Spotlights Archive

Monica C. Pillon is a Tenure-Track Assistant Professor at the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Baylor College of Medicine. Her group studies RNA degradation through Degradasomes and how they are regulated to cut precisely. This month’s piece was written by Dr. Haissi Cui and describes Prof. Pillon’s fascination with RNA processes, what drew her into her specific area of research, and advice on what makes a successful research career. 

Dr. Nicole Martinez recently opened her lab at Stanford University studying how RNA modifications impact pre-mRNA processing. In this month’s piece, written by Jennifer Porat, she discusses what drew her to the RNA modification field, shares her advice for finding motivation when experiments aren’t working, and how her mentors within the RNA Society shaped her scientific career. 

Dr. Fei is currently an assistant professor at the University of Chicago. Her group studies RNA mediated gene regulation using state of art single molecule microscopy methods. This month’s piece written by Dr. Vidhyadhar Nandana shines light on her research interests, the challenges she faced during COVID-19 pandemic, and her advice to young scientists.   

On October 1st of 2021, Dr. Sas-Chen began her position as an Assistant Professor  and opened her lab as part of the George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences at Tel-Aviv University in Israel.  Her team is investigating the function(s) and impact of epitranscriptomic modifications on non-coding RNAs.

Dr. Maite Huarte is a group leader at the CIMA Institute in Pamplona, Spain. In this month's piece written by Dr. Sara Zaccara, Dr. Huarte describes her long-standing interest in long non-coding RNA. She shares her passion for science, her experiences as a woman in science and her advice to pursue a research carrier. 

Dr. Hartwick is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Chemistry at Columbia University in Dr. Ruben L. Gonzalez Jr.’s lab. His current research focuses on the time-resolved dynamics of eukaryotic translation. This month’s piece was written by Haissi Cui and describes Dr. Hartwick’s enthusiasm on mechanistic studies of translation initiation, his two favorite RNA Journal articles and his advice for incoming PhD students. 

Prof. Michaela Müller-McNicoll is a professor at the Institute for Cell Biology and Neuroscience at the Goethe-University Frankfurt/Mainz in Germany. She is also one of the currently elected Directors of RNA Society (2022-2024 term). This month‘s piece was written by Paula Petronela Groza and describes Dr. Müller-McNicoll‘s journey across the RNA world, the biggest challenge she faced during her career and her advice for junior scientists.

Anuja Kibe is a PhD student at the Helmholtz Institute for RNA-based Infection Research (HIRI-Würzburg) in Germany, working on the discovery and analysis of programmed ribosomal frameshifting in immune cells. She shares some details about her current work, her journey into RNA biology, and offers advice to other early career scientists.

Dr. Vasudevan is an Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School. She is also the inaugural chairperson of the RNA Society’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. Her research is currently focused on investigating post-transcriptional mechanisms responsible for gene expression regulation in drug resistant cancer cells. This month’s spotlight was written by Paula Groza and explains the career path of Dr. Vasudevan from India to the US, her excitement on RNA research and her commitment for promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion within the RNA Society.

Dr. Oguzhan Begik is the inaugural graduate student winner of the RNA Society’s Eclipse Award for Innovation in High Throughput Biology.  He’s also a recent PhD graduate from the University of New South Wales (Sydney, Australia) and is busy quantifying the RNA world one epitranscriptomic modification at a time. In this month’s spotlight he discusses his work and some of the challenges that he’s faced during his journey in science.

Dr. Aaron Hoskins is an Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin – Madison and was named the Wasson Professor in Biochemistry of Higher Animals in 2021. His group uses chemistry, biology, and single molecule analysis to elucidate biochemical mechanisms underpinning several eukaryotic RNA metabolic processes including formation of the spliceosome. This month’s piece was written by Dr. Carla Oliveira and describes Dr. Hoskin’s excitement on RNA splicing, his views on being a member of the RNA Society and his advice for early career researchers.

