Undergraduate Research Opportunities in RNA

Yigit Lab

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Our group is interested in studying two and three dimensional nanoparticles for addressing biological, biomedical and environmental challenges.

Chen Lab

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Our research focuses on the use of physics-based simulations of RNA as a tool for studying RNA folding and biomolecular engineering.

Szaro Laboratory

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Areas of interest: Developmental neurobiology, molecular neurobiology, neural regeneration, neurofilaments, axonal growth, and xenopus laevis embryology

Sheng Lab

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Our lab is interested in the structural and functional studies of naturally occurring modifications in nucleic acid, the most important biological macromolecules. The diversified chemical modifications discovered in DNA and RNA (including tRNA, mRNA, rRNA and all the other non-coding RNAs) play critical biological roles and are directly related to many diseases. We hope the atomic-level understanding of their 3D structures and their metabolic pathways will lead to better elucidation of their functions and shed light on the potential drug discovery based on them. In addition, these modifications are the most evolutionarily conserved properties in the early stage of cellular life, providing important clues to study the prebiotic chemistry and the origin of life.

Royzen Lab

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The Royzen Research Group is interested in developing new synthetic and imaging tools for RNA research

Parasitology Laboratory

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The parasite Trypanosoma brucei is a blood-borne pathogen that causes both human and zoonotic disease. T. brucei and related trypanosomatids are early eukaryotes and successful pathogens. Currently no preventative therapies are available and treatment is difficult, despite our knowledge of several unique biological processes with the potential to be exploited as drug targets. One such unusual process is RNA editing. RNA editing is found in many organisms including plants, yeast, humans and other mammals, although the mechanisms of editing are distinct. Within the trypanosomatids RNA editing is achieved by the insertion of non-encoded uridines or the deletion of encoded uridines. In the most extreme cases over 50% of the mature mRNA is the result of post-transcriptional editing. Editing takes place exclusively in the mitochondria, where it is required in order to generate mature mRNAs competent for translation into the correct proteins, and is carried out by a large ribonucleoprotein complex. Our work focuses on the biochemistry of editing by this multiprotein complex. We have identified a protein, RNA-Editing Associated Protein-1 (REAP-1), which specifically recognizes RNAs requiring editing. Evidence suggests that REAP-1 acts as a recruitment factor to deliver RNAs to the editing complex. REAP-1 is one of only two proteins that have been identified as components not of the core catalytic complex but of a larger (35-40S) complex believed to function in vivo. Through a combination of genetic and biochemical approaches, current work in the lab involves understanding how REAP-1 specifically recognizes and binds to its RNA targets, identifying other proteins with which REAP-1 interacts and determining how REAP-1 influences editing complex assembly and regulation of RNA editing.

Pager Lab

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The Pager lab is interested in the interaction and mechanisms by which RNA viruses subvert the cellular RNA metabolism pathways. We are particularly intrigued by how flaviviruses such as hepatitis C virus and Dengue virus commandeer the host’s mRNA storage and decay machinery to successfully establish an infection.

Osuna Laboratory

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Areas of interest: DNA binding and bending proteins, role of DksA in cellular response to nutritional stress, role of Fis in E. coli, genes subject to Fis regulation, and mechanisms of Fis regulation

Li Niu Research Group

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Our laboratory is interested in understanding the structure-function relationship and the mechanism of regulation of glutamate ion channel receptors. These receptors mediate rapid synaptic neurotransmission and are indispensable in the brain function, such as memory and learning. Abnormal receptor activity, however, has been implicated in various neurological diseases and disorders

Rabi Musah Research Group

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The underlying theme of studies in the Musah research lab is in the mechanisms by which the redox versatility of sulfur is exploited by Nature to solve challenging issues in the chemical biology of plants and some viruses. The development of spectroscopic and mass spectrometric tools and methods that can be used to probe reactions involving organosulfur species are also of interest, as the tracking of organosulfur reaction intermediates presents unique challenges not often encountered with other elements.

Life Sciences Initiative

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University at Albany scientists are advancing knowledge across a broad spectrum of research in the life sciences with special emphasis on cutting edge investigation into the structure and function of biologically active molecules. Scientific research is coalesced around core interests in RNA science and technology, neuroscience, molecular evolution of disease and molecular biology. Founded on the philosophy that scientific discovery is a multidisciplinary, collaborative and highly interactive enterprise, the Life Science Research Initiative is based on a dynamic approach to scientific discovery and education. Discovery occurs at the frontiers and intersections of science and Life Sciences faculty provide a critical focus for collaborative discovery across traditional departments as well as with other University at Albany and regional scientists.

Fabris Laboratory

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Research interests: Using mass spectroscopy to investigate macromolecular complexes, protein-nucleic acid interactions in viruses, high-resolution mass spectrometry, and RNA-based drug therapeutics.

