PSD Spotlight: Yamuna Krishnan

October 22, 2019

November 2019 Spotlight

Yamuna Krishnan

PSD’s November spotlight is Prof. Yamuna Krishnan of the Department of Chemistry. She has been at the University for five years and particularly enjoys the “breadth of science covered by the PSD—from computer science and math to chemical biology.”

A PSD community member had this to say about her:

Yamuna has made an incredible impact in lysosomes, the 'trash compactors' of the cell. Neurodegenerative diseases often involve lysosomes with perturbed functions. What Yamuna's research allows one to do is study how those organelles are working (or not), and to even start to characterize sub-diseases. If one can better classify lysosomal diseases into subtypes, based on molecular information obtained from Yamuna's technologies, researchers will be able to both design better drugs and predict which patients will benefit from particular drugs.

We interviewed Yamuna about her interests and experiences below:

Tell us a bit about you.

I enjoy yoga and pilates. I make a mean chicken curry. You can see these interviews for more information:

Who inspires you?

I deeply admire Rosalind Franklin. She was ahead of her time, dared to be different, was unafraid of competition, and deserved laurels she never received. For example, she did not receive recognition for her crucial contributions to the discovery of DNA’s structure, which demonstrates the bias the rest of the world had at the time. She was also working on the Tobacco Mosaic Virus and, before she died, handed the work over to Aaron Klug, which resulted in the Nobel Prize for Klug. This not only demonstrated her boldness to take on big problems, but also that she was a magnet for people of extraordinary caliber. How I would have loved to share a lab-bench with her!

What is the most interesting thing that you are working on right now?

I'm working on a way to chemically map reactive species in the brains of live fish.

What does diversity and inclusion mean to you?

Now that you ask, I realize that my lab has only one person who does not identify as female, LGBTQ, or POC. This has me wondering why our lab is so diverse. Could it be that diversity flourishes where diverse people feel that their ideas and views are not just accepted but encouraged?

Who would you most like to swap places with for a day and why?

That's a tricky question. Maybe with someone in a troubled region of the world trying to stay alive. I find myself thinking about the existential threats most people face on a regular basis. I understand how fortunate I am to continue trying to keep our science relevant to the people who need its benefits most. As Gandhi said, one of the seven blunders of the world that leads to violence is science without humanity.

What have you seen lately that made you smile?

A Nature podcast with John Goodenough, a former PhD student of PSD, who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry last week. It was a heartwarming conversation that revealed both the humility and greatness of this amazing scientist.

Who had the most influence on you growing up?

My parents. They instilled my value system and the ability to retain a positive outlook on life, regardless of circumstance.

What three words best describe you?

Curious, optimistic, outgoing.

Read more about Krishnan's work: