Graduate Alumna Recognized as Trailblazer for RNA Research, Women in Science

Biochemistry PhD alum Lynne Maquat

Lynne Maquat says she was shy when she first started as a graduate student in the Department of Biochemistry, but since graduating with her Ph.D. in 1979, she’s become a force in the field of RNA research. The first person in her family to attend college, she’s earned numerous awards for groundbreaking research and mentoring prowess in her current post as a professor at the University of Rochester.

Maquat studied with now- Emeritus Professor William Reznikoff. After her Ph.D. she also performed postdoctoral work at the UW–Madison McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research. Her lab currently studies the many roles RNA — particularly RNA processing and decay — plays in human health and disease.

“RNA is so important to our cells because it does so many critical things,” she says. “Most of our genetic material — our DNA — produces RNA. And, there are many types of RNA. One type contains information from which proteins are made; another type is the catalytic center of our protein synthesis machinery; still other types regulate either our DNA or other RNA molecules. All RNA molecules ‘self-regulate’ how long and where they reside in cells depending on their particular sequence and structure. RNA is a very versatile molecule.”

Today, her list of accolades is long. Two recent and highly competitive awards include the Vanderbilt Prize in Biomedical Science in 2017 and the Wiley Prize in Biomedical Sciences in 2018. While both honor scientists with a stellar record of research accomplishments, the first also honors those who have made significant contributions to mentoring other women in science. When compared to men, she explains, many fewer women who earn a Ph.D. go on and use that degree in a career, and so it is important to mentor women. One of the best ways to mentor, she believes, is through examples.

Read more of Maquat’s profile at the link below.