Archive for the ‘ChemSci Voices’ Category

ChemSci Voices: an interview with Sheel Dodani

Sheel Dodani



We recently spoke to Sheel Dodani about her recent article ‘Discovery of a monomeric green fluorescent protein sensor for chloride by structure-guided bioinformatics’.

Sheel Dodani is currently an Associate Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at The University of Texas at Dallas. She describes herself as a supramolecular engineer whose work bridges the chemistry-biology interface, focusing on the inorganic chemistry of life. In her research program, she is interested in understanding and discovery of the roles that anions play in cellular homeostasis and signalling.

Read this blog post to learn more about the inspiration for Sheel’s research and how open access plays an important role in sharing her publications with the community.




Our interview with Sheel

Tell us about yourself and your recent publication in Chemical Science.

My name is Sheel Dodani, and I’m an Associate Professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Texas at Dallas. I started my research program in 2016, and today I’m going to share with you about the work we published in Chemical Science on the discovery of a fluorescent protein-based sensor for anions.

How did you get into this area of research? What was it that really inspired you?

That will take us back quite a few years ago to when I was a PhD student. I was studying how cations function in biological systems, but during my last year I was really inspired by the part that we weren’t talking about – the anions! Anions are largely considered to be the counterions of life, but they really have many functions ascribed to them. In my independent career, what I wanted to bring to the table was an understanding of how we can study anions in a biological context, and this is what really spurred us in this direction. How can we go into water and then a living cell and beat nature at its own game of interacting with an anion?  How do you isolate an anion in water? If you can’t do it with a molecule effectively, can you do it with a protein? So, when we started this project, we started thinking about both chemical and biological approaches. I thought that there was more synthetic diversity, per say, in a biological approach than what I could access with a traditional chemical approach. Our ideas are really rooted in the concept of supramolecular chemistry, where we think about the guest, that is an anion, and the protein as the host.

Can you tell us about the big step forward in your ChemSci paper, and what future direction you think the work might take?

This project really represents the springboard for us to move into cell biology. It is the first paper where we are starting to understand how we can put our technologies into a living cell and illuminate how anions function in biological systems. Now that we have all the necessary parts set up in our lab, we can continue to engineer new protein systems, learn how nature encodes anion binding, and also develop rigorous methods, so that we can widely disseminate our tools. I bring up the latter point because this is important as a toolmaker.

What do you hope your article can achieve? And who will benefit from it?

As a toolmaker, you want someone to use your tool to answer a question that they might be interested in. Even though you may not necessarily want to answer that specific question, one can enable it. I bring this up because the sensor that we have reported in this paper is now available to researchers on the Addgene website. It is very important to me that we can start to share our technologies with a wide range of researchers to accelerate new discoveries for the roles of anions in biology, while also advancing some of the questions that we are interested in answering.

So why did you choose to submit this paper to Chemical Science?

One of the major reasons we chose to submit our work to Chemical Science is the ability to reach a broad audience. We’re quite interdisciplinary in our approach to understand 1) how proteins bind anions in water and 2) how we can engineer proteins to then give us a functional output such that we can start to answer questions about anions in biological systems. So, I hope we can reach a wide range of readers who may have some overlapping interest with my research team’s goals.

We also draw inspiration from many of the authors in Chemical Science. Ultimately, can we teach someone something new with our work? Can we learn something new from someone else’s work? I see that in Chemical Science. Whenever I pick up an issue, I always learn something new, and hopefully by having this dialogue with you, someone will learn about our work as well.

How was your experience publishing with us?

I have enjoyed the process of publishing with Chemical Science. We know what is going on every step of the way. We can upload a PDF, which is easy. There is transparency and open communication in the process as well.

How do you feel about open science and our diamond open access policy?

Open science eliminates barriers to accessing knowledge. The diamond open access policy from Chemical Science shifts the responsibility away from the author to the publisher. This in turn allows authors to focus on sharing their scientific discoveries.

How has open access had an influence or impact on your research?

As a young research group, we opt for open access through preprints and journals. The reason for this is that we can rapidly share our work with a range of scientists who may not have direct overlap or even access to a particular journal. In doing so, we have already been able share our tools and initiate new collaborations.

What do you see as the longer-term impact of open access, and the benefits for the community?

Open access will rapidly equalize access to knowledge and drive research innovations across the globe in ways that we can only imagine. Unsurprisingly, the premise of open access is in line with the goals of a university professor, which is to educate in the classroom and the laboratory. In fact, what we teach from our textbooks was once a scientific discovery, but it has stood the test of time. I think the challenge going forward will be how do we effectively mine all the information that we have, but then again open access will possibly solve this, too!


Chemical Science is home to world-leading interdisciplinary research from every aspect of the chemical sciences. Visit our website to explore our latest articles and submit your own research.


Chemical Science



Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)