Bikash Bogati – Graduate Student Spotlight
Hailing from Nepal, Bikash Bogati has traveled far to pursue his doctoral degree at the University of Tennessee. In Nepal, he obtained his undergraduate degree in medical microbiology and worked in a diagnostic microbiology lab. He now works with Elizabeth Fozo, associate professor of microbiology, studying how bacteria survive different stress conditions.
Specifically, he focuses on enterohemorrhagic E. coli, or EHEC, which is a food-borne pathogen. EHEC produces the Shiga toxin, which causes damage to the intestinal wall and severe illness in humans.
“I’m looking into a gene segment that codes for a type I toxin protein, called ZorO, to see how it helps the bacteria to survive in different stress conditions,” Bogati said.
Not much is known about this small protein or its specific function; however, when ZorO is artificially overproduced, cell growth stasis and death ensue.
“My dissertation work mostly focuses on what we overproduce as toxic [in the lab] might be helpful for the bacteria,” Bogati explains. “This protein can help the bacteria survive antibiotics that we have been testing in the lab.”
Understanding this system is important, as antibiotic resistance is a growing concern.
“It is really challenging to have antibiotics synthesized compared to how fast the bacteria are gaining resistance,” Bogati elaborates.
During his time at UT, Bogati has contributed to more than just the understanding of E. coli. In 2018, he was inspired to seek community service opportunities when he was asked, “what would you do if you had an extra hour in your day?”
“I said that I would do something for others, because whatever time I have, I’m using on myself,” he smiles. He now volunteers with Volunteer Assisted Transportation, which connects volunteer drivers to individuals in need of transportation.
The organization has had a large impact on Bogati’s view of America, and he has learned much from those he drives.
“As an international student, we are used to the school life, and we don’t have much interaction with people outside of school,” he laughs. “I started getting to know their lives. I now realize our lives are all pretty similar.”
His eyes shine as he talks about the veterans, teachers, and other passengers he has connected with. “We can learn so much from their lives and experiences.”
After he obtains his PhD, Bogati will continue to study infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance as a post-doctoral researcher at Emory University. He is eager to continue volunteering as well.
-By Taylor Mattioli