The Center’s research activities can be subgrouped into three main areas: (1) RNA Biology, (2) Molecular and Experimental Tools and (3) Biotech/Nanotech, described briefly below.
Carnegie Mellon biologists and chemists (John Woolford, Javier Lopez, David Hackney, Mark Macbeth, Subha Das and Kausik Chakrabarti) are engaged in understanding how genetic information is converted from genomic DNA into protein, focusing on the various steps of gene expression, including synthesis of RNA as well as the subsequent editing, splicing and translation. Meanwhile, Mike Widom of the Physics Department is using computational methods to understand RNA folding and function. These efforts are currently supported by collaborations with members of the Tools subgroup.
Molecular and Experimental Tools
This subgroup has two components: (A) Synthetic chemists (Bruce Armitage, Danith Ly and Subha Das) design and make new compounds that can regulate and/or report on biological processes involving genomic DNA or RNA. (B) Chemists (Linda Peteanu) and physicists (Kristina Woods) bring new techniques to the study of biological systems, including single molecule fluorescence spectroscopy and terahertz spectroscopy. In addition, there are scientists who use nucleic acid tools to conduct research projects not directly related to DNA or RNA. For example, Chuck Ettensohn (Biological Sciences) uses RNA-binding compounds to inhibit gene expression in order to understand how specific genes affect development.
Carnegie Mellon’s breadth is exemplified by this group, which consists of scientists and engineers who use nucleic acids for applications that are unrelated to their biological function. For example, Catalina Achim (Chemistry) synthesizes PNA materials that are conductive and could find applications in molecular electronics. Jim Schneider (Chemical Engineering) uses PNA as a sequence specific purification agent for DNA and RNA that would be used in pharmaceuticals. Bruce Armitage (Chemistry) synthesizes DNA-based materials as bright fluorescent labels for bioimaging and sensing applications.