Campus Box 3290 Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3290, USA

Research Biological

Biological Research

Graduate students in the Division meld molecular and structural biology with physical, organic and analytical chemistry to understand the molecular basis of biological processes and human disease. Research in the Biological Division focuses on the structure, stability and function of proteins, membranes, DNA, RNA, macromolecular complexes and viruses, natural product biogenesis, synthetic biology, and genomics.

Students are a constant source of new hypotheses for mechanisms underlying cellular machines like the ribosome, spliceosome, and as well as protein and RNA folding. Students tackle these problems using biochemical methods, chemical biosensor technologies, protein and nucleic acid crystallography, in vitro and in vivo evolution, multi-dimensional NMR spectroscopy, surface chemistry, atomic-force microscopy, fluorescence spectroscopy, and high-resolution mass spectrometry.

Doctoral students in our Divsion leave the Department broadly trained for leadership roles in academia and industry.

Recent Research Results

RNA Structure in Cells

Long noncoding RNAs, lncRNAs, are important regulators of gene expression, but their structural...


Chemotherapeutics are an essential component of the therapeutic arsenal employed to treat solid and liquid tumors. However, chemotherapeutic...

Laboratory Safety

Professor David Lawrence was instrumental in developing our "Introduction to Laboratory Safety" course...

Representative Publications

On Command Drug Delivery via Cell‐Conveyed Phototherapeutics.
Christina M. Marvin, Song Ding, Rachel E. White, Natalia Orlova, Qunzhao Wang, Emilia M. Zywot, Brianna M. Vickerman, Lauren Harr, Teresa K. Tarrant, Paul A. Dayton, David S. Lawrence.
Small, First published: 28 July 2019

Introduction to Laboratory Safety for Graduate Students: An Active-Learning Endeavor.
David J. Hill, Olivia F. Williams, Danianne P. Mizzy, Therese F. Triumph, Catherine R. Brennan, Dawn C. Mason, David S. Lawrence.
Journal of Chemical Education, Volume: 96, Issue: 4, Pages: 652-659

Controlling and Quantifying Protein Concentration in Escherichia coli.
Shannon L. Speer, Alex J. Guseman, Jon B. Patteson, Brandie M. Ehrmann, Gary J. Pielak.
Protein Science, Volume28, Issue 7, July 2019, Pages 1307-1311

Protecting Activity of Desiccated Enzymes.
Samantha Piszkiewicz, Kathryn H. Gunn, Owen Warmuth, Ashlee Propst, Aakash Mehta, Kenny H. Nguyen, Elizabeth Kuhlman, Alex J. Guseman, Samantha S. Stadmiller, Thomas C. Boothby, Saskia B. Neher, and Gary J. Pielak.
Protein Science, Volume 28, Issue 5, May 2019, Pages 941-951

Achieving High Affinity and Selectivity for Asymmetric Dimethylarginine by Putting a Lid on a Box.
Alexandria G. Mullins Nicholas K. Pinkin Joshua A. Hardin Prof. Marcey L. Waters.
Angew. Chem. Intl. Ed. Volume 58, Issue 16, April 8, 2019, Pages 5282-5285

Structure, Function, and Inhibition of Drug Reactivating Human Gut Microbial β-Glucuronidases.
Kristen A. Biernat, Samuel J. Pellock, Aadra P. Bhatt, Marissa M. Bivins, William G. Walton, Bich Ngoc T. Tran, Lianjie Wei, Michael C. Snider, Andrew P. Cesmat, Ashutosh Tripathy, Dorothy A. Erie, and Matthew R. Redinbo.
Scientific Reports, 9, Article Number: 825, JAN 29 2019

Dasatinib Is Preferentially Active in the Activated B-Cell Subtype of Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma.
Marissa L. Cann, Laura E. Herring, Lauren L. Haar, Thomas S. K. Gilbert, Dennis Goldfarb, Kristy L. Richards, Lee M. Graves, and David S. Lawrence.
J. Proteome Res. 2019, 18, 1, 522-534

Active Site Flexibility Revealed in Crystal Structures of Parabacteroides merdae β‐Glucuronidase from the Human Gut Microbiome.
Michael S. Little, Samantha M. Ervin, William G. Walton, Ashutosh Tripathy, Yongmei Xu, Jian Liu, Matthew R. Redinbo.
Protein Science, Volume27, Issue12, December 2018, Pages 2010-2022

Pervasive Tertiary Structure in the Dengue Virus RNA Genome.
Elizabeth A. Dethoff, Mark A. Boerneke, Nandan S. Gokhale, Brejnev M. Muhire, Darren P. Martin, Matthew T. Sacco, Michael J. McFadden, Jules B. Weinstein, William B. Messer, Stacy M. Horner, and Kevin M. Weeks.
PNAS November 6, 2018 115 (45) 11513-11518; published ahead of print October 19, 2018

Phevamine A, a Small Molecule that Suppresses Plant Immune Responses.
Erinn M. O’Neill, Tatiana S. Mucyn, Jon B. Patteson, Omri M. Finkel, Eui-Hwan Chung, Joshua A. Baccile, Elisabetta Massolo, Frank C. Schroeder, Jeffery L. Dangl, and Bo Li.
PNAS published ahead of print September 20, 2018