Lab Members

Purushothama Rao Tata

Principle Investigator

Aleksandra Tata

Senior Research Associate

Aleks was born in a small town in north Poland. She finished her high school education in her home town and joined Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun, Poland to pursue Master of Science in molecular biology (Department of Cell Biology). Then Aleks pursued her graduate work in the Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at University of Ulm, Germany followed by postdoctoral studies in Department of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School where she studied vascular network, signaling cascades in endothelial cells and blood brain barrier (BBB).

Arvind Konkimalla

MD/PhD Candidate

Arvind was born in India but moved to New Jersey when he was just 4 years old – he claims to remember his whole childhood in India but we all know he is probably just making up stories. He received his BA in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry from Rutgers University in 2014, where he worked in the lab of Nancy Woychik, studying a Mycobacterium tuberculosis stress response mechanism. He couldn’t get enough of school so he decided to jump directly into the MD/PhD program at Duke University following his undergrad. Throughout his medical school rotations, Arvind thought he wanted to spend the rest of his life in just about every specialty, until he finally received a breath of fresh air and decided that his favorite of them all was pulmonary medicine, thus meandering his way into the Tata lab. Broadly, his research interests lie in lung cancer and regeneration – but knowing how fickle he is, this could be very different by the beginning of next week.

Hiroaki Katsura (Hiro)

Postdoctoral Associate

Hiroaki Katsura was born and raised in Tokyo Japan. When he was high school student, he was wondering what is happening in our body. Then he decided to study biology in Waseda University. He worked with small fish called Medaka and studied how the left-right axis in their body is determined during development. When he was junior, he read a paper on Spanish flu and he was fascinated by virology. During his graduate studies in the Institute of Medical Science University of Tokyo, he generated replication-incompetent influenza viruses as a vaccine and reporter viruses expressing fluorescent proteins by using a technique called reverse genetics. While he observed severe damaged lung tissues from flu infected mice, he became interested in how lungs are repaired after infection. Then he joined Prof. Brigid Hogan’s lab in Duke University to investigate the molecular and cellular mechanisms of lung regeneration. After Prof. Hogan retired, he joined Dr. Tata’s lab to continue his research and to expand his skills and knowledge about stem cell biology.

Yoshihiko Kobayashi (Yoshi)

Postdoctoral Associate

Yoshihiko grew in a town located at the foot of volcano – Unzen, which has abundant nature. He was being enthusiastic to learn/play Kyudo (Japanese archery) when he was a high school student, which allowed me to learn a fun to concentrate a point. He finished bachelor, master and Ph.D. degrees at Okuda laboratory in Okayama University, located in Mid-west of Japan, where he learned funs of science through studying functions of epithelial cells in female reproductive tracts. After finishing his Ph.D., he moved to the US, changed a target organ into lung, and chose to continue to live with science.


Mihir Narendra Patel

Mihir Patel graduated from Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis, IN, in 2017, and is currently an undergraduate majoring in biology and minoring in chemistry and sociology at Duke University. He has long been fascinated by the molecular mechanisms that govern the heterogeneity of cell identity and found the Tata Lab’s exploration of the nexus between differentiation and tumorigenesis very intriguing. In particular, he appreciates how subtle molecular switches, such as the upregulation or downregulation of specific transcription factors, can transmute cells during varying conditions, such as chemical or virus-mediated injury or carcinogenesis. Furthermore, he is very interested in studying the genetic and epigenetic foundations of these phenomena. In the future, Mihir aspires to transform his ardent passion and curiosity for biological mechanisms to pursue either an MD or an MD/PhD. Outside of the lab, Mihir volunteers for cancer and diabetes awareness student organizations on campus, is involved in multicultural organizations, and enjoys graphic designing and following sports.

