Focus Areas

In addition to the major research divisions, there are groups of faculty who are interested in specific focus areas, but who use a wide range of techniques and approaches.  Some of the key focus areas for OSBP faculty include Cancer, Cell Biology, DNA & Chromosomes, Gene Regulation, Protein Structure & Folding, and RNA.


Investigators studying cancer use biochemical, molecular and functional genomic approaches to uncover basic mechanisms that control cancer cell growth and metastasis. Major areas of research focus include regulation of the cell cycle, signal transduction in tumor cells and the tumor microenvironment, DNA repair mechanisms, and regulation of gene expression. Mouse genetic models of cancer and human patient samples are among the systems used for these studies.

Faculty interested in this focus area include:

Cell Biology

Faculty conducting research in cell biology use a variety of bacterial, protist, fungal, plant, and animal model systems to explore fundamental concepts related to formation of sub-cellular structural specializations required for cell motility, cell-to-cell communication, and interactive signaling between cells and the extracellular microenvironment. A variety of technical approaches are utilized ranging from the atomic-level analysis of motor-protein structure to macroscopic methods that permit tracking of macromolecular assemblies, whole organelles, and cells. Understanding how biochemical information is exchanged between the cell nucleus, cytoplasm, plasma membrane, and extracellular matrix compartments is essential for extending our knowledge of normal plant and animal development and identifying points of failure during pathogenesis.

Faculty interested in this focus area include:

DNA & Chromosomes

This area includes the study of important aspects of chromosome biology such as DNA replication, recombination, DNA damage repair, chromosome segregation and chromatin structure. Faculty in this area employ a wide range of techniques, including biochemistry, biophysics, molecular virology, molecular genetics and single molecule studies to unravel fundamental mechanisms controlling the genomes of living organisms.

Faculty interested in this focus area include:

Gene Regulation

This area includes the study of the transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression. These studies involve a wide-range of model systems spanning from bacteria to plants to mammals. Faculty in this area study many aspects of gene regulation including basic mechanisms of RNA polymerase function, transcription factor structure and function, mRNA processing, miRNA-mediated gene regulation and the impact of chromatin structure on gene expression.

Faculty interested in this focus area include:

Protein Structure & Folding

This area includes engineering and design to study the structure, stability and folding pathways of proteins. Faculty in this area use a variety of physcal methods, including CD spectroscopy, light scattering, mass spectrometry, NMR, X-ray crystallography, and enzyme kinetics, to examine structure-function relationships in amyloids, membrane proteins, viral fusion proteins, histones, cytoskeletal proteins, and enzymes, to name a few.

Faculty interested in this focus area include:


RNA research is an interdisciplinary endeavor and OSBP faculty use a wide variety of biochemical, biophysical, and cell-based techniques to study RNA structure, function, interactions, and regulatory mechanisms. Particular areas of interest include tRNA processing and modification, RNA-dependent regulation of gene expression, structural biology of RNA and RNA-protein complexes, substrate recognition by aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases, structure and function of RNAs in the HIV lifecycle, ribosome structure and function, ribozymes and riboswitches, microRNA-mediated gene regulation, and mRNA processing and metabolism. Most researchers in this area are also members of the Center for RNA Biology, a highly interactive cross-disciplinary group on campus.

Faculty interested in this focus area include: