Candidates for RNA Society President
(in alphabetical order)
Term: 2021-2022; Choose 1 

 

Maria Carmo-Fonseca
Institute of Molecular Medicine
The University of Lisbon, Portugal

Biographical Information
I studied Medicine at the University of Lisbon in Portugal but gave up clinical practice to follow my passion for experimental laboratory research. During my PhD studies, in the 1980s, I used freeze-fracture electron microscopy to image the surface of the nuclear envelope and quantify changes in nuclear pore density and spatial distribution. My main motivation to join the EMBL in Heidelberg as a post-doctoral fellow in 1989 was to acquire training in molecular biology. I joined the lab of Ed Hurt to clone human nucleoporins, but later I moved to the lab of Angus Lamond where I pioneered the use of laser scanning confocal microscopy and novel fluorescent nucleic acids probes to visualize the splicing machinery in the cell nucleus. I gained international recognition by discovering that spliceosome snRNAs concentrate in a sub-nuclear compartment later identified as coiled or Cajal bodies. As I established my own laboratory in the University of Lisbon Medical School, in1993, I continued to study the nuclear organization of RNA processing and transport. My group applied FRAP techniques to visualize RNA mobility inside the living cell nucleus and later we developed a strategy that permitted direct measurements of intron dynamics in single pre-mRNA molecules in live cells. My group then moved on to investigate the timing of pre-mRNA splicing relative to the position of RNA polymerase II at genome-wide scale. In parallel, prompted by increasing evidence that alterations in pre-mRNA splicing are major contributors to disease, I initiated new lines of translational research on RNA splicing in cardiac disease and cancer that aim to explore how disease-causing defects in splicing could be targeted for treatment.

https://imm.medicina.ulisboa.pt/investigation/laboratories/maria-carmo-fonseca-lab/#intro   

RNA Society Statement
The RNA Society is not just another scientific society; it is a real inclusive community.  Why are the annual meeting so popular? Because they are like a family reunion, it is where all RNA biologists feel at home. Over the years, the RNA Society leadership succeed in perpetuating the founders’ values and vision, while adapting to modernity. The challenge to future leaders is to keep traditions alive, and yet introduce change.  Looking forward, I would like to propose the following topics for discussion:

-          publication strategy for the society’s journal in the era of open-access
-          advocacy for ethics and transparency in science
-          educational outreach

 

 

Benoit Chabot
Department of Microbiology/Faculty of Medicine
Université de Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada

Biographical Information
I worked under the guidance of Joan Steitz at Yale University documenting the interactions of snRNPs with pre-messenger RNA. After obtaining my PhD, I carried out postdoctoral work under the supervision of Alan Bernstein in Toronto where I identified c-kit as the long sought-after gene responsible for hematopoietic defects and sterility in mouse. In 1988, I joined the Department of Microbiology at the Faculty of Medicine at Université de Sherbrooke where I began a research program dedicated to understanding molecular principles of splice site selection. I was Head of my department from 1999 to 2008. From 2000-2005, I was also president of a start-up company (Telogene) derived from my discovery of a role for hnRNP A1 in telomere biogenesis. I am a founding member of the RiboClub of Sherbrooke. I have co-organized the RiboClub Symposium for 20 annual meetings. My research on the mechanisms of alternative RNA splicing has extended into assessing connections to transcription and signaling, demonstrating the relevance of alternative splicing to evolution, cancer and other diseases, and the development of tools to redirect splice site selection.

RNA Society Statement
I have been a member of the RNA Society since its inception. I have served the Society as co-organizer of the RNA 2001 meeting in Banff, Alberta, the RNA 2009 meeting in Madison, Wisconsin, and as lead organizer for the RNA 2014 meeting in Quebec City. Since 2015, I chair the Meetings Committee for the RNA Society. The RNA field has been producing a constant stream of exciting discoveries that demonstrate the importance of excellent fundamental research, while providing exceptional opportunities for innovative applications. Our annual RNA Society meetings must reflect these sometimes distinct but often intersecting paths, as this combination of coverage will stimulate our students and post-docs, and equip them with tools and contacts to help build their career. RNA science now ramifies into so many fields that we should consider deploying occasional activities that provide a link with other Societies or agencies for the benefit of all involved.

