RNA Training Programs

Training the Next Generation of RNA scientists

High School & Undergraduate Summer Fellowship   |   Doctoral RNA Training Program   |   REU in RNA   |   RBP Program 

Providing interdisciplinary training that crosses traditional curriculum boundaries is critical for preparing future RNA researchers to translate advances in RNA science into beneficial technologies.

Doris Chen and Jowa Shi, undergraduates, Jia Sheng, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Sheng Lab, The RNA Institute (Photo by Paul Miller)



RNA Institute Summer Bioinformatics Program (Virtual)

The RNA Institute Summer Bioinformatics Program is a competitive summer training program held virtually for high school and undergraduate students. The bioinformatics program delivers training in bioinformatic analysis of RNA-Seq data followed by independent bioinformatic research supervised by an RNA Institute faculty member.  

**New Application Deadline: March 31, 2024**

For more information about the program and application link, click 2024 RNA Institute Summer Bioinformatics Program.


RNA Institute Summer Research Fellowship Program (in-person)

The RNA Institute offers a summer research fellowship program for undergraduates. Accepted fellows will work in an RNA Institute-affiliated lab with mentoring by the PI. The students interested in applying for this in-person summer fellowship must review the RNA Institute Faculty page and contact potential mentors. Once you have approval from the PI, you may submit your application. 

Below is a summary of the summer laboratory research.

  • You must be a citizen of the United States, permanent resident, or on an F1 or J1 Visa, to participate and receive the stipend
  • You must contact and have a mentor prior to applying to the fellowship
  • The length of the program and weekly hours depends upon your mentor but is typically June to August
  • Students will receive financial support based on the agreement with your mentor.
  • Students will receive a packet of information, including administrative paperwork, by the end of May
  • Participants must attend the professional development seminars and workshops
  • All participants are required to present their summer research work during the RNA Day (Aug 1) Summer celebration symposium

Click here to apply to the summer research fellowship program

Application Deadline is April 30, 2024.



Doctoral RNA Training Program

RNA Institute student during poster sessions, Photos: Mark Schmidt

This novel, PhD-level training program for current University at Albany students provides a multi-disciplinary curriculum with a focus on RNA and its health relevance. We develop our future science leaders by providing students with access to faculty, techniques, and collaborations within UAlbany, including The RNA Institute, and SUNY Polytechnic Institute.

The participating students are selected from PhD programs within the UAlbany departments of Biological Sciences, Biomedical Sciences, and Chemistry, and SUNY Polytechnic Nanobiosciences. Funded in part by a T32 NIH training grant, the program supports a comprehensive, intellectually rigorous, and individualized PhD training experience. The training program is run by The RNA Institute, which is housed in and sponsored by the UAlbany College of Arts and Sciences.

The program also offers resource-faculty with RNA interests from the UAlbany Mathematics and Physics departments. The participating faculty represents a unique assembly of RNA expertise, ranging from single-molecule biophysics and chemical synthesis to developmental biology and infectious diseases.

Doctoral Training Program Faculty
Thomas Begley

Dr. Thomas Begley - Director of RNA Training Program

Thomas Begley is Associate Director of the RNA Institute and a Professor of Biological Sciences. He has trained in biomedical, engineering, public health and basic research settings throughout his career, with a focus on gene regulation and stress responses. He has mentored many graduate and post-doctoral students, with them finding positions in academia, government and commercial enterprises.

Marlene Belfort

Dr. Marlene Belfort - Co-Director of RNA Training Program

Marlene Belfort is a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She has trained many PhD students and postdoctoral fellows, some of whom have pursued careers at prestigious universities and biotech companies. Dr. Belfort is experienced in administering NIH training grants.

Training Program Faculty Members

The RNA Training Program faculty includes members from four UAlbany departments Biological Sciences, Biomedical Sciences, Chemistry, plus faculty from SUNY Polytechnic Nanobiosciences. In addition, we have resource-faculty from the departments of Mathematics and Physics at UAlbany.