Justin Mabin is a PhD candidate in the Department of Biomolecular Chemistry Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and is currently investigating variant snRNAs and their impact on snRNP and spliceosome function. He shares his experiences from graduate school and discusses both his research and his passion to help young students to pursue careers in the natural sciences.

Dr. Nils G. Walter is the Francis S. Collins Collegiate Professor of Chemistry, Biophysics, and Biological Chemistry at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, USA. He heads the Single Molecule Analysis Group, which integrates cutting edge single molecule microscopy methods, biochemistry, and computational approaches to study dynamics of RNA molecules.

Prof. Rotem Karni is the Professor and Chair of the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology department at the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada, at the Hebrew University Medical School in Jerusalem, Israel. Written by Mai Baker, this month’s piece describes how Prof. Karni found his passion toward studying splicing in cancer, his advice for junior scientists, and challenges he faced throughout his academic career.

Dr. Sebastian Fica is a new group leader and Wellcome Trust and Sir Henry Dale Fellow at the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Oxford, where he studies splicing. This month’s piece, written by Mariela Cortés-López is about Dr. Fica’s passion for understanding splicing, how he found his way through professional and personal obstacles and how his imagination and curiosity helped him to succeed in his career.

Dr. Bibel is a postgraduate researcher in Dr. Leemor Joshua-Tor’s lab at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL). Written by Jennifer Porat, this month‘s piece describes Dr. Bibel‘s scientific interest for small RNAs, her dedication to explain complicated scientific concepts in an accessible way and her work as the Bumbling biochemist.

Dr. Robert Battaglia is a post-doctoral fellow in the laboratory of Prof. Gene-Wei li at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This month’s piece, written by Ahmet Bakirbas, describes Dr. Battaglia’s long-term interest in investigating riboswitches, and his scientific journey from undergraduate to his current position. 

Dr. Feng Guo is a Professor of Biological Chemistry, and the Director of the Biochemistry, Biophysics and Structural Biology Home Area at the University of California Los Angeles. This month’s piece, written by Jen Elana Quick-Cleveland, describes Dr. Guo’s long-term interest in investigating small RNAs and development of RNA therapeutics, and Dr. Guo’s key advice on good science, balance and success.

Dr. Homa Ghalei is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biochemistry at the Emory University Schoolof Medicine. Written by Petra Celadova, this month’s piece describes Dr. Ghalei‘s research interest in the roles of snoRNPs in ribosome biogenesis, her scientific journey across continents and her advice for junior scientists.

Dr. Karole N. D’Orazio is a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Prof. Danesh Moazed at the Harvard Medical School, Boston, US.  Written by Dr. Estefanía Sánchez-Vásquez, this month’s piece describes her love for RNA Biology, the influence of being a first-generation college student on her career and how the RNA society help her succeed.

Luc Roberts, a PhD student in the laboratory of Prof. Hans-Joachim Wieden at the University of Lethbridge, Canada.  Written by Dr. Anna Sherwood, this month’s piece describes his research interests, his experiences as a graduate student, and shares his advice for other up and coming RNA scientists.

Dr. Maria Carmo-Fonseca is the currently elected RNA Society President and a Professor at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Lisbon. This month’s piece, written by Rui Fu, profiles Prof. Carmo-Fonseca’s career path in RNA splicing, her vision of the RNA Society, and advice for young scientists.

Dr. Dipali G. Sashitalis an Associate Professor at Iowa State University in Ames, IA. Written by Dr. Sara Zaccara, this month’s piece describes Dr. Sashital’s research interest in CRISPR-Cas systems and shares her critical advice for young RNA scientists.

Dr. Furqan Fazal is an Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Baylor College of Medicine’s Therapeutic Innovation Center (THINC) in Houston, Texas. Written by Rui Fu, this month’s piece describes his career path, new research program in RNA localization, and advice for junior scientists.

Dr. Susan Carpenter is an Associate Professor of Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology at the University of California Santa Cruz. Written by Dr. Nik Tsotakos, this piece describes her interest in the role of long non-coding RNAs in immunity, her key advice for junior scientists, and the benefits of being a member of the RNA Society. 

