SciSoc Spotlight Issue 26 – Professor Eric Miska

20 Oct 2021. Professor Eric Miska is with the Department of Genetics and the Gurdon Institute. A PDF version of this Issue is available here.

Which organisation 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 sepcialisation?

I am a molecular geneticist

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.

One piece of advice…

Be sceptical of flashy research buildings. Truly ground-breaking research is more likely done in a “shed”.

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