Visit the RNA Training Program Faculty Page.

Marlene Belfort and student David Bunn - RNA Institute

Students will develop a basic understanding of RNA science and transform knowledge into technical applications. Trainees have the unique opportunity to choose mentors in one of the four departments, participate in cross-departmental collaborations, and have faculty members from all four departments or Physics and Mathematics serve on their thesis committee. We will thus ensure a broad experience that prepares our students for a wide range of career options.

RNA fellows are selected from the four participating PhD programs based on outstanding performance. These RNA fellows form a cohesive cohort that take an RNA-centric curriculum of courses and colloquia. They will also have the option to collaborate with the Massry School of Business and the Writers Institute to gain experience in entrepreneurship and science writing, respectively.

Profiles of RNA Fellows

Doctoral Training Program Curriculum, Courses and Workshops

The training program has developed a curriculum based on the national need for interdisciplinary training, in the general area of RNA Science and Technology in Health and Disease, to prepare students for jobs in academia, industry, government, communication, scientific foundations, and other private sector enterprises.

View the RNA Fellowship Checklist of Requirements

First Year
Students in the program complete a series of core courses required of their home departments, followed by courses on specific topics of interest in subsequent years. Students also undertake research rotations during their first year and then select a research advisor. Students will usually be selected for the training program in the Spring (second) semester of their first year.

Second Year and Beyond 
During their studies, trainees will take the two-semester RNA Flagship course. Other departmental electives can be selected. They will also present their work at the RNA Colloquium Program. At each colloquium given by an RNA Fellow they present on a topic that is broadly defined as the role of RNA in their research project or lab’s research area.

Students opt for the Entrepreneurship or Writing Workshop. Throughout their training, students will attend both their departmental and RNA-specific seminars.

Trainees, who are supported by teaching assistantships, will receive ample opportunities to teach. During their research training they will also be called upon to supervise undergraduates, allowing them to develop mentoring skills.

RNA Flagship Courses
  • RNA in Development, Disease and Therapeutics (HBMS692), students will be introduced to the diversity of RNA molecules and their functions, and the therapeutic potential of RNA.
  • Physical and Chemical Principles in RNA Biology (BIO619), students will learn about common RNA techniques, experience application of these techniques in journal club discussions and get to use computer programs to process data or visualize molecules.
  • Rigor and Reproducibility (BIO515A), students will learn basic statistical approaches and data analysis methods to design high quality experiments and interpret and report data with confidence. Rigor and reproducibility training is also provided though workshops and discussion group during the Annual RNA Symposium and summer RNA Retreat.

The courses usually meet twice a week over a 13-week period for 110 minute per class for a total of ~48 contact hours per semester.

Entrepreneurship Workshop

Throughout a 6-lecture workshop series students learn about and discus the process of deciding why and when it makes sense to commercialize scientific technology. Workshops focus on the patent process, when intellectual property should be protected, what constitutes inventorship and what gives a patent value.

Students dissect the patent process including how a patent is put together and the process of applying for a patent.  In addition, students learn about what constitutes a claim set and what makes a patent strong or weak, using several issued patents as examples.

Communication Workshop


Scientists need not only write in lucid and creative ways, but to communicate their work to other scientists and to the public. Students trained to do experiments must be educated to write in ways that project their work and open doors to writing creatively in an increasingly competitive arena.

Science writing and communication constitute an important platform of education for RNA Trainees. They will have many opportunities to learn to write well including access to introductory courses, Communication in Science (BMS510) or Responsible conduct and Skills in Scientific Communication (BIO 515b) to promote effective scientific writing of journal articles and data presentation skills for posters and giving oral presentations.

Students will have even broader opportunities to hone their writing and communication skills through the NYS Writers Institute. The RNA Training Program and NYS Writers Institute share common interdisciplinary goals including promoting creativity and critical thinking and a commitment to making something new. 

