Nikhil received M.S. in Physics from Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay and Ph.D in Physics from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst with Prof. Mark Tuominen. His graduate studies at the cellular level revealed that living cells show high electronic conductivity as well as large electron storage capacity due to extracellular proteins. His post-doctoral studies at the molecular level with Prof. Derek Lovley in the Microbiology department identified the protein architecture responsible for the conductivity.
- Overview of Current Project
Electronic Control of Biological Systems using Protein Nanowires: We are developing a faster and efficient form of electrogenetics, a method that uses electric fields to control cell function, for remote modulation of cell signaling. This work has implications across the cellular, tissue, and organismal levels with applications as diverse as medicine to produce or deliver therapeutics and biomanufacturing of materials. Building on our discovery of bacterial hairs behaving as excellent electric wires, we are working on connecting living systems with electronics efficiently and at large scale to make it commercially viable. Our technology could enable the next generation of low-cost health monitoring (blood glucose, oxygen), environment sensing (pH, CO2), material synthesis, and energy production from living systems possible. My Blavatnik award will focus on using protein nanowires for electronic detection of biomolecules such as DNA.
- Favorite off-time activity
Reading vivid books of Eric Carle to my 1-year-old girl and follow her as she explores every corner of the house. She has just started standing and it is already difficult to keep up with her curiosity.
- Best advice for new innovators
Be respectful of the long and sometimes circuitous process of invention to innovation. During my PhD, I spent a year in the business school learning from successful entrepreneurs about how to commercialize our research findings. I realized the necessity of building a team with a wide range of interdisciplinary expertise to translate our fundamental studies into practical applications. I am very fortunate to have such a team at Yale.