Dr Sathyavani (Vani) Malyala has recently returned to the Insigneo Institute as a Research Associate on the CompBioMed project. Here Vani describes the experience she has gained through her studies in computer science and modelling biological systems.
“I got my bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Engineering from University of Madras, India and went on to complete a master’s degree in Advanced Computer Science at the University of Sheffield. My interest in modelling and simulation of biological systems started with the module I took during my master’s degree called “Modelling and simulation of natural systems”. During my master’s dissertation I got an excellent opportunity to work with Professor Richard Clayton, Insigneo’s Director of External Affairs. My dissertation topic was ‘Simulating the Effect of Glucose Concentration on Electrical Activity in Human Heart Cells’. I thoroughly enjoyed my masters and graduated with distinction with excellent grades for my dissertation. This led to securing departmental EPSRC funding to do my PhD with Professor Clayton.
My thesis title is ‘Effect of Tissue Structure (and) Disease on Simulated Arrhythmias in the Human Heart’. I used multiscale mathematical modelling, using finite difference method, to study the effect of initial conditions, tissue structure, tissue heterogeneity and region of scar on re-entrant arrythmias in 3D. I used a simulation package called SCAM (Sheffield Cardiac Arrhythmia Model) which can run on HPC. During my first year of PhD I had the opportunity to attend Maynard Philip summer school at Oxford University to present my work and I had various other occasions where I could confidently speak about my PhD work. I also attended and published conference papers at Computing in Cardiology in 2013 and 2014.
I worked as a postdoctoral research fellow in computational cardiac mitochondrial physiology at Michigan State University (USA) under the mentorship of Dr. Jason Bazil. The focus of my job was modelling calcium induced inhibition of oxidative phosphorylation in cardiac mitochondria. In this lab we integrated experimental data into the quantitative framework of a mathematical model of mitochondrial bioenergetics and modelled the hypothetical effects of calcium dependent mitochondrial dysfunction to test the underlying mechanism. I had a great opportunity of updating the mathematical model of mitochondrial bioenergetics by developing a new model of the calcium sequestration system to explicitly include calcium phosphate formation. I had an excellent experience of interacting with experimentalists in the wet lab and this gave me an insight of understanding the data and optimizing the parameters to the mathematical model. During this period, I had opportunity to attend Experimental Biology Conference at San Diego and present my work. I submitted a paper “Calcium Phosphate Precipitation Inhibits Mitochondrial Energy Metabolism” in PLOS Computational Biology.
In September 2018 I joined Insigneo as a research associate within the European project CompBioMed. This is an amazing project where I can use the expertise I gained over the years through my masters, PhD and as a postdoctoral researcher where research techniques and networking capabilities are essential. I am very excited to work in academia and want to become a successful researcher. I believe this research position will help me achieve it!”