Dr. Chong Teng is  a post-doctoral researcher in Prof. Blake Meyers’ laboratory at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in Missouri, USA. Written by Ahmet Bakirbas, this month’s piece describes Dr. Teng’s intriguing work on 24-nt phasiRNAs in maize (corn) anthers, her thoughts on the role of plants in scientific discoveries and the mentors who inspire her scientifically.

Dr. Schraga Schwartz is a professor and group leader at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot. Written by Dr. Sara Zaccara, this month’s piece describes Dr. Schwartz’s passion towards discovering and understanding RNA modifications, and his critical advice for junior RNA scientists.

Dr. Pitchiaya is a research investigator and soon to be a tenure-track assistant professor at the University of Michigan. Read about his career path from building microscopes to mapping RNA localization, his brand-new research program in single-cell transcriptomics, and his advice to young scientists looking to find success of their own.

Kenna Kulani Sarka is a PhD candidate at the Department of Chemical Biology, Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Written by Dr. Jen Quick-Cleveland, this month’s piece describes her exciting work on tri-snRNPs role in fidelity of splicing and how she overcame struggles and discovered her love for science.

Dr. Elizabeth Tran is a Principal Investigator at the Department of Biochemistry in the Purdue University College of Agriculture. Written by Dr. Nik Tsotakos, this month’s piece describes her long time interest in RNA helicases, lncRNAs and their connections to cancer, as well as a few pieces of advice for RNA scientists. 

Yousuf Khan is a Knight-Hennessy Scholar and graduate student in the group Dr. Axel Brunger at Stanford University. Written by Dr. Rachel Niederer, this month’s piece describes Yousuf’s exciting search for ribosomal frameshifting signals in humans, his longstanding fascination with recoding, as well as his thoughtful advice to new graduate students.

Dr. Alfredo Castello is a group leader at the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research. Written by Mariela Cortés López, this month’s piece describes the excitement of Dr. Castello with viral RNAs and his inspiring mentors who motivated him in the long-distance race to dissect protein-viral RNA interactions.

Dr. Julia Kenyon is a College Senior Lecturer in Biomedical Science and an Associate Principal Investigator at the University of Cambridge. Written by Dr. Luca Gebert, this month’s piece describes Dr. Kenyon’s passion towards understanding how viral RNAs work, how teaching helped her to overcome challenges in her scientific career and her advice for budding RNA researchers. 

Prof. Christine Dunham, who is an Associate Professor of Biochemistry at Emory University. Written by Prof. Kristin Koutmou, this month’s piece describes Dr. Dunham’s research path towards understanding how various mRNA elements regulate translation, her personal experiences from junior to senior faculty as well as what advice she has for younger scientists.

Dr. Angelita Simonetti is an INSERM research scientist in the “Structure & Dynamics of Molecular Biomachines” group, headed by E. Ennifar at the IBMC (Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Strasbourg, France). Written by Dr. Prakash Kharel, this month’s piece describes Dr. Simonetti’s research passion on structural and molecular biology of the translation apparatus, the biggest struggles she had in her career, and what advice she has for newcomer scientists in the RNA field.

Prof. Katrin Karbstein is a group leader at The Scripps Research Institute, Florida, USA. Written by Prof. Carla C. Oliveira, this month’s piece describes Dr. Karbstein’s research path towards ribosome biosynthesis, the transitions she made during her career, and what advice she has for younger scientists.

Dr. Milan Gerovac is a postdoctoral researcher in the group of Prof. Jörg Vogel at the Helmholtz Institute for RNA-based Infection Research and the Julius-Maximilians-University in Würzburg, Germany. Written by Dr. Natoya Peart, this month’s piece describes his scientific journey across continents, his passion about small non-coding RNAs and RNA binding proteins and his key advice for prospective graduate students.

