Shubha Tole

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Shubha Tole
Born August 1967 (1967-08) (age 50)
Nationality Indian

St. Xavier's College, Mumbai

Californian Institute of Technology, USA
Occupation Neuroscientist
Employer Tata Institute of Fundamental Research
Spouse(s) Sandip Trivedi
Children A. Tole-Trivedi & N. Tole-Trivedi
Parent(s) Dr.Aruna P. Tole

Shubha Tole (born August 1967) is an Indian neuroscientist, Professor and Principal Investigator at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai, India. Her research involves investigating the development and evolution of the mammalian brain, and she has won many accolades for her work. She is famous for having discovered a gene that is crucial to the proper formation of the hippocampus, amygdala, and cortex of the brain, winning the Infosys Prize in the Life Sciences category in 2014. However, Tole’s work does not end in her lab. She is dedicated to fostering an appreciation and application of the sciences in students through public outreach talks, posting about scientific issues and topics on the internet, and mentoring pre and post-doctoral students. She is also a member of various scientific groups and societies.

Early life and education[edit]

Born to mother Dr.Aruna P. Tole, an occupational therapist who was responsible for the design of many low-cost innovative prostheses, aids and appliances for cancer patients,[1] and a father who was director of SAMEER, an Institute under the Department of Electronics, Government of India,[2] Shubha Tole was born into a prolific scientific family in August, 1967. While her family certainly nurtured Tole’s early love of science, school also provided motivation. Tole was inspired by her Class 6 teacher, Rose Naronha, and grew to love both biology and physics very much by grade 12.[1] After her basic education, Tole decided to go on to study life sciences and biochemistry at St. Xavier’s College, in Mumbai instead of pursuing medical school. For her MS and PhD degrees, Dr.Tole came to the US to complete them at the California Institute of Technology. After successfully completing her degrees, Tole then decided to do post-doctoral research at the University of Chicago.[3] In 1999, after spending more than a decade on her education in the US, Tole moved back to India and began work at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, where she is today. Her work today involves the investigation of how the developing brain comes to be and she has published many a paper and written many blogs targeted at a younger audience.[4]

Career and research[edit]

After earning her PhD, Dr.Tole sought out a post-doc position, finding a position studying the development of the mammalian brain at the University of Chicago. While she was doing work that interested her, she and her husband both had a similar want to bring their type of work to their mother country, India. Tole wished to bring her research in developmental neuroscience to India, where should would be one of very few in her line of work. She believed that by taking her work there, she could provide students in India the option to engage in a research area that was not available to them before. When she got an offer to set up a lab and work as a part of Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, she and her husband decided to make the move. After moving back to India with her husband in 1999, Tole took the next few years to set up her lab.

As she was setting up her lab in India, she began to face many problems.Though the cost of equipment and materials was pricey, Tole’s research was well-funded by the prestigious Wellcome Trust Senior International Fellowship. However, there were other troubles since the long travel time it took to get materials to Mumbai meant that sometimes there wasn't enough dry ice to keep perishable items frozen, and thawing of materials could potentially ruin these materials before they had even arrived at her lab.[2] However, these obstacles were met and overcome, and Tole had her lab's first publication in 2000.[5] Many publications followed in the years to come, and she currently has over 40 publications today.

Tole’s work is in developmental neuroscience, and for the last few decades, she has been working to elucidate the mechanisms behind the development and diseases of certain brain structures. Her most significant contribution to the scientific world was her discovery of the regulatory gene, Lhx2, that controls some aspects of how the amygdala, cortex, and the hippocampus form during early development. This gene, LHX2, is a LIM homeobox gene, and when it is deleted at early embryonic stages in rodents, the cerebral cortex itself does not form. If deleted later in development, then specific parts of the cortex such as the sensory barrels, do not form. Dr.Tole also proposed a possible mechanism for how the neocortex may have come to be in mammals, linking it to a much older structure of the brain, the amygdala. Other discoveries of hers include finding dual developmental origins for structures that control reproductive and aggressive behavior in the accessory olfactory bulb in mammals.[6]

While Dr.Tole is primarily a neuroscientist, she is also an active member of a community of scientist who reach out to students to guide them in their respective field and help to foster love of their subjects. She posts articles on that are aimed at a younger audience, and has many pre and post-doctoral candidates that she is mentoring.[3]
In addition to researching and mentoring, Tole is also holds a membership with many acclaimed academic groups such as the International Affairs Committee of the American Society for Cell Biology. She is also a Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences, India and the Indian Academy of Sciences.[3]

Personal life[edit]

While in pursuit of her PhD, Tole met and fell in love with Dr.Sandip Trivedi, who was also pursuing a PhD in theoretical physics in Caltech. The pair bonded over their love of science and music, and were married in 1989. Eventually, in 1999, they made the decision to move back to India in hopes of doing their research in their mother country. After spending a few years setting up her lab in the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Tole had two sons with her husband.[7]

Honors and awards[edit]

Dr.Tole has received many grants and awards for her work. Some of the major accolades include the Wellcome Trust Senior International Fellowship (1999), the Swarnajayanti Fellowship from the Department of Science and Technology of the Government of India (2005), the National Woman Bioscientist award from the Department of Biotechnology of Government of India (2008), the Research Award for Innovation in Neurosciences (RAIN award) from the Society for Neuroscience, United States (2008), and the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Award (2010).[3] She was also awarded the Wellcome Trust Flexible Travel Award grant by Stanford University for a Sabbatical year in 2008, which she took with her family.[8] In 2014, Dr.Shubha Tole was awarded the prestigious Infosys Prize of 55 lakh rupees for her work done to elucidate the mechanisms and genes that are involved in the formation of the hippocampus.[3]


  1. ^ a b Meet India's best scientist, Shubha Tole, Careers 360, retrieved November 18, 2015 
  2. ^ a b Science of life, Mumbai Mirror, retrieved November 17, 2015 
  3. ^ a b c d e Infosys Prize, Infosys Science Foundation, retrieved November 17, 2015 
  4. ^ Do not precompromise on your dreams: Dr.Shubha Tole, BioSpectrum, retrieved November 17, 2015 
  5. ^ Scientist and Mommy, India BioScience, retrieved November 17, 2015 
  6. ^ Shetty, Ashwin S.; Godbole, Geeta; Maheshwari, Upasana; Padmanabhan, Hari; Chaudhary, Rahul; et al. (November 21, 2003). "Lhx2 regulates a cortex-specific mechanism for barrel formation". PNAS. 110 (50): E4913–E4921. doi:10.1073/pnas.1311158110. PMC 3864327Freely accessible. PMID 24262147. 
  7. ^ String Duet, LiveMint, retrieved November 18, 2015 
  8. ^ Shubha Tole, F1000 Prime, retrieved November 18, 2015 

External links[edit]