Robert C. Spitale, Ph.D.
I strongly believe that a positive, highly-interactive, and rigorous educational environment can dramatically affect the development of young scientists. I have been personally involved in the mentoring and development of a few very talented scientists during my own education. I have focused on providing a scientifically diverse program that synergizes chemistry, biology, and biophysics. In this way, the students that I have mentored have been exposed to a broad-range of disciplines, therefore providing them with insight into diverse biological problems and unique ways of tackling them. Please see below for a list of trainees, their projects, and where they are today!
Graduate Students I have mentored
Ryan A. Flynn
Ryan graduated from M.I.T. in 2010 with a bachelor's degree in biology. While at M.I.T. Ryan performed undergraduate research in Phil Sharp's lab, focusing on the mechanisms that drive divergent transcription within the genome. Once thought to occur unidirectionally from promoters, this work provided seminal evidence of widespread divergent transcription at protein-encoding gene promoters.
Since joining the Chang lab Ryan and I have been working to develop novel methodologies focused on understanding RNA structure and RNA-protein interactions within the cell. This work has recently lead to a paper describing the first use of acylation chemistry to probe the secondary structure of RNA in cells. To contact Ryan please email him HERE.
Eduardo graduated from Emory University in 2011 with Bachelor's and Master's degrees in biology. While at Emory Eduardo performed undergraduate research in Victor Corces' lab, focusing on the mechanisms involved in determining and regulating the specific roles of DNA sequences, termed insulators, have on the genome and gene expression. A great discovery that Eduardo was a part of was identifying the role that DNA Topoisomerase II has on regulating insulator-Protein interactions throughout the genome by remodeling the structural state of DNA at insulator locations. This was a very exciting discovery for this already important protein!
Since joining the Chang lab Eduardo and I have been working to characterize the transcriptome of human pancretic cells. Eduardo has been expanding his bioinformatic expertise as well as working to develop and optimize methods of producing RNA-seq libraries from minute amount of cells. This project is in collaboration with H. Efsun Arda from Seung Kim's lab. To contact Eduardo, please email him HERE.
Undergraduate Students I have mentored
Moriah Heller Nissan
Moriah performed undergraduate research in Joseph Wedekind's lab at the University of Rochester. In the Wedekind lab Moriah and I worked toward deciphering the mechanism of action of the Hairpin Ribozyme. Moriah's project entailed the synthesis of novel nucleic acid analogs, studying their role in ribozyme catalysis, and determing their effect on the structure of the active site by X-Ray crystallography. Her work was crucial to understanding the role that active-site nucleobases had in RNA-based catalysis. Our work showed that nucleobase pKa values can be shifted by as much as 3 logs to promote proton transfer -- a first in the field!
Upon graduation from U of R Moriah enrolled in graduate school at the Gerstner Sloan Kettering Graduate School at Memorial Soan-Kettering Cancer Center. To contact Moriah, please email her HERE.
Michael V. Mungillo
Mike performed undergraduate research in Joseph Wedekind's lab at the University of Rochester. In the Wedekind lab Mike and I worked toward deciphering the mechanism of action of the Hairpin Ribozyme and determing the structure of the PreQ1 riboswitch. Mike's project entailed the synthesis of novel nucleic acid analogs used to understand the role that nucleobase functional groups play in Ribozyme catalysis and RNA-metabolite interactions. Our work illuminated the structural basis of metabolite recognition and translational control by the PreQ1 riboswitch and revealed how nucleobase functional groups can orient RNA phosphate groups for cleavage.
Upon graduation from U of R Mike enrolled in medical school at University of Buffalo.