Professor of Physics
The statistical mechanics of RNA folding applies methods of theoretical physics to understand molecular structure and function. Many RNA functions depend on the molecule adopting a specific shape (e.g. ribosomal and transfer RNAs) or exposing specific nucleotide sequences for recognition (e.g. in RNA interference). The Widom laboratory explores how functional forms emerge from the thermodynamic ensemble of alternative competing structures. One current project studies dynamical pathways for folding into preferred secondary structures. The pathways are modeled as an interconnected set of potential wells in an energy landscape. Another current project combines physical and bioinformatic methods to study target site identification for RNA interference. Special emphasis is placed on small RNA (e.g. microRNA) binding free energy and target site accessibility within the constantly fluctuating secondary structures of messenger RNA.
Lab Webpage: http://euler.phys.cmu.edu/widom/group.html