Julius receives College Teaching Award

Julius was the recent recipient of the Mr. and Mrs. Richard F. Tucker `50 Excellence in Teaching Award, the highest award for teaching in the Cornell College of Engineering. The award recognizes Julius’ excellence and achievements in teaching Heat and Mass Transfer, and his co-creation of ChemE 7770 “Advanced Principles […]

Rebecca wins ELI funding again!

  Rebecca was awarded another research grant as part of Cornell’s engineering learning initiatives (ELI) program. The ELI program enhances undergraduate learning by providing opportunities for students to engage in cooperative learning and undergraduate research. As part of this program, Rebecca will be working with Sarai on uncovering the design principles that […]

Sarai and David pass their A exams!

Both Sarai and David successfully defended their A exams within the last week to officially become PhD Candidates! They both did an excellent job putting their research into context and describing their fantastic progress towards their thesis research. Everyone was very impressed! Congratulations Sarai and David!

Karl Brennan joins the lab!

  Karl is the latest addition to the Lucks Group. Karl is interested in engineering RNAs to control all aspects of gene expression, and how this can be linked to biotechnology applications. Welcome Karl!

Our SHAPE-Seq v2.0 Paper is Out!

David, Kyle and Alex just published their SHAPE-Seq 2.0 paper in Nucleic Acids Research. This paper was a monumental amount of work, and aimed to address two big issues in the SHAPE-Seq experiment – examining whether or not there were biases in the experiment due to the various steps of […]

Julius joins Computational Biology Field

The Lucks Lab was recently admitted into the Cornell Field of Computational Biology. Cornell’s field system allows faculty members to create bridges between departments, and is one of the features of Cornell that fosters its highly collaborative environment. Joining the field of computational biology will allow the lab to push […]

Rebecca wins an ELI Scholarship!

  Rebecca was awarded research funding as part of Cornell’s engineering learning initiatives (ELI) program. The ELI program enhances undergraduate learning by providing opportunities for students to engage in cooperative learning and undergraduate research. As part of this program, Rebecca will be working with Sarai on uncovering the design principles that underlie […]

Angela Yu Rotates in the Lab!

Angela Yu is rotating in the lab from the Tri-Institutional computational biology and medicine program. Angela got her undergraduate degree in computational biology at UPenn. She’ll be working on some new computational RNA folding projects in her rotation. Welcome Angela!

Lucks Lab Featured in Engineering College Magazine

The Lucks Lab is featured in the recent Cornell Engineering Magazine. The article, entitled ‘Code Breaker’, delves into the lab’s quest to unlock the secrets of RNA molecules to both understand and engineer living systems. The article also dives into some of the twists and turns in Julius’ career trajectory, […]

Kyle Passes his A Exam!

    Congratulations to Kyle for passing his A exam and ascending to PhD candidacy! Kyle did a fantastic job telling us all about his SHAPE-Seq innovations. Congratulations Kyle!

Helen and Matt Graduate!

  Congratulations to Helen and Matt for graduating in the Cornell Class of 2014! Helen is off to apply her Chemical Engineering skills to the problems faced by wine production at the E. & J. Gallo Winery in Livingston, CA. In fact, her first job will be as a project […]

Sitara wins Best Poster in Applied Research at CURB Spring Forum

  Sitara was recently honored with Best Poster in the Applied Research category at the Cornell Undergraduate Research Board’s Spring Forum.  Her poster, entitled “Engineering Light-Activated RNA Gene Regulators,” covered her work over the past year.  Together with Sarai and Rebecca, Sitara has characterized interactions between RNA aptamers and their […]

Tim Wins Cornell Engineering Undergraduate Research Award

    Tim is the recipient of the 2014 Cornell Engineering Alumni Association Undergraduate Research Award! Given to the most outstanding undergraduate researcher in the whole Engineering College, this award is one of the highest honors bestowed on undergraduate researchers. Tim received the award because of his extreme enthusiasm, hard […]

Our ACS SynBio Paper on Fast RNA Circuitry is Out!

  Melissa and James’ paper on characterizing the fast dynamics of RNA genetic circuitry is out! We have been hypothesizing for a while that RNA-only circuits would be fast compared to protein circuits because RNAs degrade faster than proteins. (To understand why the speed of genetic circuits is determined by […]

Tim wins an ELI scholarship!

