Anita Bhattacharyya, Ph.D.

By Brendan O'Brien | Achievements, Alumni

It’s a tough, sometimes underappreciated profession. Long hours in the lab. Time away from family. Ongoing fights against a state legislature trying to stifle your research.

It’s a profession that demands not only relentless passion, but also a constant, unquenchable thirst for progress.

And it’s something Anita Bhattacharyya, Ph.D. ’82, has wanted to do ever since her days in Wind Point.

“I’m one of those unusual people who kind of knew what I wanted at a very early age,” she says. “I knew I was going to go into biology and not medicine as early as middle school.”

A Senior Scientist at the Stem Cells and Developmental Disorders Lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the bulk of Bhattacharyya’s research is focused on understanding genetic disorders such as Down syndrome and Fragile X syndrome.

Specifically, her work focuses on the cerebral cortex, the most complex area of the brain, and how it’s altered in these developmental disorders. Problems in any of the major formative developmental steps of the cerebral cortex can lead to mental impairment. Bhattacharyya utilizes human pluripotent stem cells from affected individuals to observe how genetic mistakes in neurodevelopment can alter brain formation from the beginning of one’s life. Her hope is that by understanding and defining these mistakes, researchers will be able to target therapeutics to treat the diseases.

“There’s really no better way to study a progression of a disease or a disorder in brain development,” she says.