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Aaron Engelhart

Assistant Professor


Lab website

Education & Background

B.S., Arizona State University, 2005
Ph.D., Georgia Institute of Technology, 2010
NASA Postdoctoral Fellow, 2011-2013
Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard Medical School/Massachusetts General Hospital, 2011-2016
Tosteson Postdoctoral Fellow, 2014-2015

Research Statement

Our laboratory works on ways to use DNA and RNA in ways beyond their well-known role in biology as information carriers. These molecules can also act as "aptamers" - DNA or RNA molecules that bind a specific target, such as a small molecule, or even a specific type of cell. Our lab uses aptamers as tools to study biology and human disease. We use aptamers in a range of applications. Two current projects include 1) fluorescent aptamer probes to track RNA in cells and sense signaling molecules between populations of cells and 2) using aptamers to target specific cell types (e.g., cancer cells) in order to treat disease.


Adamala, KP; Engelhart, AE; Szostak, JW. “Collaboration between primitive cell membranes and soluble catalysts.” Nature Comms. (2016), doi:10.1038/ncomms11041.

Engelhart, AE; Adamala, KP; Szostak, JW. “A simple physical mechanism enables homeostasis in primitive cells.” Nature Chem. (2016), doi:10.1038/nchem.2475.

Sheng, J; Li, L; Engelhart, AE; Gan, J; Wang, J; Szostak, JW. “Structural insights into the effects of 2′-5′ linkages on the RNA duplex.” Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA (2014) 111:3050-3055.

Engelhart, AE; Powner, MW; and Szostak, JW. “Functional RNAs exhibit tolerance for non-heritable 2′-5′ versus 3′-5′ backbone heterogeneity.” Nature Chem. (2013) 5:390-394.

Horowitz, EH; Engelhart, AE; Quarles, KA; Smith, MW; Chen, MC; Lynn, DG. “Intercalation as a means to suppress cyclization and promote polymerization of base-pairing oligonucleotides in a prebiotic world.” Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA (2010) 107:5288-5293.



MCB 5-130 (Office)
MCB 5-178 (Lab)
420 Washington Ave. SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455