  Tim was awarded research funding as part of Cornell’s engineering learning initiatives (ELI) program. The ELI program enhances undergraduate learning by providing opportunities for students to engage in cooperative learning and undergraduate research. As part of this program, Tim will be working with Kyle on continuing to use SHAPE experiments to […]

“Centrality of RNA for Engineering Gene Expression” featured in Biotechnology Journal Editorial

Our review was recently featured in a Biotechnology Journal Editorial by Kristala Prather and Ali Khademhosseini – “Biomolecular Engineering – latest advances and applications.” In the editorial, Julius’s talk from the 2013 ICBE meeting – “A Family of Orthogonal Chimeric Antisense RNA Transcription Regulators” (based on Melissa’s NAR Paper) was highlighted along […]

Ray Wins Genentech Scheele Outstanding Junior Award

Ray Zhuang, a junior CBE major in the Lucks Lab has been chosen by Genentech to win the Scheele Outstanding Junior Award. The award “recognizes a student who excels in scholarship, leadership, and campus activities, and is given to a student who “upon graduation will be a positive reflection of […]

Julius Quoted in Popular Science

Julius was recently quoted in “What Are Genetically Recoded Organisms?” in Popular Science by Francie Diep. The article is a nice read about the Isaacs’ lab recent Science paper “Genomically Recoded Organisms Expand Biological Functions”. The paper describes the first complete milestone of the rEcoli project (see here for an […]

Sarai Wins Best Poster Award

Sarai won the Best Poster Award at the 4th annual CBE Graduate Research Symposium for her poster “Engineering Light Activated RNA Transcriptional Switches”. Students and faculty from all of the broad research areas covered by CBE vote on the best poster awards, reflecting Sarai’s great job in communicating her research […]

The Centrality of RNA for Engineering Gene Expression

Our review paper “The Centrality of RNA for Engineering Gene Expression” is out! The review covers the ethos of the lab, and has three main sections: an update of all the known natural and synthetic RNA-based regulatory mechanisms out there, an outline of computational RNA structure prediction tools and how they have […]

Julius Quoted in the Chronicle of Higher Education

Julius was quoted in the recent article “DARPA Courts Biotech Researchers” on the benefits of the DARPA YFA program getting junior faculty into the DARPA system. It is an interesting read about the role DARPA can play alongside more traditional funders like the NIH to continue to propel biotech research. See the […]

Julius Named NIH Director’s New Innovator

Julius has been named a New Innovator by the Director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis Collins. The goal of the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award Program is to support exceptionally creative new investigators who propose highly innovative projects that have the potential for unusually high impact. The […]

Lucks Lab helps create first CSHL Synthetic Biology Course

Julius and Melissa have helped create the first Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) summer course on synthetic biology. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory has hosted summer courses and conferences on important topics of biology for over 65 years. Notable past courses include Max Delbruck’s original phage course, which helped crystallize the […]

Rebecca Chew Joins the Group

Rebecca is our newest undergraduate in the lab, working with Sarai on engineering RNA switches. She is also part of Cornell’s 2013 iGem team which is off to a great start. Welcome Rebecca!

Julius named James C. and Rebecca Q. Morgan Sesquicentennial Fellow

Julius has been named a James C. and Rebecca Q. Morgan Sesquicentennial Faculty Fellow in honor of the generous gift of the Morgans for recruiting emerging “stars” to the Cornell Faculty as part of the Faculty Renewal Sesquicentennial Challenge ( More information at .

Our First Paper is Published!

Melissa’s paper has been published in Nucleic Acids Research! A modular strategy for engineering orthogonal chimeric RNA transcription regulators outlines our new approach to creating basic RNA transcriptional regulators that can be used to build genetic networks. The background of the approach can be found here, where we showed how RNA-based transcription attenuators […]

Sitara and Tim Win ELI Scholarships!

Sitara and Tim were awarded summer research funding as part of Cornell’s engineering learning initiatives (ELI) program. The ELI program enhances undergraduate learning by providing opportunities for students to engage in cooperative learning and undergraduate research. As part of this program, Sitara and Tim will be working with Sarai and Kyle on […]

Julius awarded ONR Young Investigator Award!

