Manpreet Semwal has always been fascinated with Microbiology.
“These tiny little microbes invisible to naked eyes are present everywhere and play important roles around us. These unicellular organisms have remarkable ability to constantly mutate, challenging us to come up with new antibiotics and vaccines.”
Semwal grew up in Mumbai India where she attended the University of Mumbai for her bachelor’s and master’s degree in Microbiology before joining as the faculty where she taught undergraduate Microbiology and Biotechnology and served as the department head at Patkar-Varde College.
When her husband moved to San Antonio for a job offer, Semwal decided to enroll at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at UT Health San Antonio as a non-degree student. She also volunteered in Dr. Yidong Bai’s lab where she studied mitochondrial function at the molecular and cellular levels.
After some time, she applied to the Molecular Immunology & Microbiology discipline of the Integrated Biomedical Sciences Ph.D. program. Currently, Semwal works in the lab of Dr. Ann V. Griffith where she is learning about the thymus biology.
“Our lab is interested in identification of lymphopoietic signals provided by the stromal microenvironment in the thymus, understanding the biology of thymic stromal cells and mechanisms and consequences (including diminished vaccine responses and increased susceptibility to infection ) of age-induced thymic atrophy.”
Specifically, she is working on understanding the role of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in thymic stromal cells and mechanisms by which ROS regulates basic thymus biology.
Recently Semwal won the Second Place Poster Award at the 7th Annual Vaccine Development Center of San Antonio Conference.
Semwal explains that, “Vaccines are essential in preventing various diseases and protecting our future generations. I am surprised about the controversy surrounding vaccines in the United States. Despite many challenges, I have seen aggressive efforts taken in India to battle with polio and India is now a ‘polio-free nation’ all because of successful vaccine campaigns.”
Semwal is also secretary for the Graduate School International Club where she has helped to organize Chai Time, an International Student Potluck and Diwali.
“As an international student myself, I can understand the challenges an international student can encounter in USA. The entire system is different here including driving on the other side of the road, opening a bank account or just navigating the grocery store. I was lucky that my husband had been living in San Antonio for a while but it can be really overwhelming for an international student and she wanted to help those seeking help.”
In the future, Semwal plans to pursue a postdoctoral position in Immunology and thereafter teach and train young scientists.
“There are brilliant minds out there and after I get trained, I want to train and encourage young scientists. The world needs more scientists to continue fighting diseases and outsmart these microbes.”
This article is part of the “Meet The Researcher” series which showcases researchers at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio.