RNA Faculty Spotlight – Kaushik Ragunathan, Biological Chemistry

Kaushik Ragunathan
Assistant Professor
Department of Biological Chemistry

My lab is interested in the molecular mechanisms that define how the combinatorial logic of histone modifications and its dynamic interactions with histone binding proteins encodes stable and heritable patterns of gene expression. We take a multidisciplinary perspective that synthesizes genetics, biochemistry and biophysical approaches to capture cellular processes across different spatial and temporal regimes.
Visit Lab Website
Follow on Twitter: @yeastydoesit


  • What are your research interests? My lab studies the molecular mechanisms of how cells encode and transmit epigenetic memory. These processes fundamentally control RNA expression and serve as a historical record of which RNA molecules were produced in past generations. Disrupting the ability of a cell to ‘remember’ gene expression states causes them to lose their unique identities in multicellular organisms.


  • Who/what brought you to science? My journey to science was simply the outcome of my incessant curiosity to understand the world around me. This curiosity acquired a more concrete direction through my interactions with inspirational teachers and research mentors.


  • What advice would you give to students who’d like to get more involved in research? Research is an actionable way in which you can test new ideas to create knowledge that impacts the world around you. Science is a rare corner of the world where it is possible to actually get people to revise the way they think based on new results. To get involved in research, find a lab, find where they keep their pipettes and get to work!


  • Are there any opportunities for students to engage in your projects, currently or in the future? My lab is primarily curiosity driven although our broad focus is on understanding the non-genetic basis of cellular memory. We use genetics to understand the factors that are involved in encoding and transmitting epigenetic memory. We use biochemistry to dissect their molecular properties. Using single molecule approaches, we visualize the unique behaviors of molecules with high spatial and temporal resolution in vitro and in cells. Ultimately, we determine how all of these molecular events collectively impact the decisions that cells make within individual lineages.


  • What skills would they need, and what could they expect to learn? Students in my lab learn interdisciplinary thinking and use a variety of approaches to attack curiosity driven scientific questions. A project could move between using genetics to create new yeast strains to purifying complexes that fulfill specific cellular functions. Alternatively, a project that starts out using high-resolution imaging approaches could ultimately employ genetics to engineer precise cellular perturbations.


  • What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? My unilateral focus on science rarely gave me the opportunity to consider other career choices. Like most teenagers caught up reading mystery novels, I always wanted to be a detective. Little did I know that being a scientist is just like being a detective investigating the mysteries of all things small, invisible and beautiful.

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