Julius has been named a 2013 Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award recipient. The ONR Young Investigator Program (YIP) seeks to identify and support academic scientists and engineers who show exceptional promise for doing creative research. The program aims to attract these rising stars to the Department of Navy’s […]

Ray wins Amgen Research Scholarship!

Ray has been awarded a prestigious Amgen Research Scholarship to perform research at UC Berkeley this summer. The Amgen scholars program provides support for the country’s best and brightest undergraduate researchers to expand their research experiences. It is a highly competitive process and a great honor. Good work Ray!

Julius Wins Sloan Research Fellowship!

Since 1955, the Sloan Research Fellowships have sought to stimulate fundamental research by early-career scientists and scholars of outstanding promise.  These two-year fellowships are awarded yearly to 126 researchers in 8 fields in recognition of distinguished performance and a unique potential to make substantial contributions to their field. Previous Sloan […]

Misha Baheti and Alex Settle join the group!

Misha and Alex are the two newest undergraduates in the group. Misha will be working with Melissa on engineering RNA circuitry, and Alex will be working with Kyle to dissect RNA structures in the cucumber mosaic virus genome as part of our Gates grant. Welcome to the lab!

Julius gave a talk at the 4th International Conference on Biomolecular Engineering

The 4th International Conference on Biomolecular Engineering just wrapped up. The entire conference (co-organized by Kristala Prather (MIT) and Ali Khademhosseini (Harvard)) was a fantastic combination of work on synthetic biology, metabolic engineering, protein engineering and the latest biomolecular engineering tools. Julius presented Melissa’s latest work on engineering larger families […]

The SHAPE-Seq protocol paper is online!

Current Protocols in Chemical Biology has just published our SHAPE-Seq protocol paper “SHAPE-Seq: High-Throughput RNA Structure Analysis”. The full text can be found here. This is the best place to start to get a sense of the background behind the technique, and a very detailed step-by-step protocol of all aspects of […]

SHAPE-Seq is on Wikipedia!

That’s right, SHAPE-Seq has its first official mention on the free online encyclopedia under the Nucleic Acid Structure Determination page. You can see the mention right after theSHAPE section. Here’s to more people using and improving SHAPE-Seq!

Julius wins Gates Grand Challenge Exploration Grant with Jeremy Thompson and Keith Perry!

Julius, Dr. Jeremy Thompson and Professor Keith Perry of Cornell Plant Sciences were recently awarded a Gates Grand Challenge Exploration Grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. ( These grants are an extension of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s commitment to the Grand Challenges in Global Health, which […]

Lucks Lab Wins CBE Halloween Contest

The Lucks Lab descended from the Castle of Greyskull to claim this years CBE best halloween costume shield. It wasn’t that hard in the end as we simply unveiled our true nature as Masters of the Universe. Happy Halloween!

Julius Presents at Danforth Center Symposium

Julius was invited to present at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center’s 14th annual Fall symposium on “Explorations in Synthetic and Systems Biology”. The Danforth center in St. Louis was started in 2001 and is one of the country’s four largest non-profit plant research centers (along with Cornell’s own Boyce-Thompson Institute). […]

The RNA Mapping Database Paper is out!

Our collaborative paper with Rhiju Das’ lab at Stanford on the RNA mapping database (RMDB) is out in bioinformatics. Rhiju started the RMDB as a way to easily share RNA chemical and enzymatic probing data in a one-stop-shop resource with plenty of useful tools and such for getting access too and analyzing this […]

Kyle and Sarai pass their qualifying exam!

Congratulations Kyle and Sarai on successfully passing the qualifying exam with stellar marks. The ‘Q exam’ consists of evaluation of class performance as well as a research proposal complete with a project description, preliminary data and future aims. Everyone was very impressed by the quality of the proposals. It was […]

Kyle Wins Great Lakes Scholarship!

The Great Lakes National Scholarship recognizes outstanding students in STEM disciplines in undergraduate and graduate programs.  The award was initially open to 20,000 applicants, which were cut to around 2,000 in the first round.  Upon providing a faculty evaluation and further information, a final pool of 750 award winners were […]

Julius Speaks at Benasque RNA Bioinformatics Meeting

The fourth Benasque RNA Bioinformatics Meeting was this year in Benasque, Spain. Researchers from around the world gathered in a beautiful pyrenees town to talk all things RNA – from new folding algorithms, bioinformatic RNA searches, RNA visualization and more. Julius gave an introductory primer on experimental RNA structure probing […]

Julius wins 2012 DARPA Young Faculty Award!

