Nucleic acids such as DNA and RNA were once thought to serve solely as the warehouse and conveyor of genetic information, respectively. While this is still true, discoveries of new functions for nucleic acids are appearing with striking frequency and new applications for these molecules are being developed in areas ranging from gene therapy and cancer diagnostics to biotechnology and nanotechnology. Carnegie Mellon is at the forefront of this burgeoning research area due to the presence of a large and diverse community of scientists and engineers with research programs that focus on DNA, RNA and synthetic analogues known as PNA (peptide nucleic acid).
In September 2007, a group of chemists, biologists, physicists and engineers from Carnegie Mellon met to lay the foundation for a new research center dedicated to the study of nucleic acids. A full-day symposium highlighted current research projects and identified new opportunities for collaboration. The great enthusiasm expressed by the participants motivated the creation of the center, which subsequently took the name “Center for Nucleic Acids Science and Technology”, or CNAST.
CNAST leverages Carnegie Mellon’s long history of interdisciplinary and collaborative research. In addition to strengthening and extending existing collaborations, the new center will facilitate establishment of new research directions and partnerships. We also anticipate close ties to other research centers at Carnegie Mellon, including the Molecular Biosensor and Imaging Center and the Ray and Stephanie Lane Center for Computational Biology. Our goal is for CNAST to be a national and international leader, widely respected for both the quality and breadth of our research expertise.
Clicking on this link will take you to a description of the different projects underway in CNAST, which we have divided into three distinct categories: (1) RNA Biology, (2) Molecular and Experimental Tools and (3) Biotech/Nanotech. The Molecular and Experimental Tools group supports both the fundamental research in the RNA Biology program and the more applied Biotech/Nanotech projects. CNAST’s ability to span such a broad range of nucleic acids research is our most distinctive feature.
This website introduces visitors to the current members of CNAST through brief descriptions of our respective research interests and links to our departmental homepages. Collectively, our research groups combine to form a community of approximately 100 faculty, postdoctoral scientists, graduate students and undergraduate researchers who are working on nucleic acids projects.
Given the diversity of research encompassed by these three subgroups, CNAST possesses a dynamic and modular structure that allows us to think and act broadly in responding to emergent research areas and will also enable us to lead the way in creating entirely new fields.