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Pooja Parameswaran

Date published: December 13, 2023

December Student Spotlight: Pooja Parameswaran, Graduate Student


This month in our Graduate Student Spotlight, we feature Pooja Parameswaran, a student in the Morningside Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at UMass Chan, and the lab of Dr. Megan Orzalli in the Division of Infectious Diseases and Immunology.



I am from the Southern part of India, but my family lived in a few different places including Indonesia and Nigeria.  

What are your research interests?  
I came to UMass Chan to study immunity at barrier surfaces such as the skin, the gut, or the lungs. This brought me to Megan Orzalli’s lab where I study Herpes Simplex Virus-1 (HSV-1) infections in human skin cells, specifically the ability of the virus to manipulate host cell death pathways. Studying the interactions between the virus and the host allows us to uncover novel mechanisms by which the immune system recognizes and responds to infections. Further, since we focus on cells such as keratinocytes and fibroblasts which are not considered traditional immune cells, we are able to uncover the breadth of host defenses.  

Are you involved in any other groups or activities at UMass Chan that you’d like to highlight? 
Prior to graduate school, I worked at a few biotech/pharma startups. Working at a small company gives you visibility into multiple functions within and outside of research. To stay engaged with other aspects of the industry, I volunteered with the student-run UMass consulting club. This allowed me to invite speakers on campus who had successfully transitioned post-PhDs into alternative careers. In addition to learning more about alternative career trajectories, it really helped me understand the value of the PhD process and how it can be translated 

What makes UMass Chan a great place for your studies?
I was very keen on joining a program with a focus on Innate Immunity and UMass Chan is perfect for that. We have several PIs who work in the space, so there are so many opportunities to learn. Additionally, thanks to a very collaborative environment it’s really easy to share knowledge, techniques, and reagents. The process of research is not easy in itself, but working with good people makes it a lot easier.  

Favorite hobby?
I love cooking and experimenting with dishes from different countries.  

Favorite thing to do in Worcester/Worcester area?
I really like the Worcester Art Museum; I try to visit every few months when they have a new exhibit.