Chemistry’s newest professor will research drug design and protein engineering

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Growing up in India, Subha Kalyaanamoorthy followed her love of learning new scientific discoveries and emerging technologies, into the emerging field of bioinformatics. Her passion for bioinformatics research has ultimately led Kalyaanamoorthy to the University of Waterloo, as the newest faculty member in the Department of Chemistry.

Subha Kalyaanamoorthy“I was looking for an opportunity to be part of a team, not just running my own research project, but being able to collaborate and work with other people,” said Kalyaanamoorthy. Therefore, Waterloo Science attracted her as a place rich with opportunities for collaboration with students and other researchers.

Kalyaanamoorthy’s research looks at biologically active molecules, and combines computational modeling with traditional wet lab experimentation. “Instead of going into the lab and testing millions of compounds with experiments to identify compounds of interest, we can significantly speed up that process through computational models,” explained Kalyaanamoorthy.

Using this combination of theoretical modeling and wet lab experimentation, she is targeting the identification of two different types of molecules: new pharmaceutical drug compounds, and engineered proteins for environmental remediation. Within her drug discovery research, she is working towards understanding how proteins aggregate in Alzheimer’s disease, and also looking at identifying potential chemotherapy drugs that could effectively target a variety of cancer mutations. Kalyaanamoorthy also loves resurrecting ancient (ancestral) proteins to understand how proteins have evolved, and why they have the particular functions that they have. This love led to her research in protein engineering, where she studies different sequences in the proteins, and the impact these sequences have on the protein’s properties, in order to synthesize molecules and enzymes for plastic degradation or carbon dioxide capture.

Kalyaanamoorthy completed an MSc in India studying bioinformatics, and then moved to Melbourne, Australia for her PhD researching structure-based drug designs. She then held postdoctoral fellow positions at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Australia, and at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.

Kalyaanamoorthy has been in Waterloo since October, and is currently mentoring a post-doctorate fellow, and multiple undergraduate students in her research lab. She is looking to expand her lab with graduate level students interested in computational research and molecular modeling.

Outside of the lab, Kalyaanamoorthy is mother to her 5 year-old son, and enjoys spending time teaching him and learning from him. She can also be found playing video games and molecular modeling games like Fold-it, watching comedy TV shows, or searching out good vegetarian cuisine!

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