 


Candidates for RNA Society Board
(in alphabetical order)
Term: 2021-2022; Choose 3 

 

David Bartel
MIT / Whitehead Institute / HHMI
Cambridge, MA

Biographical Information
My interest in RNA began as a PhD student in Jack Szostak’s lab at Harvard University. In Jack’s lab I characterized the binding site of the HIV Rev protein and isolated new ribozymes from a large pool of random RNA sequences. Soon thereafter, I started a lab at the Whitehead Institute, and for the past 26 years our lab has continued to study RNA.  Our initial focus was on the ability of RNA to catalyze reactions, with particular interest in the types of reactions thought to have been required in the RNA world. For example, we created an RNA-dependent RNA polymerase made out of RNA.  More recently our focus has shifted to posttranscriptional gene regulation. For example, we helped define microRNAs and their regulatory targets, as well as other small RNAs that specify the destruction and/or translational repression of mRNAs. Our work on posttranscriptional gene regulation also includes the study mRNA untranslated regions and poly(A) tails, and how these regions recruit and mediate regulatory phenomena.

http://bartellab.wi.mit.edu

RNA Society Statement
I have been a member of the RNA Society since its inception and a member of the RNA editorial board for the past 15 years. I am grateful for all the work that our RNA colleagues have done to build and improve the Society. As with many in our community, the privilege of presenting a short talk at the RNA Society Meeting (or at its predecessor, the RNA Processing Meeting), plus all the networking occurring at those meetings, was critical for launching my career and the careers of many students and postdocs from my lab. The additional initiatives to support trainees and junior faculty, to expand the geographic relevance of the Society, and to promote diversity have all added to the Society’s impact. I would be happy for the opportunity to do my part to help build on these successes. 

 

  


Ling-Ling Chen
Shanghai Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology (SIBCB)
Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), China

Biographical Information
I carried out doctoral and post-doctoral work in Biomedical Science at UConn Health, USA with Gordon G. Carmichael from 2004 and 2010.  I also completed an MBA degree in Management at the UConn Business School in 2009.  I moved to the Shanghai Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences as an independent PI in 2011 and was selected as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) International Research Scholar in 2017.  A major aim of my research is to understand the biogenesis and function of long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs).  By developing methods for studying non-polyadenylated RNAs, we have discovered widespread expressed snoRNA-related lncRNAs and circular RNAs.  In addition to the characterization of their unusual biogenesis pathways, we found that some sno-lncRNAs are conspicuously absent from patients with Prader-Willi Syndrome and that circular RNAs are involved in innate immunity regulation and their mis-regulation is related to autoimmune diseases.  My group now continues efforts to study these mysterious RNAs by employing the state-of-the-art approaches in different cellular contexts and in relevant human diseases.

http://www.chenlab-ncrna.com 

RNA Society Statement
My interest in a research career in RNA Biology was greatly stimulated by my very first attendance at the RNA Society Meeting in 2007 (in Madison, Wisconsin).  In addition to its scientific excellence and broad coverage of areas of RNA biology, I was impressed by its openness to female leadership and great support of junior scientists.  Since then, I’ve attended many RNA Society meetings, and feel deeply rooted within the Society.  The development of the RNA field has been interconnected with many other disciplines including genetics, epigenetic, cell biology and developmental biology.  Also, RNA research itself has expanded to genome-wide scale and to the single-molecule and single-nucleotide levels.  I am honored to have been nominated and, if elected, I will enthusiastically serve the community by working closely with members of board directors to carry forward the goal and mission of the RNA Society.  Specifically, I hope to stimulate scientific collaborations between the RNA Society and other fields, work to expand research exchanges among international RNA communities, and engage in efforts to support the scientific growth of junior scientists.