Professor Blake Wiedenheft is an Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the Montana State University. Read about his unquenchable fascination with viruses, his powerful experience of the early days of CRISPR, and his incredible adventures in some of the most awe-inspiring places on Earth.

Professor Leoš Valasek is the head of the Laboratory of Regulation of Gene Expression (LRGE) at the Institute of Microbiology at The Czech Academy of Science (CAS) in Prague. Read about his pursuit in understanding eukaryotic translation initiation and his deep dives into RNA research and Alpine valleys during downhill skiing.

Dr. Natoya Peart is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, working in Dr. Russ Carstens’s lab. Written by Dr. Prakash Kharel, this month’s piece describes how Dr. Peart set her sights on research, and became intrigued by RNA, and her greatest challenges as a Black female scientist.

Dr. Daniel Wilson, who is a Professor of Biochemistry at the Institute for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Hamburg, Germany. Written by Dr. Prakash Kharel, this month’s piece describes Dr. Wilson’s fascination with the ribosome, his first job with Ph.D. in London as a truck driver, and what made him decide to go back to academia.

Dr. Ling-Ling Chen is a Principal Investigator at the CAS Center for Excellence in Molecular Cell Science and the Associate Director of the State Key Laboratory of Molecular Biology at the Shanghai Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology (SIBCB). Written by Dr. Nik Tsotakos, this piece describes her long time interest in circular and long non-coding RNAs, where she sees challenges to study their roles, and her key advice for RNA Scientists. 

Jailson Brito Querido is a Postdoctoral Scientist at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge (UK). Written by Diana Ferro, this month’s piece describes Jailson’s enthusiasm to study translation and helicases, how he overcame various challenges during his career and his advice to budding scientists.

Ben Blencowe is Professor of Molecular Genetics, the Banbury Chair in Medical Research, and Director of the Donnelly Sequencing Centre at the University of Toronto.  This month’s piece written by Meaghan Sullivan describes how he carved his scientific career path across continents, his excitement to understand links between neuronal microexon misregulation and neurological disorders and his key advices for budding RNA scientists.

Fatimat Shidi is a Research Assistant at the Institut de Génétique Moléculaire de Montpellier (IGMM) in Dr. Remy Bordonné’s laboratory. Read about her scientific path, which took her from her native Brazil to Canada and then to France!

Prof. Matthias Hentze is a group leader and the Director of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) headquartered in Heidelberg, Germany. Written by Giriram Mohana, this month’s piece describes his path from physician-scientist to RNA biologist, his passion for understanding riboregulation, and his advice for junior RNA scientists.

Simon Hoser is in the 3rd year of his PhD program at The Medical University Innsbruck in Austria. Read about Simon’s scientific journey, how he finds balance in his life, and his call for students to get involved in RNA Society.

Dr. Kelly Nguyen is a group leader at the MRC-Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK. Learn about Dr. Nguyen’s background and training in structural biology, her reflections on starting her independent research program, and why she loves the RNA Society community.

Alicia Angelbello is a fifth-year PhD student at The Scripps Research Institute, Florida, in the group of Dr. Matthew Disney. This month’s piece describes Alicia’s enthusiasm to use RNAs as therapeutic targets, and her advices for the new graduate students.

Dr. Noam Stern-Ginossar is a group leader at the Department of Molecular Genetics at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel. Learn about Dr. Stern-Ginossar’s transition from immunology into virology, the challenges she went through during her career and what advice she has for younger scientists.

Dr. Chris Hill is a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Cambridge, England. Written by Spotlight team member Meaghan Sullivan, this piece describes how viruses inspired Dr. Hill to study the structure and function of RNA-protein complexes, why he thinks collaboration in science is important, and how he has found balance outside the lab through being a composer.

Apple Cortez Vollmers is a graduate student in the lab of Susan Carpenter at the University of California, Santa Cruz and both an HHMI Gilliam and a Ford Predoctoral Fellow. Read about her work on the long non-coding RNA GAPLINC, her unusual scientific path from teaching in a college to the graduate school and how she supports and empowers graduate students from underrepresented groups.

