Spartans of UD: Bindu Balakrishnan

Nov 20, 2019

Spartans of UD highlights what makes University of Dubuque special – the people who live, work, and study on campus.

Bindu Balakrishnan is an assistant professor of neurophysiology.

Spartans of UD - Bindu Balakrishnan

1. What attracted you to science, particularly neurophysiology?

“Neurophysiology is a branch of science that focuses on the structure, functions of the nervous system and its relation with the peripheral nervous system. What is fascinating about this branch of science is that it unfolds the story of how the brain can control different parts of the body. The brain acts like a conductor in an orchestra, guiding the body to perform each function, be it fighting or fleeing away from a situation or enjoying a movie on a Friday night. The amazing role of the brain is that it learns from experience. A variety of experiences can alter the structure of the brain by strengthening or weakening its connections. With the invention of various scientific techniques, we have some knowledge about the function of the brain but there is a lot more to be unraveled. For me, neurophysiology is like reading a mystery novel where the plot thickens as you read along. What is enthralling and exciting to me are these mysteries of neurophysiology.”

2. What has been the most exciting research you have conducted?

“The most exciting research that I conducted includes my PhD and postdoctoral work.

“My PhD work was to elucidate the role of enriched environment in brain lesioned animals. Placing brain lesioned rats in larger cages with other rats, inanimate objects, and hiding places like tunnels provided both physical and social interactions. The new environment altered their recovery in terms of neuronal arborization and behavior. It was fascinating to learn that simple strategies can alter the wiring of the brain and enhance cognitive development.

“My postdoctoral work included the study of efficacy of dendrimer drug conjugate in cerebral palsy model. Dendrimer acts as a vehicle to carry the drug into the brain of a rabbit pup born with features of cerebral palsy. In a normal brain, the glial cell called microglia are responsible for being the good guy, performing functions such as surveillance, synaptic pruning, homeostasis, etc., while in disease condition it can act as a bad guy causing massive destruction of neurons. Following intravenous injection of dendrimer drug conjugate, the microglia, which act as the soldiers of the CNS, pick up the dendrimer drug conjugate. Once inside the microglia, drug gets detached from the dendrimer and act on the misbehaving microglia and changes its behavior from being the bad guy to a good guy. This can save the neurons from destruction and restore some of the motor disabilities seen in the rabbit pup.

“The captivating part of these two projects are both had different strategies to improve the behavior following a brain injury: one included rehabilitation methods and the other included targeted drug delivery – both of which are translational.”

3. What advice can you give to students who are interested in science?

“My advice to students is to keep a high level of curiosity and seek knowledge. Use that knowledge to solve problems for the good of mankind. Ignorance in science is a debilitating disease that can be eradicated by the power of knowledge.”

4. You were an advisor with the Joseph and Linda Chlapaty Summer Fellowship this year. How were you able to help the student through his research on the effect of workout programs on heart rate variability?

“The Joseph and Linda Chlapaty Summer Fellowship is a wonderful opportunity for students to perform research in their area of interest. Jacob, an undergrad student, explored the effect of kickboxing on heart rate variability. Heart rate variability is a measure of time variation between each heart beat which is a noninvasive way to identify the ability of heart to be resilient to stress. My role as a mentor was to guide him through his journey wherein he had to write his own proposal, obtain IRB consent, recruit subjects, perform the HRV test, analyze the data, and make a poster presentation.”

5. What is your favorite spot on campus?

“The University of Dubuque is an excellent place to learn and explore new things, and I enjoy being a part of this community. While I love the view of the red colored trees between Dodge and Bennett streets, my favorite spot at UD is the classrooms. It’s a spot where exchange of knowledge occurs, be it me teaching the students or the students asking me, ‘Dr. B do you know this? You should definitely look it up.’ I enjoy being with students, teaching them, and learning from them.”