American Association for Clinical Chemistry
Better health through laboratory medicine
August 2008 Mentor of the Month Interview: Pratap Singh
Biography
  1. What is your job title and affiliation?
  2. Briefly tell us about your educational and career background
  3. What are your Board certifications?
  4. With which professional societies/organizations (e.g. AACC) are you involved?
  5. Just for fun, tell us a few interesting facts about yourself.
Career
  1. What area(s) do you specialize in?
  2. What initiated your interest in this (these) area(s) and how did you eventually choose this (these) area(s) for your career?
  3. What are your clinical and research interests?
  4. What, in your opinion, has been the most important contribution you have made to the field of laboratory medicine?
  5. Are there specific aspects of practicing laboratory medicine that you find unappealing?
  6. What were some of the most rewarding and/or challenging moments of your career?
  7. How would you recommend achieving an optimal work/life balance?
  8. What excites you about practicing laboratory medicine everyday?
  9. What are your predictions for advances in laboratory medicine and/or your area over the next ten years?
  10. What do you see as the challenges facing young scientists in laboratory medicine?
  11. What specific goals would you recommend that young scientists in your discipline set for themselves? Any suggestions on how to achieve them?
  12. Describe how you have been able to give back or contribute to the organizations and the profession in general through your involvement in AACC.
  13. How did you get started in these organizations and what advice do you have for young people wanting to get involved?
  14. Do you have any other specific comments or advice that you like to provide to the members of SYCL?
Biography
  1. What is your job title and affiliation?
    Research Fellow/ Principal Scientist- Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics, Newark, DE
  2. Briefly tell us about your educational and career background.
    Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry (University of Delhi); Post-doctoral work at University of Chicago (synthetic organic chemistry), Fordham University (synthetic organic chemistry), the University of Michigan (bio-organic chemistry) and Henry Ford Hospital (bio-organic chemistry). Scientist at Southern Biotech (Tampa, Fl.) and Central Drug Research Institute (India).
  3. What are your Board certifications?
    N/A
  4. With which professional societies/organizations (e.g. AACC) are you involved?
    American Chemical Society, The Protein Society.
  5. Just for fun, tell us a few interesting facts about yourself:
    • Family
      If I followed family traditions then I should have followed a career as a farmer or warrior rather being a Scientist, and should have married at the age of 16-18 rather than in my late twenties.
    • Favorite activities/hobbies
      Swimming, reading.
    • Favorite places you have traveled
      Valley of Flowers in Himalayas, Whistler (B.C.)
    • Favorite book/movie
      The Great Escape, Into Thin Air
    • Most fun/adventurous thing you’ve ever done
      Traveled, on trails accessible only by foot, twice in the Himalayas (10-15,000 ft), 3-4 weeks at a time to collect high altitude fungi for my Ph.D thesis work. One time I came within a foot of a cobra. Shared food and living quarters with Forest Officers, Administrative Officers, tourists, sherpas and sheep herders.
Career
  1. What area(s) do you specialize in?
    Protein modifications, immobilization and characterization; use of synthetic polymers (e.g. Starburst Dendrimers) in immunochemical applications; design new immunochemical reagents.
  2. What initiated your interest in this (these) area(s) and how did you eventually choose this (these) area(s) for your career?
    I preferred chemistry over physics since college days and the opportunity to learn synthetic chemistry and bio-organic chemistry during post-doctoral days provided me with the essential background. This broad background became an asset when I started working at American Hospital Supply Corporation (previously called Dade Behring and now Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics).
  3. What are your clinical and research interests?
    Design new reagents and improve upon the existing ones that are used in immunodiagnostics.
  4. What, in your opinion, has been the most important contribution you have made to the field of laboratory medicine?
    Although it started out as a trouble-shooting project for a long standing issue of how to reproducibly immobilize antibodies on a solid support, iit turned out to be a very interesting scientific adventure. I conceived the principle, and with the help of very talented coworkers, demonstrated the feasibility of utilization of synthetic defined polymers (Starburst™ Dendrimers) for controlling orientation of immunoreagents used in assays requiring low detection limits. We demonstrated that it was possible to achieve rapid equilibrium as in the case of a homogeneous system and enhanced sensitivity as would be possible with a heterogeneous immunoassay system. This principle is the basis of Stratus® CS, a commercial point of care immunoassay system marketed by Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics.
