Abhi Aggarwal is originally from Fort McMurray, Alberta (a small town in Northern Alberta, Canada). He then moved to Edmonton, Alberta, where he joined University of Alberta to pursue a double major in Biological Sciences and Chemistry. There, he joined Robert E. Campbell’s lab in the Department of Chemistry where he worked to engineer molecular tools that provide a colorimetric functional readout of cells’ activity. In Campbell Lab, Abhi worked to develop biological tools due to his fundamental interest in the structure and function of biosensors in vitro, but also for their uses in intact organisms for biological and medical discovery. One of his primary projects was focused on the development of a new green calcium biosensor (mNG-GECO1; published in ACS Sensors) to report neuronal activity in vivo.
To pursue in vivo applications of these tools and to use them to better understand neurodevelopmental disorders, he joined Ted Alison’s lab (also at University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada) as a Research Assistant in his senior year of University (Sept 2018 – May 2019), where he learned to synthesize and deliver mRNA encoding fluorescent proteins (FPs) into the single cell of a zebrafish embryo. In Ted’s lab, Abhi's tools served as a powerful visualization technique and became the eyes of his investigation towards how the zebrafish nervous system develops, degenerates, and repairs.
Abhi graduated University of Alberta with first-class standing (with recognition in UAlberta Dean's Honor Roll), and was awarded with a Centenary Award for Academic Excellence after graduating. He also received several research fundings (URI Research Stipends, Alberta Innovates Health Solutions Studentship), many 1st place oral and poster presentation recognitions, and was given the Student Unions' Outstanding Innovation Award from the University of Alberta.
In 2019, Abhi moved to Virginia, US., where he joined Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI)'s Janelia Research Campus to work with Dr. Kaspar Podgorski to develop novel biosensors. During this time, he developed neurotransmitter and neuromodulator based indicators for imaging synaptic activity in the brain. One of his primary projects focused on the development of a sensitive new glutamate indicator (iGluSnFR3; preprint on bioRxiv), with signal-to-noise ratios sufficient to record the release of individual vesicles in vivo.
In 2022, Abhi moved to Seattle, WA., to work at Allen Institute for Brain Science as a Research Associate. At the Allen, Abhi works in a multi-scale, team-oriented organization led by Dr. Karel Svoboda. With the goal of accelerating foundational research, and cultivating new ideas to make a transformational impact on science, His responsibilities include developing novel optogenetic tools for understanding the brain, mentoring and advising students, democratizing science, and working with experts to catalyze scientific progress.
Abhi Aggarwal is very passionate about molecular tools that help deepen our understanding of all aspects of cellular and systems biology, and he is interested in continuing to create and improve such tools in the future. To learn more about his research interests and beyond, feel free to reach out to him by e-mail (abhi.aggarwal[at]alleninstitute.org) or by Twitter (abhi_aggarwal1).