Julius has been named a 2012 DARPA Young Faculty Award recipient. The DARPA Young Faculty Award (YFA) program aims to identify and engage rising stars in junior faculty positions in academia and expose them to Department of Defense (DoD) needs. In particular, YFA provides high-impact funding to the elite junior […]

Congratulations to Dr. Stanley Qi!

Stanley Qi recently graduated from UC Berkeley! I remember meeting Stanley in my first few days in the Arkin Lab, when neither of us knew the first thing about synthetic biology. I think it was our realization that through hard work and creativity we could just teach each other the […]

Julius named to editorial advisory board of ACS Synthetic Biology Journal

Julius has been named to the editorial advisory board of a new journal published by the American Chemical Society dedicated to research in synthetic biology and systems bioscience. The journal, headed by editor-in-chief Chris A. Voigt of MIT, is the first journal dedicated to the growing field of synthetic biology, and is already making […]

Kyle and Sarai win NSF Graduate Fellowships!

Kyle and Sarai have been awarded the prestigious NSF Graduate Fellowship. The NSF graduate fellowship recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in science and engineering, and is one of the most highly sought after awards at this stage of Kyle and Sarai’s careers. NSF fellows have gone on to become […]

Sarai Meyer joins the Lucks Lab!

Sarai graduated from Yale with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering. Sarai is interested in the principles of RNA design, and applying these to design new functionalities for RNAs. In her free time she enjoys dance, cooking and baking something delicious.

Kyle Watters joins the Lucks Lab!

Kyle graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering. He is interested in future career as an entrepreneur, and has spent his summers interning at companies including Genentech, Inc. and the former Wyeth Pharmaceuticals. In his spare time, Kyle participates in intramural sports and advises the NY […]

Julius joins SynBERC as an Affiliated Investigator

SynBERC – the Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center led by Jay Keasling – recently admitted Julius as an affiliated investigator – The bi-annual SynBERC retreats are invaluable gatherings of researchers pushing the boundaries of synthetic biology.  What an honor!

Synthetic Biology 5.0 Was a HUGE Success!

Many, many thanks to the wonderful group of people I worked with to make this the best conference I have ever gone to – Caroline Ajo Franklin, Jeff Tabor, Drew Endy, Holly Mililion, Lauren Ha and Thi van anh Thach.  I learned a tremendous amount in the process, and it […]

Julius Featured in Nature News – Life Hackers Seek New Tools

Building up to SB 5.0, Erica Check Hayden, checked in to see how the conference was shaping up –  It turned out to be a great piece on the state of the field of Synthetic Biology, and the excitement surrounding SB 5.0.  And SHAPE-Seq got a plug too!

Let them Eat Dirt!

The article that Julius and Sera worked on when Sera was a graduate student at Cornell (and Julius was visiting with David Nelson on his sabbatical) finally came out in the Quarterly Review of Biology –  A LOT of press about it, including – .

Three PNAS Papers in a Row!

I can honestly say that we didn’t plan it like this, but the two SHAPE-Seq papers – “Multiplexed RNA structure characterization with selective 2’-hydroxyl acylation analyzed by primer extension sequencing (SHAPE-Seq).” (10.1073/pnas.1106501108) and “Modeling and automation of sequencing-based characterization of RNA structure.” (10.1073/pnas.1106541108) – came out on the heels of […]

RNA Engineering work is picked up by the media

What a great way to wrap up a Miller Fellowship.  Julius, Stanley Qi and Adam Arkin featured in a few stories about our versatile RNA transcription engineering recently published in PNAS (DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1015741108). ‘Biological Circuits for Synthetic Biology’ – And that’s the Arkin lab RNA bench where a lot of SHAPE-Seq […]

Coverstory: IEEE Spectrum

We were really lucky to get the IEEE Spectrum Cover this month for our article “Synthetic Biology’s Hunt for the Genetic Transistor” – . This was a lot of fun writing, and I hope we were convincing that electronics analogies have a large role in Synthetic Biology, ONCE we master some […]