Dr. Stephen Floor is an Assistant Professor at the School of Dentistry of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Written by the Spotlight team member Dr. Nik Tsotakos, this piece describes why Dr. Floor is fascinated by single-molecule tools to study RNA, how he persevered through difficult times during his studies and why he thinks finding the right people and place to work are so crucial for a successful career.

Dr. Kathrin Leppek is a postdoctoral researcher in Dr. Maria Barna’s lab at Stanford University. Written by Spotlight team member Chun Kim, this Spotlight describes why Dr. Leppek has been fascinated by structured RNA, how she has helped organize the Bay Area RNA Club, and why she thinks bravery is so important in research.  

Dr. Angie Hilliker is an Associate Professor of Biology at the University of Richmond. Written by Spotlight team member Ha An Nguyen, this piece describes the rewards of teaching and doing research at a predominantly undergraduate institution and Dr. Hilliker's two main pieces of advice for trainees.

Dr. Monica Wu is a Research Scientist at New England Biolabs in Boston, Massachusetts. Read about the role that perseverance and mentorship have played in her career, her suggestions for increasing diversity in STEM, and her tips for finding a fulfilling position in industry.

Dr. Susan Baserga is Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at Yale University. Learn about how her passion for RNA has shaped her career, what connections she sees between equity and scientific progress, and what advice she has for trainees.

Dr. Anna Loveland is a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Korostelev’s lab at the University of Massachusetts School of Medicine. Read about how early childhood experiences fueled her scientific curiosity and what inspired her to study ribosome dynamics with cryo-electron microscopy.

Dr. Anita Corbett is Professor of Biology at Emory University. Read about how her lab combines multiple model systems to study RNA binding proteins, her advice for junior scientists, and her unusual travel to the 2014 Annual RNA Society Meeting in Quebec City.

Mr. Cody Hernandez is a graduate student at the University of Chicago in Professor Jonathon Staley’s lab. Read about his scientific path from taking remedial classes in college to graduate school and his advocacy efforts to make science better for trainees coming after him.

Dr. Laederach is an Associate Professor at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Read his advice on the importance of becoming fluent in data analysis, his thoughts on how RNA structure influences translation initiation, and his favorite story of how the annual RNA Society meeting has shaped his lab’s research.

Dr. Lovorka Stojic is a postdoctoral research at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute and will soon be starting her own lab at the Barts Cancer Institute in London. Read about Dr. Stojic’s circuitous path from genome stability to long noncoding RNAs and her thoughts about the future of the lncRNA field.

Dr. Sharon Crary is Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Director of the Global Health Program at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. Learn about her advice for trainees considering a career at a Predominantly Undergraduate Institution (PUI) and her path to founding Social Promise, a nonprofit organization aimed at improving health and education in Uganda.

Dr. David Mitchell is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Phil Bevilacqua at Pennsylvania State University. Read about what first drew him to study RNA structure, what lessons he has learned from method development, and how mentoring has shaped his career.

Dr. Christine Chow is Professor of Chemistry at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. Learn about what sparked her interest in modified nucleotides and RNA therapeutics, how she has connected with her local community to mentor more than 100 first-generation students, and what advice she has for trainees based on all of these experiences.

Dr. Boris Zinshteyn is a post-doctoral fellow in the laboratory of Professor Rachel Green at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Read about what drew him to the RNA world, how he chose his post-doctoral lab, and why he feels that programming is an essential skill for current trainees in RNA research.

Dr. Luisa Cochella is Group Leader at the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP) in Vienna. Read about how Dr. Cochella’s love of both RNA and developmental biology has shaped her research, how she persevered through difficult times during her post-doctoral training, and what her sage advice she has for trainees.

Dr. Ana Casañal is a post-doctoral researcher in the lab of Dr. Lori Passmore (MRC—Laboratory of Molecular Biology, UK). Read about why Dr. Casañal considers structural approaches to be a key ingredient in understanding RNA biology, what role her past and present mentors have played in her success, and what advice she has for trainees beginning to search for post-doctoral positions.

