I am Raghav Poudyal, a biochemist by training and a science enthusiast by nature. I grew up and lived in Kathmandu, Nepal until I moved to the United States in 2007 for my undergraduate degree at Columbia College, Missouri. At Columbia College, I took an amazing class in Developmental Biology, and learned for the first time that small molecules can have dramatic impact on how Life works. After this class, I knew I had to go to graduate school to understand the molecular world of biology in more detail. I was always fascinated by the questions on origins and evolution of Life. How did it all begin? Where did we come from? How does it work? And where do we go from here? I took a senior level evolution course at Columbia College, where I wrote a review paper on the evolution of the genetic material. This was how I got introduced to the RNA World hypothesis- and RNA.
I joined Dr. Donald Burke's lab at University of Missouri to understand how RNA molecules can not only carry genetic information, but also participate in chemical reactions (as RNA enzymes). Some of my early work in the lab identified how an RNA enzyme used copper metal to catalyze biologically relevant reactions. I went on to show that this RNA enzyme could modify the Watson-Crick face of a DNA nucleobase. This observation is somewhat analogous to biosynthetic reactions in biology. In subsequent work, I was able to reprogram this RNA enzyme to control molecules that can be used for synthetic biology applications such as RNA molecules that have fluorescent properties. During the later years in the lab, I worked with RNA aptamers that bind to oxidized form of Flavin-one of the components of the vitamin B2. I was able to pin point nucleotides that were important for this RNA aptamer to recognize Flavin. Along with studying RNA molecules, I am also discovering RNA enzymes with new catalytic functions by doing in vitro evolution. I am moving to Penn State in Spring 2016 to join Dr. Philip Bevilacqua's lab to gain deeper insights into how RNA molecules may have formed and evolved during the origins of life.
We are living at an amazing time to do research in life sciences. We can now study Life in an unprecedented level of detail, with atomic resolution. By incorporating classical molecular biology, modern analytical methods, structural biology, and bioinformatics, I plan to engage in research that generates, studies and evolves molecules of Life.