Tuesday Feature Episode 37: Kunal Chopra

This week we’re interviewing an International PhD student who is doing some fascinating research into wound healing.

Please explain your research for the public in ten sentences or less.

I’m looking at the role of biomolecules known as reactive oxidative species. These have previously been shown to play a role in wound healing and we are studying how these species behave in the Zebrafish. Specifically we’re looking at how reactive oxidative species help with wound healing in the zebrafish.

The good thing about using zebrafish is that they are 60% genetically identical to humans and so we can use them as a very useful model of studying wound healing for humans. The other thing that I am studying is the involvement of hormones in wound healing because previous research has shown that certain hormones are actually beneficial in the wound healing process.

How will this benefit the general public?

It might be useful to mention here that I am funded by the healing foundation. The foundation is looking to fund research that will have general benefits to the public. To specifically answer the question, wound healing can be quite a problem in diseases like diabetes where it is delayed and wounds can be left open for long periods of time which can lead to other health complications. What we are doing here in the lab will essentially help us understand how we can help counter those problems in patients.

How did you first become interested in wound healing?

I have been very open-minded about what I have wanted to research but recently I really became interested in wound healing at the genetic level. There are a number of genes involved in wound healing during the developmental process and I became interested in these. Any given organism during its development has these sets of genes that helps it grow into a mature adult. The thing about wound healing is that many of the same genes and mechanisms get switched back on and it was my initial interest in developmental genes that got me more involved in wound healing.

Did you have any science heroes or people that inspired you?

No I don’t idolise anyone but there is one person that I really like and his name is Ernst Haeckel. Haeckel published a very beautiful book called ‘Art forms of nature’, which has some wonderful illustrations of different life forms. When I saw the symmetry in animals like jellyfish or butterflies, it inspired me to study developmental science to see how life grows this way.

How has studying here in Manchester helped you?

Oh it’s great! It felt very unreal in the beginning when I was offered the position to study here because this is a city that I had visited so many times and I never thought that I would get the chance to study here. The environment is great, the student support is fantastic and I have been lucky to get the healing foundation scholarship – so all in all it has been a very good experience.

What do you do outside of studying here?

I do a lot of travel photography. Whenever I get the chance, I try to escape to mainland Europe and try to photograph different cities. When I was young I used to read a lot of books but I think that the interest in them has faded now.