Dr. Samantha Jumbe recently completed her Ph.D. with Dr. Michael Landomery at the University of West England. Learn about what role she thinks ASOs could play in treating cancer, why she has enjoyed being part of the RNA community, and how she has dealt with the social stigmas of being in a wheelchair.

Dr. Eric Hayden is an Assistant Professor at Boise State University, where his lab studies ribozymes and RNA evolution. Learn about why he is excited about bioengineering, what advice he has for trainees, and how he navigated his faculty job search.

Dr. Stanek received her Ph.D. from the University of Virginia studying Hfq proteins in the lab of Dr. Cameron Miura, and recently began post-doctoral work with Dr. Celia Goulding at University of California–Irvine. Learn about what advice she has for finding a post-doctoral position, why she believes graduate student mental health needs to be at the forefront of our discussions, and what she remembers most fondly from our 2017 meeting in Prague.

Professor Lynch is Chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of Pennsylvania and has been a leader in the field of alternative pre-mRNA splicing since graduate school. Read about why splicing initially captured her attention, what advice she has for junior scientists, and why many of her favorite RNA Society memories are associated with the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Solomon Haziel hails from Ghana and is a fourth-year Ph.D. student in the lab of Professor Dixie Goss at City University of New York (CUNY)–Hunter College. Read about how he chose his graduate program, what he enjoyed about his first RNA Society meeting last year in Berkeley, and what advice he has for other trainees who will be joining us for the first time at RNA2019 in Krakow.

One of the co-founders of the RNA Society, Professor Marvin Wickens has been a driving force in the field of post-transcriptional gene regulation. Read about what advice he has for junior scientists, why he still stays so involved in the RNA Society, and what got him through one of the biggest challenges in his career.

Dr. Megan Mayerle recently completed post-doctoral training in the lab of Dr. Christine Guthrie and is now employed as a Grant Writer and Project Coordinator at the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute. Learn what she thinks are the big questions in the field of pre-mRNA splicing and how she navigated the search for a non-faculty position.

Professor Johnson is a leader in the field of pre-mRNA splicing and known for her commitment to mentoring and education. Read about what research directions she currently finds most exciting, why she finds mentoring so rewarding, and what advice she has for trainees.

Professor Manny Ares Jr. is a long-time member of the RNA Society, former Society president, and Distinguished Professor in the Department of Molecular, Cell & Developmental Biology at the University of California Santa Cruz. Learn about how serendipity led to him describing the yeast U2 gene and what advice he has for current trainees.

Junior Scientist Representative Dr. Kris Brannan is post-doctoral fellow in the Yeo lab at the University of California San Diego. Learn about what lessons he has drawn from his forays into bioinformatics and why he is such a passionate member of the RNA Society.

A leader in the RNA dynamics field, Dr. Hashim Murtadha Al-Hashimi is the James B. Duke Professor of Biochemistry and the Director of the Duke Center for RNA Biology. Learn about how his passion for structural dynamics started and what first drew him to RNA.

Madalena Madeira Reimão Pinto is a 5th-year Ph.D. student in the Ameres lab at the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology and University of Vienna, Austria. Learn about why her childhood hero is David Attenborough, what lessons molecular biologists can take from nature documentaries, and how doing graduate work in a new lab can benefit students.

Dr. Mary Anne O’Connell is the European Research Area Chair in RNA and Immunity at the Central European Institute of Technology. A pioneer in the RNA editing field, Dr. O’Connell is also a long-time member and active participant in the RNA Society. Read about her favorite moment at an annual meeting and key advice for achieving scientific success.

Dr. Michael Kearse is a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania and a recent awardee of an NIH K99/R00 Pathway to Independence grant. Learn about his unusual career trajectory, love of non-canonical translation start sites, and suggestions for finding a great training environment.