I'm a synthetic biologist, plant scientist and science-writer with an interest in shaping policy.
Contact me at: devangmehta[AT]ualberta.ca
I'm a systems & synthetic biologist by training and recently completed my PhD in Plant Biotechnology at ETH Zurich. I'm interested in studying how complex biological systems work and interact and want to try and apply this knowledge to solve global problems using new biotechnology. I am also a graduate of the Zurich-Basel Plant Science Center’s PhD program in Science & Policy and strive to include aspects of policy and ethics in my science.
Currently, I am trying to unravel the G-value paradox in plants, and trying to discover the mechanisms by which plants (and other eukaryotes) produce complexity while having a limited set of genes. I want to use this knowledge to "fine-tune" plant metabolism.
For my PhD, I worked on the tropical plant Cassava, which feeds about a billion people worldwide. I analysed different genetic engineering approaches, including CRISPR-Cas9 to tackle virus disease in cassava, particularly in the context of complex virus populations. I also invented a new DNA sequencing method which enables in-depth, accurate analysis of plant virus genomes.
My Master's thesis involved designing and constructing a whole-cell bacterial biosensor to detect Schistosoma contaminated water.
I write stories describing cutting-edge advances in biology while also discussing ethical and political issues that often accompany new technology and the modern scientific process. My work has been published by Slate, Salon, Massive and The Wire.
I've also written for eLife and Nature about issues such as scientific publishing, recognising scientific contributions fairly, and racism in science and presented ideas for addressing them.
Science and Society
I've recently been elected a member of eLife's Early Career Advisory Group, a group of junior investigators that advises the journal and helps develop innovations in science publishing.
During my tenure as a Steering Committee member of EUSynBioS, (The European Association of Synthetic Biology Students and Post-docs), I've moderated and participated in several Open Discussions about the newest advances in biotechnology. I think it's very important to have these discussions with the public, but also encourage debate within the scientific community.