Avani Desi

Avani is a second year undergraduate student at Duke who is majoring in Biology and minoring in Global Health and Chemistry. She joined the Tata lab to explore her interest in cell biology and investigate the mechanisms used to maintain cell identity. Through the Tata lab, Avani has not only learned valuable laboratory techniques, but she has also developed her critical thinking skills as a researcher and furthered her passion for science and discovering new knowledge. Avani hopes to continue exploring her scientific interests in medical school and as a physician one day. When she is not in the lab or class, Avani enjoys participating in Duke DevilThon and FAC Board, volunteering at Duke Hospital, and spending time with her friends.

Adrian Lopez

From a very early age, Adrian felt very compelled to learn about the world around him and how everything worked. He admired the beauty of life and was mesmerized about how the world around us, including living organisms, functioned. Adrian went on to study at the Bronx High School of Science and graduated with distinction, receiving awards such as the National AP Scholar Award and the National Hispanic Scholar Award. He then went on to the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University and received Dean’s List for the Fall 2017 semester. Adrian is very curious about how technology can be used to better understand the human body and all of its beautiful intricacies and hopes to get an MD/PhD in Biomedical Engineering when he graduates from Duke.

As mentioned before, Adrian is very passionate about learning how the physical world works. Specifically, he is very interested in electrobiology, quantum biology, and bioinformatics and is very excited to do research in these areas because he knows that a plethora of scientific breakthroughs in these areas are soon to come. Adrian was very eager to join a lab because he wanted to get experience doing research and wanted to make a difference in the scientific community.  He joined the Tata lab at the Nanaline Duke Building specifically because he wanted to help combat lung-related illnesses which account for a large majority deaths worldwide.

When he is not in the lab, he is either volunteering at the Pettigrew Nursing Home, working out at the gym, or watching video lectures at MIT’s OpenCourseWare Page. Adrian also has a deep appreciation for baseball as he played at Yankee Stadium for the City Championship as a freshman and was team captain of his team as a senior. Last but not least, Adrian also has a fond appreciation for nature and enjoys going on adventures with his friends to the Duke Gardens every now and then.

Rebecca Lee

Rebecca Lee is currently a sophomore majoring in Biology, minoring in Visual Arts. She originally became interested in Biology during high school when learning about how all humans are almost genetically identical, yet look so different from each other. This interest continued as her desire to focus on the why and how biological mechanisms work increased. Fortunately, she was able to find the Tata lab, and hopes to expand her knowledge of the field. When she’s not in lab, she enjoys drawing and watching anime.

Sakib Hoque

Sakib Hoque is a second-year Questbridge scholar at Duke pursuing a major in Biology with minors in Chemistry and possibly Linguistics. He has always had a keen fascination over aging in all its various aspects and plans on pursuing an MD/ Ph.D. with a focus on geroscience, extending the healthy lifespans of individuals as a whole. What first enchanted him about the Tata lab is their focus on regeneration and development of cells in lung tissues and since joining he has been able to learn a plethora of new skills while constantly being fascinated by the vast knowledge he gains every time he goes into lab. When not in lab, Sakib likes to spend his time volunteering at nursing homes, doodling imaginary worlds, playing board games, and discovering new places to explore and activities to do with his friends.

Robin Yeh 

Robin Yeh is a senior fromLong Island majoring in Visual Arts with minors in Biology and Chemistry. She became involved in the Tata Lab after working with Dr. Bernard Mathey-Prevot–she saw that she liked working with science hands-on and being able to visualize the concepts. When not working, she works as a freelance designer, and enjoys cooking and volunteering with Arts for Life at the Duke Children’s Hospital.

Previous Lab Members

  • Maggie Bara
    • February 2017 – May 2018
  • Ruben Scheuring
    • January 2017 – August 2017, Masters Program, Technische Universität Wien
  • Pia Weidinger
    • January 2017 – August 2017, Masters Program, Technische Universität Wien

Former Rotation Students

  • A.J. Massri, March 2017-November 2017

Former Undergraduate Assistants

  • Sejal Jain, May 2017 – May 2018
  • Jasmine Tran, October 2016 – April 2018