In the summer of 2016, we welcomed Dr. Karthik Raman from Dept. of biotechnology, IIT Madras for a sabbatical at Vantage Research. Karthik’s research interests are in diverse areas of biology and engineering such as flux balance analysis, metabolic engineering, graph theory, and parameter optimization.
There were good reasons on both sides to work together over the summer. Karthik was looking for an opportunity to engage with an industry group doing applied research in Systems Biology, and felt Vantage would give him that opportunity. At Vantage we felt we would gain a lot from Karthik’s breadth of knowledge in Systems Biology, Computational and Quantitative techniques.
What resulted was an enjoyable and activity filled interaction for the Vantage team with Karthik. Towards the quest of creating a solid grounding for a BioMath professional, Karthik helped put together a structured program for the many new recruits at Vantage. He also conducted a series of lectures, teaching many of the key components of the course that he helped design. Areas of coverage included systems biology fundamentals, exposure to a variety of modeling approaches and techniques, and introduction to specific tools and techniques of the trade.
Karthik also worked on understanding and developing solutions for one of the most common and critical problems our team faces building quantitative physiological models – parameter estimation and optimization. Together, we explored various solutions – different optimization algorithms, types of constraints that can be used in the algorithms and the kind of biological data that are available to constrain them. Karthik has also been co-ordinating the Interdisciplinary Initiative for Biological Systems Engineering.
The collaboration proved to be a valuable learning process, and resulted in a tool that will help future efforts in parameter estimation.
But apart from all the specific things we achieved during Karthik’s time at Vantage, what stands out for our team are the intangibles. Karthik brings a sense of energy and wonder to everything he teaches – and as a team we enjoyed revisiting afresh the fundamentals of what we do, and appreciating the breadth and depth of the science that we are commonly a part of. We’ll certainly take a richer perspective back to our projects.