 

 


Aaron Hoskins
Departments of Biochemistry and Chemistry
University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI USA

Biographical information
I received my Ph.D. in 2006 from the Department of Chemistry at MIT where I focused on mechanistic enzymology and de novo purine biosynthesis in the lab of JoAnne Stubbe.  I then moved on to a joint postdoc with Melissa Moore and Jeff Gelles at Brandeis University/UMass Medical School. During my postdoc, I developed methods for studying yeast spliceosome assembly in real time using colocalization single molecule fluorescence microscopy. These single molecule methods have since been used to study a wide range of processes from DNA replication to actin polymerization by a number of laboratories.  In 2011, I started my own lab at U. Wisconsin-Madison and am a tenured associate professor in the Department of Biochemistry with an additional appointment in the Department of Chemistry. We study RNA splicing and are currently focused on the mechanisms of splice site recognition and spliceosome activation, spliceosome inhibition, and developing new computational and single molecule microscopy tools. In addition to teaching ~200 undergraduates each year introductory biochemistry, I am also part of the author team for the 8th edition of the Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry textbook.  I am very engaged with undergraduate research mentoring and have supervised nearly 30 undergraduate scientists in my lab since 2011—several of whom have presented posters at RNA Society meetings. I have held numerous leadership roles in my department and on campus including faculty hiring committees, organizing seminar series including the local RNA salon, and chairing the committee for LGBTQ people at the university. In addition, I co-organized a meeting on Phase Separation & RNA Processing in San Diego in 2017 with Jeff Toretsky and have served on a number of grant review panels for various funding agencies. 

https://hoskins.biochem.wisc.edu
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/myncbi/aaron.hoskins.1/bibliography/public/

RNA Society Statement
I’m sitting in my office at the moment reflecting on the RNA Society at one of the most unusual moments in history that I can remember due to COVID-19. Heck, I don’t even know if I’ll be allowed back into my office by the end of the week! I think one theme that is playing out right now at all levels is community. With respect to the RNA community, my feelings at the moment are a bit mixed. On one hand, I am very upset about the prospect of the RNA Society Meeting being canceled this year and for my students to potentially miss out on this opportunity to engage with their world-wide scientific community. Being welcomed into the RNA Society has been a high point of my career. So many members of the RNA Society aren’t just my scientific colleagues but also my friends (and several are my best friends on Pokémon Go…). On the other hand, I am also filled with pride by the impact RNA scientists are making to combat this pandemic from vaccine development to becoming volunteer diagnosticians and putting their qPCR skills to work.  To me strengthening the RNA Society community through engagement with members, increasing diversity, support for those at various career stages, and outreach to the public and scientists in other fields are critical steps for ensuring that up-and-coming RNA scientists will continue to have this community to call their own.

 

 

Alain Laederach
Department of Biology
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA

 

Biographical information
I obtained my Ph.D. in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology at Iowa State University in 2003 and then completed post-doc with Russ Altman and Dan Herschlag at Stanford University in Genetics. My lab studies the effects of disease-associated mutations on RNA structure, as such I often find myself interfacing the RNA and human genetics communities. Although I am trained in bioinformatics and computational biology, I also do have a “wet” lab where we carry out chemical structure probing experiments and functional studies of disease mutations. I started my lab at the Wadsworth Center in 2009 and moved to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2011 where I am an associate professor in the Biology department and core faculty in the program in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology. Further information about my lab and our research can be found at: https://ribosnitch.bio.unc.edu

RNA Society Statement
The first RNA society meeting I attended was the 2005 meeting in Banff where I was selected to give a talk in the RNA structure and folding session as a post-doc. It was a truly memorable meeting as it made me realize that I had not only found an interesting scientific problem but a great community of colleagues to work with. Now 15 years later as a co-organizer of 2020 “virtual” Vancouver meeting, I was thrilled to read so many exciting abstracts from the next generation of scientists in our field. In addition, it is always amazing to me how this four-nucleotide single stranded polymer brings together so many nationalities. 

My main objective as a board member if I am elected will be to further strengthen the bridge between “wet” and “dry” labs.  Our field is increasingly dependent on computational  technologies to make sense of  large  data sets.   I would like to further strengthen our ties with the computational community through direct actions. For example, I will support efforts analogous to the hackseq RNA 2020 hackathon (https://www.hackseq.com/rna)  , which by the way will   be held virtually. I also believe technology will become even more critical to the society and our members in the coming years, and that I can help our society navigate these new challenges and continue to best serve our members. 

