Dr. Taraka Donti received his MS.C. in Applied Chemistry from India and received an M.S. degree in Biotechnology from Stephen F. Austin State University in 2002. He started his Ph.D. program in Biochemistry and Biophysics at Texas A&M University in 2002 and graduated in 2008 from the lab of Dr. Geoffrey Kapler, where he worked on origin recognition complex dynamics in Tetrahymena. After graduation, he spent 6 years as a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Brett Graham’s lab at Baylor College of Medicine in the Department of Molecular and Human Genetics. During this time, Taraka developed a battery of assays for assessment of mitochondrial function in various model systems (mouse/rat/human fibroblasts/fly/worm). He also developed a Human Fibroblast based model system for functional analysis of Variants of Unknown Significance (VUS) thrown together by sequencing.
Taraka started the ABMGG Clinical Biochemical Genetics Fellowship at Baylor College of Medicine in 2014 and graduated in 2016. During this time he established untargeted metabolomics screening as a clinical test for diagnosis of rare inborn errors of metabolism. From 2016-2018, Taraka worked as an Assistant Director of a metabolic lab at Greenwood Genetic Center in South Carolina. After that, he started working for PerkinElmer Genomics as a Director of Laboratory Services in 2018. PerkinElmer is a multibillion dollar company with labs in USA, Europe (Finland, Italy and Sweden) and Asia (China, India and Malaysia). In this position, Taraka is in charge of development of new clinical testing platforms covering various fields, such as biochemical genetics, next-generation sequencing, pre-natal diagnostics, newborn screening, immunology, etc., that are a true representation of “Genomics.”
Dr. Donti’s advice to current grad students:
“The Ph.D. provides you with tools required for problem solving. The field/model system is not relevant. I am fortunate to receive the best training from Dr. Kapler in terms of critical thinking and problem solving. Do not be intimidated by the scope/size of the project or the people in charge. Learn/understand the basics and let your work speak for you. This is the advice I received from Dr. Shippen and it served me extremely well. Spend more time in planning your work and establish collaborations. I can’t stress how important this is. Try to find alternate career choices, keep an open mind and have fun.”