Individuals who have written about science for a broader public and have visited the Writers Institute include premier scientists like Jon Beckwith, Michio Kaku, Eric Kandel, Steven Jay Gould, Steven Pinker, and V.S. Ramachandran, and science journalists such as Natalie Angier and James Gleick.

It is of vital interest to the Writers Institute in this collaboration both to promote RNA students' communication skills and to prepare students to be honest brokers of their own research and ideas to a general public.

Science Communication with The Writers Institute 2020

Workshop: The science-writing workshop will consist of four 90-minute sessions with one session being held each month during the fall semester. All workshops will be led by Dr. Anette Breindl. Dr. Breindl, a neurobiologist, is senior science editor at BioWorld and a member of the National Association of Science Writers.

In the workshops, students will improve their own and each other’s science communication skills, primarily by learning to tailor communications to both the writers’ goals and their intended audiences. They will also learn about different science writing opportunities and careers. The expectation is that each fellow will produce a publication-worthy essay that could appear in the RNA Institute Newsletter, Trolley, the publication of the New York State Writers Institute, or similar publication. Dates and times of the workshops will be announced by Dr. Breindl.

Popular science presentations: RNA fellows will attend at least one selected presentation related to popular science, sponsored by the renowned Writer’s Institute. Presentations will be announced once the Fall Writers Institute schedule is set.

Description: Introduction to Scientific Communications Workshops, Fall 2020, Professor Anette Breindl

Seminars, Colloquia and Conferences

Scientific gatherings are invaluable to students, because they demonstrate how those highly skilled in a field present a seminar; expose students to basic approaches and principles which traverse disciplines; provide opportunities to discuss careers and decision-making processes; acquaint students with cutting edge, often unpublished, research results; and allow networking with scientists to increase job prospects.

RNA Fellows Colloquium


(Click on image for full size view)



RNA Fellows Colloquium

May 21, 2019 

Justin Waldern, “Regulation of group II intron retrotransposition by a RNA methyltransferase”

