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The Amazing World of RNA – Professor Eric Miska
19 October | 18:00 - 19:30
“Life on earth likely emerged from a self-replicating RNA molecule billions of years ago but we still live very much in an RNA world. Ribonucleic acid or RNA is the only direct product of the genomes of all living organisms. Initially understood mostly as an intermediate between genes and proteins, the molecular machines of life, it is now clear that RNA is a major substrate of cellular computation and decision making. This talk will focus on many facets of RNA biology: from viruses to epigenetic inheritance.”
Speaker spotlightWhich organization and faculty are you currently attached to?
I am the Herchel Smith Professor of Molecular Genetics affiliated with the Department of Genetics and the Deputy Director of the Gurdon Institute, both at the University of Cambridge. I am also an Associated Faculty Member at the Tree of Life Programme at the Wellcome Sanger Institute. I am a founder and Director of the University of Cambridge spin-out company STORM Therapeutics. Finally, I am a Fellow, Tutor and Director of Studies at St. John’s College, Cambridge.
What is your specialization?
A short summary of your current research topic
I am a molecular geneticist who has done pioneering work on RNA biology. I developed new technologies that led to genome-wide analyses of microRNAs, now a diagnostic tool. I discovered the piRNA pathway in C. elegans, which controls fertility and transposons in germlines of animals. I demonstrated that RNA pathways can lead to a multigenerational, truly epigenetic memory in C. elegans, a first in animals. I also developed C. elegans into a host pathogen model identifying a new class of RNA-modifying enzymes, Tutases, that restrict RNA viruses in animals. Finally, I developed revolutionary tools to determine RNA structure in living cells.
What made you decide to pursue research?
I have always enjoyed figuring out how things work. I remember being fascinated with structural colour and have never really recovered from discovering romanesco cauliflower. I like math. I don’t like having a boss.
What would be your advice to aspiring researchers?
Be sceptical of flashy research buildings. Truly ground-breaking research is more likely done in a “shed”.