Bittianda Kuttapa Thelma did her postgraduation from Bangalore University and PhD (Zoology) (1982) from the University of Delhi under the mentorship of Professor SRV Rao. She had a short stint as Postdoctoral Fellow in the Human Genetics Laboratory at Children's Hospital, Switzerland with Professor Hans Jakob Muller. Upon returning to India, she was CSIR Pool Officer, and Research Associate in the Zoology Department, University of Delhi, and Lecturer, Department of Genetics, University of Delhi South Campus (1987-93). She served as Senior Lecturer (1993-98), Reader (1998-2003) and Professor in Zoology (2003-06), and now continuing as Professor in the Department of Genetics. She has also been Visiting Scientist at prestigious institutions abroad and undertook several international research collaborations.
Academic and Research Achievements: Dr Thelma contributed significantly to the teaching of cytogenetics and developed a very strong teaching and research programme in human genetics. She pursued intensive research on the understanding of functional significance of repetitive sequences on the X and Y chromosomes using a rodent model. Her later researches focused on: genetics of complex traits, particularly brain disorders including schizophrenia (SCZ), Parkinson's disease (PD), mental retardation (MR); and inflammatory diseases such as Rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disorders. Role of genes from the dopaminergic pathway in SCZ, PD and tardive dyskinesia are her major findings. Her studies on disease genomics of the genetically distinct Indian population provided major insights into the population specific genetic susceptibility patterns. Pharmacogenetics, the science of inter-individual variation in drug response, is another area where her group made significant contributions. She has mentored 11 PhD students and has over 50 publications to her credit.
Other Contributions: Dr Thelma established the DNA-based diagnosis facilities for fragile X syndrome, the most common form of inherited mental retardation, with financial support from Department of Biotechnology. Her Lab is one of the few which offers this national level diagnostic service. She also served on various expert committees of ICMR, DBT, CSIR, etc. and as Member of the XV International Genetics Congress Trust.
Awards and Honours: Professor Thelma received the Fogarty International Research Career Award. She was also elected Fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore (2006), National Academy of Sciences (India), Allahabad (2003), and Vice President of the Indian Society of Cell Biology.