Jan. 23, 2003, Gazette
Dr. Kaushik Nag
"Collaboration is central to my research,
said Dr. Kaushik Nag, assistant professor of biochemistry at Memorial.
From the time I began graduate work, I became interested in working
with researchers in different disciplines gaining insight into
my work from varying perspectives.
Dr. Nags work is the study of surfactant in both healthy and diseased
Right now I am working on the structural biochemistry and biophysics
of membranes and surfactant on a molecular level trying to comprehend
the basis for dysfunction, he said. I am hoping to find other
researchers at Memorial who are also interested in this type of research.
The study of the lungs has been the focal point of much of Dr. Nags
research, even from his earliest days as a student at the University of
Calcutta. He explained that this interest was sparked by a philosophical,
rather than a scientific, occurrence in his life.
When I was studying physiology in Calcutta, I met a man who was
heavily involved with the practice and teaching of yoga, and he showed
me the bipolar nature of breathing through our nostrils. We predominately
breathe through one nostril at a time, and the sides switch approximately
every three hours, according to alternating brain activity, explained
Dr. Nag. I was fascinated by this, especially by his revelation
that we, as humans, can control which nostril we use. I set about testing
and studying this phenomenon, and my research was published in the Indian
Journal of Physiology. I suppose thats how I really became interested
in the lungs.
After completing a bachelors and masters in his home country,
Dr. Nag continued his collaborative research efforts at Memorial University,
the University of Western Ontario, and Ryerson.
Memorial has a goldmine of expertise in biophysics and physics,
including the work Drs. Morrow, Whitehead, and Whitmore have conducted
on soft matter, he said. Dr. Kevin Keough, who was, at the
time, a biochemistry professor and the vice-president of research at Memorial,
really allowed me a lot of flexibility, and so I ended up building a very
specialized instrument for use in studying the components of the lung.
This significant undertaking attracted great interest from Canadian and
American universities, alike, and paved the way for much of Dr. Nags
postdoctoral work in Ontario.
While at Western, I was first working with Fred Possmayer in obstetrics
and gynecology, and eventually switched to chemistry with Nils Petersen,
who is currently the vice-president of research there, said Dr.
Nag. I appreciated the opportunity to carry out my research on lung
surfactant with scientists of varying specialities. It was also about
that time that I realised prior research, including my own, was being
proven wrong, and so I was given the opportunity to pursue my work in
Following the time spent working at Western as a Canadian Institute of
Health Research (CIHR)/Canadian Lung Association postdoctoral fellow,
and the receipt of offers from Northwestern and Harvard for postdoctoral
work, Dr. Nag looked toward joining his alma mater in Newfoundland
as a faculty member. Memorial offers an opportunity to really connect
with fellow researchers and with students. Thats not something you
can find everywhere, he admitted.
Armed with a prestigious New Investigator grant for the next five years
from the CIHRs Regional Partnership Program, Dr. Nag is currently
studying the changes in protein structure within diseased surfactant
that which has been extracted from humans, bovine and marsupial species.
With the use of an Atomic Force Microscope (AFM), he said,
you can actually see the patterns formed by DPPC Langmuir films
the main lung surfactant component. These pictures are really quite
astounding, and allow you to see what you are studying from a totally
With his long list of accomplishments in tow, Dr. Nag has many more opportunities
he would like to pursue at Memorial, including, but not limited to, the
funding and purchase of Memorials own AFM, and many successful research
collaborations on campus.
Research, I think, is about trying to see your work from as many
different angles as possible, added Dr. Nag. This is the kind
of thing I want to pursue here at Memorial, and I am looking forward to
working with other scientists who feel the same way.
To find out more, please contact Dr. Nag at firstname.lastname@example.org.