Ralph Kleiner, assistant professor of chemistry, has received a five-year Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Molecular and Cellular Bioscience. The NSF program guidelines state that the award supports “early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization.” This prestigious award will support the Kleiner Group’s project in pursuit of “A Chemoproteomic Strategy to Decipher Epitranscriptomic Pyrimidine Modifications,” focused on understanding post-transcriptional modifications on cellular RNA.
Abstract (excerpt). The goal of this project is to understand how ribonucleic acid (RNA) chemistry affects fundamental biological processes. Recent evidence has indicated that enzyme-installed modifications on RNA can regulate how genes are expressed in cells; however, there are major gaps in our understanding of this phenomenon, including which RNA molecules are modified, which enzymes catalyze the modifications, and how these modifications affect RNA function. This project seeks to address these questions through the application of innovative approaches integrating chemistry and biology, and will provide unique training opportunities for students at the interface of these disciplines. The research is also combined with an education and outreach plan aimed at broadening secondary school and undergraduate level engagement with nucleic acid chemistry and biology. These efforts will include the development of a video-based series aimed at disseminating landmark results in the primary scientific literature to New Jersey high school students.