 

 


Kristin Patrick
Microbial Pathogenesis & Immunology
Texas A&M College of Medicine, Bryan, Texas, USA

Biographical Information
My research program aims to understand how regulation of pre-mRNA splicing contributes to gene expression outcomes during macrophage activation. Although I began my scientific career in a Microbiology Ph.D. program at Yale University, I immediately found myself in the RNA world, choosing to do thesis research with Christian Tschudi and Elisabetta Ullu, studying mechanisms of RNA interference in African trypanosomes. From there, I joined Christine Guthrie’s lab at UCSF, where I worked on chromatin remodeling and co-transcriptional splicing in fission yeast. My research program was borne out of questions raised by my postdoctoral work, mainly, how does the spliceosome read and interpret the splicing code and how are splicing decisions shaped by environmental cues. I started my own lab at Texas A&M University in 2018. Using innate immune cells called macrophages as a model, we want to understand how splicing factors are post-translationally modified in response to infection and how these modifications alter splicing decisions and gene expression outcomes. We come at this question using a variety of techniques, including protein biochemistry, immunofluorescence microscopy, genetics, and transcriptome analysis.

RNA Society Statement
The RNA Society (and the RNA world at large) has always been an incredibly supportive, collegial space and it would be my mission as a board member to continue to encourage and spread this spirit. The two causes I’d like to take up as a member of the RNA Society board are: (1) To increase visibility of senior postdocs and new PIs in the RNA Society and (2) Implement mechanisms to make the RNA Society meeting more family-friendly. Specifically, I would like to see mechanisms implemented by which new PIs could be “introduced” to the RNA Society, either by virtue of the website/newsletter/spotlight or at the annual RNA Society meeting. Increased visibility would help new PIs leverage the RNA Society network to recruit postdocs and start collaborations. To the second point, the RNA Society meeting does not currently offer a child-care option (paid or otherwise). This shortcoming makes attendance to this crucial networking opportunity difficult for parents of young children (like me!). Many other conferences—especially those with a large international contingent, as the RNA Society most certainly has—offer child-care options and I think we should too. These are two concrete, manageable changes I would champion as a board member, in addition to working towards broader goals of increasing diversity and representation and promoting the RNA Society as a leader for information and expertise in times of international biomedical crises (like the current COVID-19 pandemic).

 

 


Zefeng Wang
CAS-MPG Partner Institute for Computational Biology
Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai, China

Biographical Information
I received my PhD in 2002 from the Department of Biological Chemistry at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where I developed the first forward genetic screen in Trypanosoma using RNA interference.  I subsequently worked as a Damon Runyon post-doc fellow at MIT to study the regulation of alternative splicing. I began my independent career in 2007 as an assistant professor at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and moved to Shanghai in 2015 to become the director of Partner Institute for Computational Biology, a partner institute jointly run by Chinese Academy of Science and Max-Planck society. The research in my lab involves both computational and experimental approaches, and we have developed a series of new methods to study RNA splicing regulation in a systematic fashion. We also study the cap-independent translation of circular RNAs that are produced through back-splicing.  In addition, we pioneered into the development of novel artificial proteins that can specifically manipulate RNA processing, which can be used as either research tools or potential therapeutic reagents for RNA-related diseases. In the past few years, I have received several awards including Alfred Sloan Research Fellow, Beckman Young Investigator, Max-Planck Fellow, CAS pioneer hundred talents program etc.  I have also initiated the Sino-German RNA conference series and was the co-organizer of the meeting in 2016 and 2017.

https://www.picb.ac.cn/rnasys/eng/research.jsp
https://scholar.google.com.au/citations?hl=en&user=rCEoJMoAAAAJ

RNA Society Statement
The RNA Society has become my academic home ever since I attend my first RNA meeting in Madison back in 2003.  I meet some of the most supportive collaborators and friends from the RNA Society network, and thus attending the annual RNA society meeting has always been a fun and rewarding academic experience for both myself and my lab. I am passionate about the ever-expanding new landscape of RNA research and the vital role of the Society in nurturing this vibrant research community. Given the past success of the RNA Society, I want to contribute back to the Society, not only by bring the big data aspect into its diversity of scientific sub-disciplines, but also by bring the Society to more scientists in the Asia region. I also hope to promote the Society’s journal RNA as a top choice for solid and important work in the field, especially attract authors and readers from scientists at early career and from more diverse regions. I also hope to promote the connection of the RNA Society to the biomedical industry by providing a special forum at the annual meeting and through mentoring program and achievements recognition. I will also support the outreach and advocacy of the RNA Society to influence the future of this field.