RNA Faculty Spotlight – Geoffrey Siwo, Internal Medicine

Geoffrey H. Siwo, Ph.D.
Research Assistant Professor, Internal Medicine
Research Associate, Center for Global Health Equity
Website: siworesearch.com
Twitter:  @gsiwo


  • What are your research interests? 

My research interests are in accelerating biomedical discoveries and advances in clinical medicine by combining fundamental biology with a broad range of exponentially growing technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI).

  • What is the role of RNA in your research?

RNA is a fascinating biological molecule, perhaps where biology as we know it started. On the fundamental side, my research is exploring how information in RNA came to code for proteins, that is, how did the genetic code emerge? On the applied side, my work is developing strategies for modulating how human cells recognize and respond to viral RNAs and synthetic RNA platforms such as CRISPR. My research also applies this knowledge to the design of potentially broad-spectrum antiviral molecules to RNA viruses including SARS-CoV-2. Both areas of my research on RNA leverage recent advances in AI.

  • Is there a layman image to explain your research?

At the center of my research is the idea that when biological questions are abstracted into information problems, they become computable and can therefore, be solved at the ever-increasing speed and efficiency of computing.

  • Who/what brought you to science?

My brother Amos who was great at building electronics and my parents who gave us freedom to tinker with electronics. In my final year of high school, a Stanford Professor responded to my question on why specific genes are organized into specific chromosomes by sending me the book –“Molecular Biology of the Cell”. This inspired me on a journey from RNA to cells and the immune system that has never stopped.

  • What brought you to the University of Michigan?

Amazing collaborators especially Dr. Akbar Waljee (Internal Medicine, Gastroenterology) at a top-notch institution with a commitment to make the world a better place.

  • What advice would you give to students who’d like to get more involved in research? 

Follow your passion. Be open minded. Don’t be afraid to question the status quo. Go wherever new questions lead you to even if it is outside your field.

  • Are there any opportunities for students to engage in your projects, currently or in the future? What skills would they need, and what could they expect to learn? 

I love working with students from diverse backgrounds. In terms of skills they would need, a passion to learning new skills or applying their current skills in areas like AI to biology. They can always expect to learn new techniques from other fields and how they may provide new insights into biology.

  • What other profession would you enjoy, or what is your favorite hobby? 

I would be a philosopher seeking answers to questions like: how do we know that we truly know and what are the limits of knowledge? I would use these philosophical questions as the basis for developing more effective artificial intelligence algorithms.

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