Sethu Pitchiaya, PhD

Assistant Professor, Urology
Assistant Professor, Pathology


Dr. Pitchiaya began his research career as an undergraduate researcher at the laboratories of Dr. Mathew K. Mathew (electrophysiology) and Dr. Yamuna Krishna (DNA nanotechnology), at the National Center for Biological Sciences (India). He obtained his undergraduate degree (B.Tech.) in Industrial Biotechnology from the Center for Biotechnology at Anna University (India). He received a Ph.D. in Chemistry at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor), under the mentorship of Dr. Nils G. Walter, an eminent RNA enzymologist. During his graduate research, he developed a broadly applicable toolkit call iSHIRLOC (intracellular single-molecule high-resolution localization and counting) to unravel the sub-cellular orchestration of oncogenic and tumor-suppressive non-coding RNA pathways at an unprecedented single-molecule resolution. As a postdoctoral fellow at the single-molecule analysis in real-time (SMART) center, he built high-resolution microscopes and fostered diverse collaborative ventures, including one (with Dr. Fabrizio dadda di-Fagagna, IFOM, Italy) that led to an unexpected discovery of non-coding RNA function in the DNA damage response. His interests in the seemingly versatile roles of long non-coding RNAs in biology, led him to work with Dr. Arul M. Chinnaiyan, a leader in precision medicine, as an AACR-Bayer prostate cancer postdoctoral fellow. He subsequently discovered novel oncogenes, unraveled their mechanism-of-action and evaluated their clinical potential as a postdoctoral fellow via a quintessentially bench-to-bedside approach. As an independent research investigator, he built on these approaches and paved the way for High-Throughput Single-cell and Single-molecule analysis (HiTSS), which uses automated large area imaging and computer-vision aided multi-variate image analysis to enable biochemical interrogations, ultra-sensitive quantification of gene expression, phenotypic prediction of gene expression heterogeneity and in situ omics.

As of July 2021, he is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Urology, Department of Pathology and Michigan Center for Translational Pathology, and his research program is aimed at understanding how cells regulate gene expression, especially at the RNA level, and how these regulatory programs go awry in pathology. To this end, he leverages ideas from RNA biology, biophysics, cell biology and cancer biology, and integrates expansive methodologies, ranging from high-resolution single-molecule microscopy to high-throughput single-cell sequencing. 


Department of Urology
Department of Pathology

Areas of Interest

Research Interests: Regulation of gene expression, RNA biology, Cancer biology, Single-cell analysis, Single-molecule imaging


Doctoral Training

  • University of Michigan, 2012


  • Michigan Medicine, 2017
  • University of Michigan, 2015

Professional Organizations

  • American Association of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • American Association of Cancer Research
  • Biophysical Society
  • RNA Society

Published Articles or Reviews