March 19, 2019 May Lee, "Epitranscriptomic writer deficient cells activate senescence and mitochondrial reprogramming"
January 22, 2019 Marissa Louis, “Dumbbell RNA structures in the Zika virus 3’ untranslated region modulates viral gene expression”
December 18, 2018 Ryan McDowell, " Insights into mycobacterial cyclic nucleotide signaling through phosphodiesterase, Rv0805"
April 17, 2018 Aly Hoy, “HNA: A new oligonucleotide”
April 17, 2018 Rachel Nelson, “Structure and Mechanisms of C-Family Bacterial DNA Polymerases”
March 20, 2018 Jamie Corro, “Zinc depletion regulates expression of alternative ribosomes and promotes hibernation in Mycobacterial species”
March 20, 2018 Neil M. Robertson, “Controllable RNA and small molecule therapeutics using MRI-active nanoparticles”
February 20, 2018 Shane Breznak, “Transcriptional silencing promotes timely differentiation”
February 20, 2018 Rebecca J. D’Esposito, “Using coarse-grained molecular dynamics and ion mobility mass spectrometry for nucleic acid gas-phase structure determination”
January 16, 2018 Amber Altrieth, “Profiling of Endothelial Cell Signaling Using RNA-seq”
January 16, 2018  Patrick Blatt, “Regulation of Maternal mRNAs”
December 19, 2017 Alicia McCarthy, “Cracking open the epigenetics of making an egg”
November 21, 2017  Rachel Netzband, “RNA modifications as tools for viral infection”
Nov. 15 2016 Botros Toro, "Studying weak nucleisc acid interactions using ESI-MS"
May 17, 2016 Rachel Nelson, "What determines polymerase specificity for RNA and DNA primers?"
April 19, 2016 Marissa Louis, "Using viruses as a model system to study RNA structure and function"
April 19, 2016 Lauren Cooper, "Self-targeting by the E.coli CRISPR-Cas system"
March 15, 2016 Neil Robertson, "Novel single trigger, dual responsive magnetic nanoparticles for the treatment of resistant cancer phenotypes"
February 16, 2016 Rebecca D'Esposito, "Use of Ion Mobility Spectrometry - Mass Spectrometry (IMS-MS) to elucidate nucleic acid structure"
December 15, 2015  Patrick Blatt, "Germline RNA Regulators Spape its Immortality"
November 17, 2015  Alicia McCarthy, "A tail of two histone modifiers"
October 13, 2015  Rachel Cary, "RNA Research methods in studying Flavivirus-host interactions"
Seminar Activities and Functions List
Activity/Function Frequency Description
Biology Seminars Weekly Broadly-based research presentations by external speakers
BMS-Wadsworth Weekly Broadly-based research presentations by external speakers
Career Day Annual Joint with Career Services. Invited speakers from different science-based professioins (business, government, journalism, law)
Chemistry Seminars Weekly Broadly-based research presentations by external speakers
Hudson Valley RNA Club * Monthly RNA-specific, local/Northeast
Life Sciences Research Symposium Annual Students and post-docs presentations fro the Interdisciplinary Life Sciences Building (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Psychology)
New PI-in-RNA Presentation Monthly New PI's present research ideas or grant applications to established faculty
RNA Fellows Colloquium * Monthly Presented by RNA Fellows
RNA Institute Retreat * Annual  
RNA Symposium * Annual RNA-based. Technology workshop plus celebrated speakers
Visiting Writers Series Weekly Public lectures of acclaimed authors at NYS Writers Institute
WISC Symposium Annual Workshop for interaction and scientific collaboration - Capital District PIs. Started in 2013 Viruses and other possible elements. 2015 - Neuroscience Development. 2016 - Expanding the Life Sciences Toolkit.

How to Apply for the Doctoral RNA Training Program

All admissions to graduate programs at the University at Albany and SUNY Polytechnic Institute are handled by their respective Offices of Graduate Education. Program deadlines and admission requirements can be found on the Graduate Programs web page. Contact the Office of Graduate Studies at [email protected] or 518-442-3980 with questions about admission procedures. You should in your application express interest in being selected for the RNA Training Program. Students will be admitted into the program after their first year of study in one of the PhD programs. 

If you are admitted to our program, you will be asked to select several laboratories in which to do rotations before you join one for your PhD work.

Doctoral Training Program Application

Applications due by Monday, March 3, 2024.


The National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experiences for Undergraduates program supports active research participation by undergraduate students. Our REU in RNA is designed to support the training of 10 students for 10 weeks during the summers of 2023-2025 (30 students total), with a focus on students from schools with limited research opportunities or groups under-represented in STEM. Students will participate in hands-on research focused on scientific discovery in and around ribonucleic acid (RNA) science and RNA-based technologies. Students will be provided with stipends, housing and meal support and will work closely with RNA Institute faculty directly in an Institute lab in Albany, NY. The program aims to train the next generation of RNA researchers that will collaboratively advance our understanding of the mechanisms governing life, develop scientific tools to assist this process, and help create solutions with broad research, diagnostic, and therapeutic impacts.

Click here to read more on the REU in RNA Program


RNA Blueprint for Post-Baccalaureates (RBP) Program


Our RNA Blueprint for Post-Baccalaureates (RBP) program supports recent graduates with full-time hands-on research training, mentorship, and career development in RNA research. Program participants, once selected, will serve as a member of one the RNA Institute-affiliated research labs for one year.

This program provides research and training opportunities to individuals traditionally underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) as well as those who lacked biological research or training opportunities during college. This 12-month program is structured to prepare post-baccalaureates with the technical skills necessary to advance in RNA research, technology development and to transition to academic, professional, and industry careers.

Learn more about the RBP Program