Needhi Bhalla

Needhi Bhalla received her undergraduate degree in biochemistry from Columbia College and her PhD in biochemistry from University of California, San Francisco. She performed her post-doctoral work at University of California, Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Labs. She started her lab at University of California, Santa Cruz in 2008, where she studies chromosome structure and function in both meiosis and mitosis in C. elegans. She is particularly interested in how chromosome dynamics are monitored to ensure proper chromosome segregation during cell division. The work in her lab has demonstrated a surprising connection between the regulation of meiotic prophase events and the spindle checkpoint. In addition to her scientific research, she is interested in increasing diversity, equity and inclusivity in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) at all levels.

A tale of two checkpoints

How do cells ensure that the correct number of chromosomes is maintained with every cell division? Having an incorrect number of chromosomes, also called aneuploidy, is associated with cancer, birth defects, miscarriages and infertility, underscoring the importance of this question to human health. We combine genetic and biochemical approaches with high-resolution microscopy and cytological techniques in the nematode worm C. elegans to better understand how chromosomes are partitioned correctly during both sexual reproduction (meiosis) and development (mitosis). Currently, many of our studies focus on the conserved ATPase, PCH-2/TRIP13, which is required to monitor how homologous chromosomes interact in meiotic prophase as well as whether chromosomes are properly attached to the spindle during chromosome segregation. We are interested in determining whether common mechanisms underlie these diverse but essential chromosomal events.