Grants in Aid of Research Recipient Profile: Surbhi Sharma

April 13, 2020

Surbhi Sharma Grants: $575 in spring 2013 and $400 in fall 2014

Education level at the time of the grant: PhD student

Project: The focus of the project was to identify and curate a database of the novel and the existing carboxyl (C-) terminal minimotifs in the human proteome, which includes all proteins expressed in a human cell. Humans have an estimated 2 million types of proteins encoded by 20,000–25,000 genes in a human cell. The C-terminal minimotifs, also called short linear motifs, are short stretches of 3–15 contiguous amino acid peptides found exactly at the C-terminal region at the end of all proteins with a known molecular function in at least one protein. These functions include binding to other molecules and trafficking of proteins to specific cellular compartments (PMID: 31106589). Minimotifs are important to study; in some cases, a single point mutation in minimotifs can diminish their function, causing various diseases with implications in neurodevelopmental disorders (PMID: 30225339).  

Sharma and her colleagues’ preliminary studies identified approximately 3,500 experimentally validated C-terminal minimotifs, representing roughly 13 percent of the human genome. Through computational analysis, they further cataloged approximately 9 million possible C-terminal minimotifs in the human proteome. They published their findings, “The Functional Human C-Terminome,” in PLOS ONE (April 6, 2016). They also built a C-terminome web application ( to disseminate the data on C-terminal minimotifs. Users can use this application to identify the C-terminal minimotifs in their proteins of interest. The team is currently testing hundreds of predicted C-terminal minimotifs through experimentation that will give us a better sense of the human proteome.

How the project influenced her as a scientist: “It is important to ask the right questions in order to make meaningful contributions to the society through science,” Sharma said. “Science is not just done for the sake of discovery or innovation. The implications of good, solid research contribute to the society much beyond what one can even imagine. What might seem to be an insignificant work, for any given reason, is often helpful in building up a bigger and better work. Collaborating with experts and using advanced technologies is the only way to add value to science.”

Where is she now? Inducted into Sigma Xi in 2013, Sharma is now a postdoctoral fellow in Edwin Oh’s Lab of Neurogenetics and Precision Medicine at the Nevada Institute of Personalized Medicine, where she is investigating the genetic and structural variants that contribute to rare genetic disorders. 

Students can apply for research funding from Sigma Xi's Grants in Aid of Research program by March 15 and October 1 annually. 

More About Sigma Xi: Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society is the world’s largest multidisciplinary honor society for scientists and engineers. Its mission is to enhance the health of the research enterprise, foster integrity in science and engineering, and promote the public understanding of science for the purpose of improving the human condition. Sigma Xi chapters can be found at colleges and universities, government laboratories, and industry research centers around the world. More than 200 Nobel Prize winners have been members. The Society is based in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. On Twitter: @SigmaXiSociety