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Siva Sankari

B.Tech, Biotechnology, Vellore Institute of Technology
M.Tech, Biotechnology, Anna University
Ph.D., State University of New York at Buffalo

Plants come up with innovative solutions for complex problems. They have to solve a lot of problems staying in one place. If you look for some complex enzymatic pathway or a missing step, the plant kingdom usually has an answer.

Research Areas

Cell Biology, Genetics and Genomics, Molecular and Cell Biology, Biochemistry, Microbiology, Host-Microbe Interaction, Plant-Microbe Symbiosis, Metal Homeostasis


Siva Sankari, Ph.D., a biochemist, microbiologist, and plant biologist, joined the Stowers Institute in 2023 as an Assistant Investigator. Her research involves the beneficial interaction between plants and microbes, and how this translates to therapeutic applications.

Raised in a small town in Southern India, Sankari is the first in her family to earn an advanced degree and the first woman of all the students at her school to receive a doctoral degree. She earned a B.Tech in biotechnology from Vellore Institute of Technology, an M.Tech in biotechnology from Anna University Chennai, and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the State University of New York at Buffalo. Her doctoral studies in the lab of Mark O’Brian, Ph.D., focused on discovering important mechanisms of iron import, trafficking, and export in the bacterium, Bradyrhizobium japonicum and elucidating how it adapts to various iron and oxidative stress environments during symbiosis within a host soybean plant.

Sankari’s postdoctoral work in the lab of Graham Walker, Ph.D., at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology focused on how plant peptides govern host-microbe interactions to translate these mechanisms for pharmacological, diagnostic, and therapeutic applications. She unraveled the first detailed molecular mechanism of an essential plant peptide that governs bacterial iron levels and tricks the symbiotic bacterium into importing excess iron needed for nitrogen-fixation. Several potential therapeutic applications resulted in this work.

Sankari empathizes with the social and mental barriers faced by many students aspiring to pursue a career in science. She participates in seminars and coordinates and develops programs to encourage STEM awareness and accessibility for undergraduate women in rural India. Sankari is passionate about equality in STEM and will continue to advocate to make academia a more inclusive, equitable space for everyone.

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