Assistant Professor
Genetics, Cell Biology and Development

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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.

Selected publications

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.

Education and 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