Siddharth Tripathi 

Siddharth Tripathi (SX 2013)* is using natural compounds to find new treatments for fungal infections.

Tell us about your educational background, including your doctoral research.
SiddharthTripathi2I have a MS and PhD in botany from India. After qualifying for a research fellowship from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, the leading Indian R&D organization, I joined the Plant Gene Expression Laboratory at the National Botanical Research Institute in Lucknow, India, for doctoral research. My doctoral research was in the plant biotechnology area and was focused on discovering genes involved in abscission, a process by which plant parts are shed in order to discard unwanted parts or allow for seed dispersal. By utilizing the rose as a model plant, I identified several novel genes involved in petal abscission. 

What is the focus of your current research?
At present, I am working as a postdoctoral research associate at the National Center for Natural Product Research within the School of Pharmacy of University of Mississippi. The overall goal of my research work is to discover new drugs for treating fungal infections that occur in immunocompromised patients. By utilizing natural compounds that are present in plants, animals, and microbes, this work has the potential to identify novel drug molecules that are safer, less toxic, and work through novel mechanisms compared to currently-used antifungal drugs. My work is focused on identifying the molecular mechanism by which these drug molecules kill fungal cells. 

Tell us about something we might see in our daily lives that directly correlates to your work. 
SiddharthTripathi1Fungal infections such as athlete's foot and yeast infections are all too common, and current treatments cannot adequately eliminate these infections. In addition, fatal fungal infections occur in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and also in patients undergoing organ transplantation and aggressive surgery. Current antifungal drugs are few and have several limitations such as an inability to cause complete killing of some fungi, as well as toxicity and resistance. Therefore, new drugs are immensely needed that are less toxic, more efficacious, work through a novel mechanism, or that can be used in combination with existing drugs to overcome drug resistance. 

What is an example of how multi-disciplinary research directly contributed to your work?
For the past several years, I have been working in a multi-disciplinary research team of microbiologists, chemists, and molecular biologists. In our team, the chemists isolate natural products from living organisms. The microbiologists check the efficacy of these natural compounds against fungal pathogens, and finally I, as a molecular biologist, contribute by finding the mechanism of action of these natural compounds. I believe that the contributions of all team members are absolutely essential for the success of this project. 

What has the honor of induction into Sigma Xi meant to you?
It's a great privilege to be a full member of Sigma Xi. Sigma Xi is a global platform to promote scientific innovativeness and encourage a sense of teamwork among scientists; being a full member makes me more responsible and dedicated to my research. I feel proud to be a member of a community of renowned scientists including several Nobel laureates. Being a member, I had the wonderful opportunity to serve as a judge for Conrad Foundation's 2014 Spirit of Innovation Challenge, a competition for students from around the world. They address global sustainability by creating an innovative product or service using science, technology, engineering, and math. 

Has Sigma Xi helped to advance your career?
Sigma Xi provides me an excellent opportunity to introduce myself to scientists across the world, giving me a chance to learn from them and convey my own work to them. 

When you're not working on your research, what do you do in your free time? 
In my free time I love to play soccer with my son. I like traveling and spending time with my friends and family. My thinking is "Let's explore this world while we can, who knows what will happen tomorrow." 

What is your favorite motto?
"Dream is not that which you see while sleeping, it is something that does not let you sleep."
—Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam 

What advice would you give a young researcher just starting out in your field? 
My advice to young researcher is to have single-minded dedication towards the goal to get success. Research is an exciting journey, be honest with yourself, have patience, and develop skills to think differently. 

What advances do you see in your field of research over the next 100 years?
I am very optimistic about the future of antifungal drug discovery research. I believe that the discovery of new antifungal drugs, especially with the help of novel genomic and genetic technologies, will provide solutions to find effective treatment and prevent the ever-growing worldwide problem of invasive fungal infections.

About the Meet Your Fellow Companion series: Sigma Xi's motto is the Greek "Spoudon Xynones," or "Companions in Zealous Research." With that thought in mind, we like to highlight "Fellow Companions" to learn more about their work and what the honor of induction to Sigma Xi has meant for their careers. 

The articles are published in the Sigma Xi Today section of American Scientist and here on the website. 

*Represents the year a member joined Sigma Xi.