  5. Are there specific aspects of practicing laboratory medicine that you find unappealing?
    Majority of laboratory scientists like me are far removed from any interaction with our customers (patients whose samples are being analyzed) although what we do has a major impact on the treatment and quality of life of these customers.
  6. What were some of the most rewarding and/or challenging moments of your career?
    I worked on a project that eventually became the basis of a product with the potential of saving someone’s life (may be some day even mine or someone close to me, who knows) by helping to make the with correct diagnosis, and that makes a direct impact on the quality of life of that individual. It is like a dream come true for any Scientist. Another project I worked on was an interesting scientific challenge. It involved finding reason/s and solution/s for change in performance of an immuno-reagent prepared from different lots of a polyclonal antibody.
  7. How would you recommend achieving an optimal work/life balance?
    Both life and work are of equal importance and need to be balanced carefully. Since each case is unique each individual has to find his/her own way to find this balance. Trust, mutual respect and understanding are essential ingredients of all successful relations both at home as well as at work. I have a very generous wife that makes it possible for me to catch up on scientific literature at home.
  8. What excites you about practicing laboratory medicine everyday?
    The challenge and opportunity to solve puzzles associated with experiments that do not perform as desired or expected.
  9. What are your predictions for advances in laboratory medicine and/or your area over the next ten years?
    Quality, accuracy, sensitivity and value (both for correct diagnosis and economic reasons) for patients would be expected of all clinical tests performed in laboratories. Shift in age of general population would put higher emphasis on discovery and/or confirmation of biomarkers useful in treatment and prediction of age-related diseases such as Alzheimer and various forms of cancer.
  10. What do you see as the challenges facing young scientists in laboratory medicine?
    Genomics and proteomics have made it possible to detect a large number of biomarkers, some of them detectable only by very sensitive analytical techniques. However, correlating either a single marker or mixture of these markers with a specific cause of any clinical symptom is still very difficult and will continue to be so for a while. Laboratory scientists would also be challenged to discover methods that would predict specific disease states even before disease-specific clinical symptoms appear as is in the case of certain forms of cancer.
  11. What specific goals would you recommend that young scientists in your discipline set for themselves? Any suggestions on how to achieve them?
    One must enjoy what one does and treat this as a ‘profession’ rather than just ‘what brings a paycheck’. Otherwise one is in a wrong profession. Irrespective of one’s position in an organization, it is important for an individual to recognize that they are working there for their own sake and for their own satisfaction rather than to please someone else. It is important to take pride in one’s work and perform to the best of their ability. Rewards and recognition may be sometimes slow for dedicated work but if one considers that one is working for their own satisfaction then the delay in rewards will not seriously affect one’s mental peace.
  12. Describe how you have been able to give back or contribute to the organizations and the profession in general through your involvement in AACC.
    One can contribute to an organization by presenting good research at professional meetings and publishing work in the journals published by the association. I am particularly fond of the Oak Ridge conference, organized by AACC, where it is possible to feel the future of clinical chemistry. For example, nanotechnology has become a buzz word now but the 1996 session of the Oak Ridge conference in Tampa, Fl. had a special session on nanotechnology in clinical chemistry and I was asked to give an oral presentation on Dendrimers although we had submitted a poster presentation.
  13. How did you get started in these organizations and what advice do you have for young people wanting to get involved?
    Local sections provide a perfect opportunity to learn and contribute to these organizations. An interaction with other professionals in your own organization is a good starting point.
  14. Do you have any other specific comments or advice that you like to provide to the members of SYCL?
    Professional ethics is a golden rule that one should never forget in a profession. Whenever in doubt listen to your heart.