Awarded in 2021
Home Department: Biophysics
Faculty Advisors: Rhiju Das (Biochemistry) and Wah Chiu (Bioengineering, Microbiology & Immunology, Photon Science Directorate)
Research Title: Cryo-EM to Visualize Viral RNA
Research Description: Rapid determination of RNA 3D structures could enable accelerated design of therapeutics against the most conserved regions of viruses. Unfortunately, 3D structures of most RNAs have evaded determination. Recently, cryo-EM on RNA has exceeded expectations, rapidly solving RNA structures too large for NMR or too dynamic for crystallization. Despite promise, current cryo-EM methodology remains incapable of describing the atomic structures of most RNAs. Rachael proposes investigating two unexplored concepts: exploiting negative features in maps and incorporating heterogeneity information into modeling, with the goal of visualizing heterogeneous RNA structures previously unsolvable, with a focus on RNA genomes of pandemic viruses.