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Department of Pharmacology


An Interview with Dr Himansha Singh

Dr Himansha Singh is a scientist and entrepreneur who worked in the Department of Pharmacology between from 2013 to 2020. During her time in Cambridge, she completed her incredibly productive PhD and post-doctoral studies in the van Veen laboratories working on drug resistance and multidrug efflux pumps. She won the highly acclaimed CSAR PhD Students Award in 2017.


Her successes enabled her to be selected for a prestigious Raman Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore. She is also driving forward the fight against rising carbon emissions, co-founding ‘Craste’ a company devoted to using crop waste to create organic packaging solutions thereby reducing crop waste burning and providing an alternative to timber.


Who are you and what do you work on?

I am Dr Himansha Singh and I am currently a CV Raman Fellow at IISc Bangalore, India working on multidrug efflux pumps in Mycobacterial sp. I am also a Cofounder of a company, Fuma Labs (or Craste), where we work on using science to up-cycle crop waste. Previously, I was a PhD student and a Postdoc in Dr Hendrik van Veen group at Pharmacology. Here, I worked on bacterial drug efflux pumps specifically focussing on functional and structure relationship to understand drug resistance.


What do you love about your job?

Thrill, excitement and never ending child-like curiosity and to be able to make a living out of it.


How/why did your research lead you to Cambridge?

During Master's program, I was doing a project placement in AstraZeneca on pharmacology of drug reactions (NSAIDs) and my lunch colleagues were working on transporters/efflux pumps and drug resistance. 9 Months of extremely interesting lunch chats led me to dig deep into this. At the time, papers from Dr Hendrik's group especially his work on LmrA, which introduced a new parameter in the conventional energetics of pump mechanism really impressed me and we often talked about it. The idea that ABC pumps can function as a channel and/or in an ion-dependent manner was studied in great detail in his group. I decided to apply to his lab to study and work under his supervision. Fortunately, I received a fully funded CISS scholarship to pursue PhD in his lab and I never looked back since then. I even continued as a BBSRC funded postdoc in his lab. It was the best transition I made within research interests. Cambridge had everything I needed from research support to mentorship and even exposure to entrepreneurship which also helped me immensely to start my own company later whilst continuing being a researcher.


Other than science what is most important for you in life?

Exploring history, politics, cultures, food and being with people who love me.


Do you have any advice to early-career women scientists?

Leave reluctance and do not succumb to gender bias. Focus on why you became interested in science to begin with. If you have made it this far, you are already an inspiration and don't need to prove anything to anyone. Yes, it might be difficult sometimes but what is not? Do not ever lose faith in your abilities because if they cant hear you, you need to be louder. So, pick up that coffee and bring in your papers, we still have so much more to (re)search.


Did you have to face any hurdles as a woman in science?

Being a brown woman, I faced stereotypes more which became hurdles in their own way at times.


What/Who first sparked your interest in Science?

This was my 8th Grade science teacher who taught me how science is beyond regular theory but an endless imagination. Her name is Ms Rita and she was the first person who made science fun for me.


When did you decide to become a research scientist?

It wasn't an instant decision but during last year of school, I knew I wanted to study science further and after finishing my undergraduate, I was certain I wanted to choose research as my career option and moved to England when I was 19.


Why is science fun?

It's full of astonishments, satisfaction and "awe" moments. It demands facts and experiments but hold hypothesis and theories in equal values. Its the best mix of philosophy of thoughts and real world understanding of everything that surrounds us.

What and when was the last experiment you did in the lab?

My last experiment was in October 2020 and it was identifying conformational changes in LmrP protein using single cysteine labelling under different pH conditions.


If you were to choose a laboratory superpower what would it be?

To see how cellular systems work like a movie in front of me.


What are your weaknesses and strengths?

Weakness: Procrastination, Inability to say no and thus, oversubscribing to things. Strengths: Confidence, Resilience and Adaptability.


Have you had any embarrassing scientific moments?

Not that I can think of right now.


What female scientist do you most admire and why?

Janaki Ammal was an Indian botanist during colonial times in India. In fact, she was also the first woman to receive PhD in Botany in the US. She is truly an inspiration to Indian scientists and received highest civilian award by GoI.


How do you relax?

Read history books, host parties and watch movies.


What are your aspirations for the future?

I aspire to contribute to tuberculosis treatment by uncovering principles behind drug resistance and tolerance. For my company, I hope to establish circular economy and up cycling as conventions and make an impact towards climate change.


How would you like to be remembered?

As a polymath, who contributed towards betterment of our planet, and taught that there should never be a "you can't have it all" moment but instead "If you can, you deserve it all" momentum!