Recruitment and Membership Officer (2020-2022)
Graduate Student, Department of Biochemistry
RNA, is a molecule made up of building blocks that are almost identical to those that make up DNA. Unlike, DNA, however, RNA can do much more than store genetic information. In fact, some origin of life theorists believe that RNA was at the center of life on early Earth.
Today, I research RNAs with special modifications that may have allowed ancient RNA to speed up reactions we know they can perform today, and/or give them the ability to catalyze newer, more complex reactions not yet observed. These modified RNAs could represent true molecular fossils from the origin of life.
These modified RNAs could have persisted and evolved from their ancient RNA counterparts over millions and billions of years, explaining their current presence in human and bacterial cells alike. The RNA modifications likely serve many functions which affect current biology and chemistry in cells in unknown ways. Some of the possible functions these modifications provide could include extending or shortening RNAs lifespan, serving as a beacon to bring other molecules to the RNA (and vice versa), and increasing the regulation of individual RNAs.
My research goal is to understand how these modified RNAs work in cells today, how they might have worked on ancient Earth, and try to understand the evolution that took place in between.
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