Current Research and Scholarly Interests
We strive for a predictive understanding of how biopolymer sequences code for biopolymer structures, with an initial focus on RNA.
Our research is following three tracks:
First, we are exploring new ab initio algorithms to predict the structures and energetics of RNAs and proteins at high resolution, with an initial focus on the smallest such puzzles. We test and apply these ideas through community-wide blind trials; by fixing crystallographic models; and by solving structures with sparse chemical mapping and NMR data.
Second, we are developing information-rich biochemical methods to solve the myriad structures of noncoding RNAs that remain unknown. Current efforts focus on applying these experimental methods to basic mysteries in RNA behavior, including the extent of RNA structure inside cells and viruses.
Third, we are integrating high-throughput biochemistry with a 100,000-player on-line game called Eterna. This project is revealing missing rules in RNA folding and design and engineering RNA devices for cellular control and computing. As the first instantiation of 'cloud biochemistry', Eterna empowers expert and citizen scientists to collaboratively solve fundamental biochemical problems on-line with rapid experimental certification.
Overall, our work aims to bring us a future in which coding living systems with RNA is as agile and pervasive as coding conventional computers with programming languages.