Statement of purpose

Statement of purpose

Statement of Purpose

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Education has been the mainstream force to push me forward. Raised and schooled in the

Western part of Nepal, I moved to the capital city to attend high school and then to the States for

my higher education. Although I came so far in pursuit of knowledge, my inability to answer

what I am passionate about haunted me until Dr. George Popescu introduced me to

Bioinformatics. I worked as an undergraduate researcher under the mentorship of Dr. Sorina

Popescu, Dr. George Popescu, and the Ph.D. student, Mr. Philip Berg, in my junior and senior

years at Mississippi State University. My work experiences and the competitive environment

prevalent in my university motivated me to discover a profound interest to further my graduate

studies in Bioinformatics.

Uncertain of my career interests, I transferred from the University of Texas at Arlington

to community college in Dallas to figure out what I want to pursue in my undergraduate degree. I

did an Associate in Science because of my strength in biology and chemistry. However, tutoring

biology and chemistry in the college science center helped me realize my interest does not lie

much in core sciences. I was looking for career fields with interdisciplinary research activities

that grow my comprehensive horizons at a broad spectrum. Luckily, during the Covid pandemic,

I got a chance to spend time with my roommate who is a computer science student. Talking

about the breakthrough advances of computer science in life sciences gave me an intuition to

search for the fields that would deal with the biological problems using computational

techniques: bioinformatics. Upon researching bioinformatics, I was thrilled to know the

magnitude of diversity in research activities, and it took no time for me to build interest.

Pursuing my newfound interest, I transferred to Mississippi State University to complete my

undergraduate degree in bioinformatics.

Through my course work and research activities at Mississippi State University, I

accumulated valuable research experiences and interests in bioinformatics. In my junior year, I

worked with Dr. Sorina Popescu in her research lab to identify the bacterial isolates with anti-

fungal effects against the Xylaria in soybean roots using dual culture techniques. The

Microbiology class gave me a handful of experiences dealing with the cell culture, transferring

bacterial strains aseptically, making growth medium, measuring cell growth, and many more that

became helpful in my research lab. I performed the in-vitro assays by co-inoculating Xylaria and

bacterial strains in selective media to isolate some bacterial strains that had the inherent potential

to suppress fungal growth in the soybean roots. Those bacterial strains were subjected to

metagenomic sequencing for further analysis. I presented the result of bacterial strains with

fungal suppressive activity in the Undergraduate Research Symposium. Furthermore, I was

working with 16s and ITS sequencing data to understand the soybean root microbial

communities. During the research, I came across various questions. How are bacterial isolates

showing similar effects against the fungal pathogens related phylogenetically? What is the

difference in community compositions and community richness across different samples? Can

we identify the microbial taxa with the predictive phenotype of interest? Are there any additive

effects of Xylaria and bacterial isolates in root growth? Moving onwards, questions as such

guided me to dive into the bioinformatics research activities.

My growing curiosity on metagenomics data from the soybean root microbiome guided

me to work on a bioinformatics research project under the supervision of Dr. George Popescu.

We are trying to compare fungal and bacterial contents in the plant samples using the EMBL-

EBI sequencing pipelines which in turn will help to analyze the dynamics of bacterial-fungal

interactions in root growth. Furthermore, I worked on data generated by the Popescu

biochemistry lab on soybean root and stem mean dry weight. We are trying to see if the

interaction between bacteria and Xylaria is significant for root and stem growth. To explain this

interactive effect through empirical and statistical approaches, I performed a 2factorial ANOVA

test and Tukey HSD test using R and its various packages to see the significant differences

between the multivariate means. My result became helpful to pinpoint the bacterial strains that

work efficiently to suppress Xylaria growth and enhance the root growth of fungal-infested

soybean plants. Currently, I am working on metagenomics data to pinpoint the unique microbial

taxa with desired phenotypes using dendrogram, and other different R packages. The exposure to

research activities and programming classes in my undergraduate studies has given me

confidence in data cleaning, data mining, data integration, data visualization, and developing

algorithms, functions, and pipelines. Under the guidance of Dr. Popescu and Mr. Berg, I not only

learned the problem-solving approaches in bioinformatics but also learned to face challenges

with diligence and patience.

Due to the high mutation rate and short life span of microbial pathogens, they have a high

potential for rapid evolution. Consequently, such microbes evade the host immune system and

resist the prevailing drugs. The areas of my interest are metagenomics, comparative genomics,

and transcriptomics. Through my graduate school, I want to develop a deeper understanding of

molecular differences between the organisms that help to define their differences in behavior,

biology, and phenotypes. I am curious to learn how genes are turned on and off by various biotic

and abiotic factors. I want to understand the effect of the mutation in gene expression and

functions and the probability of gene retention through reassortment. Moreover, I am interested

to learn how organisms are susceptible to diseases due to their molecular differences and the

differences in their gene expression. I find the research work of Dr. Eva Top on evolution of

multi-drug resistance bacteria persistent in biofilms, and host range of bacteria in compliance

with my research interests. As I am on my way to pursuing my interests, I am very excited to

discover what my motivations and commitment to bioinformatics have to offer in the coming


With the distinguished faculty and rigorous research activities at your esteemed

institution, I look upon the University of Idaho as a steppingstone to accomplish my career goals.

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