. Also, I like to travel and explore new areas and culture anywhere in the world!

What do you hope to gain from this year’s Lindau meeting?
I think the Lindau meeting is going to be an amazing experience. I will not only meet legends in the field of chemistry who changed the way we do research, but I will also have the opportunity to interact with young colleagues from around the world who are working in multidisciplinary backgrounds towards cohesive goals. I think it will be truly inspirational to just be at the meeting and hear about current trends in science as well as discuss them with laureates and discover future research directions.

Are there any Nobelists whom you are particularly excited to meet?
I would love to meet Brian Kobilka, who discovered G protein coupled receptors because that is an area of my research interest. I am also looking forward to seeing Walter Gilbert for his nonconventional DNA sequencing method, Edmond Fischer for discovering biological switch points of phosphorylation, John Walker for figuring out ATP synthesis and Ada Yonath for discovering the structure of the ribosome. All of these were crucial discoveries, I think, without which our understanding of biology would have been limited—I am excited to meet all of them.