Center for Functional Genomics

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We are able to coordinate efforts among our different Facilities so that we can accommodate researchers in projects from start to finish. For example, the CFG is able to isolate genes, design and make DNA constructs through our Molecular Biology Facility, then coordinate with the Mouse Transgenic Facility to make Transgenic or Knock-out mice and then the mice generated can be analyzed at the DNA, RNA or Protein levels through our Molecular Biology, Microarray, Laser Capture Microdissection or Proteomics Facilities

The Agris Laboratory

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Research interests: Structure/function relationships of nucleic acids, RNA-targeted drug discovery, Novel RNA-based antimicrobial targets, Roles of modified nucleosides in tRNA, Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) of RNA, RNA-RNA and RNA-protein interactions

The Agrawal Laboratory

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The Agrawal laboratory is engaged in studies of the protein-synthesizing machine, the ribosome, which interacts with messenger RNA (mRNA), transfer RNAs, and a number of protein factors, to facilitate translation of the genetic information encoded by the mRNA into the amino-acid sequence of a protein. In particular, his research explores (i) the structure and function of organellar ribosomes, and (ii) the structural dynamics of ligands that interact with the ribosome during protein synthesis.

Larsen Lab

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My lab is interested in deciphering the molecular mechanisms controlling branching morphogenesis, which is a process required for the development of many mammalian organs, including the lung, kidney, prostate, mammary glands, and salivary glands.

Herschkowitz Lab

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The research in my laboratory involves integrative approaches, utilizing multidisciplinary techniques including methods in molecular biology, cell biology, mouse models, histology, microscopy, flow cytometry, genomics, bioinformatics and systems biology to elucidate the molecular mechanisms involved in breast cancer progression and therapeutic resistance. Evidence from our laboratory and others has shown that there exist cells within tumors that have an intrinsic resistance to radiation and chemotherapeutics compared to the bulk of the tumor. These cells, often referred to as cancer stem cells (CSCs) or tumor initiating cells may also be responsible for metastatic dissemination and tumor dormancy and recurrence. Breast CSCs can have an epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) phenotype and inducing EMT in human mammary epithelial cells can confer on them the properties of stem cells. In addition, we identified an aggressive molecular subtype of breast cancer that is enriched for CSCs. In recent years it has been appreciated that along with protein coding genes, much of our genome encodes tens of thousands of functional RNAs that do not make proteins. This includes small RNAs called microRNAs which have been very well studied as well as a large class of long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) the functions of which still very much need to be explored. We hypothesize that lncRNAs play a critical role in an EMT gene expression program governed in part by RNA-mediated epigenetic regulation leading to resistance to conventional therapies in breast cancer. Our goal, using several model systems, is to first identify and then investigate the mechanisms of action of lncRNAs that regulate the EMT/CSC phenotype of claudin-low breast tumors using siRNA or antisense knockdown, CRISPR genome engineering, and lentiviral overexpression in cell culture and in animal models.

Belfort Lab

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Our research explores the dynamics of elements that interrupt genes, introns and inteins. We study their basic properties of structure, function and regulation, and their applications in biotechnology and infectious disease.

Wang Laboratory

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I study experimental evolution by using microorganisms, particularly bacteriophage, as a model system. Currently my research focuses on two areas: (1) the genetic basis for the evolution of life history traits, with phage lambda as a model system, and (2) the identification of bacterial enzymes targeted by ssRNA phage lysis proteins.

Tenniswood Lab

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Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is the most aggressive and lethal form of breast cancer. Despite its lethality, very little research is focused on understanding the origins of inflammatory breast cancer or development of targeted treatments. Recent studies by our laboratory using cell lines derived from IBC, have identified a non-toxic drug, CG-1521, that is capable of inducing dramatic tumor cell death in cell culture and in animal models of IBC. Microarray analyses of the changes in the expression of microRNAs and mRNAs indicate that CG-1521 targets numerous pathways including: cell cycle progression and cell-to-cell adhesion. Strikingly, the molecules pertinent to the spindle assembly checkpoint are significantly altered, suggesting that CG-1521 disrupts the formation of the mitotic spindle and induces mitotic catastrophe. The next step in the research, which will involve undergraduate students, is to validate the changes in mRNA and microRNA expression using Real-Time PCR and Western analysis. In addition we will use immuno-histochemistry of proteins implicated in spindle checkpoint arrest and mitotic catastrophe, both in cell culture and in tissue sections from orthotopic tumors grown in nude mice.

Shi Laboratory

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Areas of interest: molecular and cellular biology of transcription and signal transduction, aptamer-mediated multi-pathway control in living cells and organisms, and drug discovery and development for cancer

RNA Institute

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At the RNA Institute, we focus on developing tools and analytics for moving RNA therapeutics down the drug candidate pathway. We disseminate these tools and technologies through collaborations with researchers in a breadth of disciplines and disease focuses, critical to human health.

Rangan Lab

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The goal of the Rangan Laboratory is to understand how a stem cell fate is initiated, maintained and terminated. Stem cells have the capacity to both self-renew and differentiate. Improper differentiation or self-renewal of stem cells can result in a loss of homeostasis, which has been implicated in human afflictions such as cancer and degenerative diseases.

The Li Lab

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Our goal is to understand the fundamental principles that governing the folding of RNA and to protein-RNA interactions.