Julius B. Lucks

Associate Professor
Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering
Northwestern University
2145 Sheridan Rd
Evanston, Il 60208

Phone: 607-255-3601
Email: jblucks(at)northwestern(dot)edu


B.S. Chemistry, UNC Chapel Hill – 2001
M.Phil. Theoretical Chemistry, Cambridge University – 2002
Ph.D. Chemical Physics, Harvard University – 2002-2007
Miller Postdoctoral Fellow, UC Berkeley 2008-2011
Professional Experience

Associate Professor, Chemical and Biological Engineering, Northwestern University – 2016-Present
Member, Center for Synthetic Biology, Northwestern – 2016-Present
Member and Preceptor, Chemistry of Life Processes Institute, Northwestern – 2016-Present
Preceptor, Interdisciplinary Biological Sciences Graduate Program, Northwestern – 2016-Present
Assistant Professor, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Cornell University – 2011-2016
Board of Directors and Member, Engineering Biology Research Consortium – 2016-Present
US Chair, US/EU Biotechnology Task Force Synthetic Biology Working Group – 2014-2016
Instructor and Co-Creator, Cold Spring Harbor Course on Synthetic Biology – 2013-2015
James C. and Rebecca Q. Morgan Sesquicentennial Faculty Fellow, Cornell – 2012-2016
Affiliated Investigator, NSF Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center – 2011-2016
Miller Fellow Postdoctoral Associate, Bioengineering, UC, Berkeley, CA – 2008-2011
Postdoctoral Associate, Information Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY – 2007
Visiting Scholar, Theoretical Physics, Institute Marie Curie, Paris, Fr – 2005
Editorial Board, Nucleic Acids Research – 2015-Present
Editorial Board, ACS Synthetic Biology – 2011-Present
Affiliate, bioRxiv – 2014-Present
Awards and Honors

2017 Camille Dreyfus Teacher Scholar Award
2016 ACS Synthetic Biology Young Investigator Award
2016 Searle Leadership Award
2015 NSF CAREER Award
2015 Cornell College of Engineering Mr. and Mrs. Richard F. Tucker `50 Teaching Award
2013 NIH New Innovator Award
2013 Office of Naval Research (ONR) Young Investigator
2013 Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship
2012 Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Young Faculty Award
2012 James C. and Rebecca Q. Morgan Sesquicentennial Faculty Fellow
2008-2011 Miller Research Fellow, University of California, Berkeley
2002-2007 John and Fannie Hertz Foundation Graduate Fellow
2002 Robert Karplus Prize Fellowship in Chemical Physics, Harvard University
2001 Winston Churchill Scholarship, Churchill College, Cambridge University
2001 National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship (Declined, Duplicate Funding)
2001 Department of Defense Graduate Fellowship (Declined, Duplicate Funding)
2000-2001 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, Univ. North Carolina, Chapel Hill
2001 Francis P. Venable Medal, Univ. North Carolina, Chapel Hill
2001 Academic Excellence in Physical Chemistry, Univ. North Carolina, Chapel Hill
2000 Phi Beta Kappa, Univ. North Carolina, Chapel Hill
2000 NSF REU Fellowship, Univ. Colorado, Boulder
1999 American Chemical Society Undergraduate Research Award

Julius B. Lucks is Associate Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Northwestern University. After attending the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics for high school, he became an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he performed research in organic synthesis and the application of density functional theory to studying the electronic properties of atoms and molecules as a Goldwater Scholar. After graduating with a BS in Chemistry, he spent a summer working with the late Robert Parr before obtaining an M. Phil. in Theoretical Chemistry at Cambridge University as a Churchill Scholar with Nicholas Handy. As a Hertz Fellow at Harvard University, he researched problems in theoretical biophysics including RNA folding and translocation, viral capsid structure and viral genome organization, under David R. Nelson. As a Miller Fellow at UC Berkeley in the laboratory of Adam P. Arkin, he engineered versatile RNA-sensing transcriptional regulators that can be easily reconfigured to independently regulate multiple genes, logically control gene expression, and propagate signals as RNA molecules in gene networks. With Arkin, Jennifer Doudna and Lior Pachter, he also lead the team that developed SHAPE-Seq, an experimental technique that utilizes next generation sequencing for probing RNA secondary and tertiary structures of hundreds of RNAs in a single experiment. This breakthrough and the many technologies that build off of this concept is now being used to uncover the role of RNA structure in regulating fundamental cellular processes across the genome.

Research in the Lucks group combines both experiment and theory to ask fundamental questions about the design principles that govern how RNAs fold and function in living organisms, how these principles can be used to engineer biomolecular systems, and how they can open doors to new medical therapeutics. Using a multidisciplinary perspective, the focus of his laboratory has been to address two related questions: how do RNA molecules fold inside cells to help coordinate gene expression processes?, and how can we use understanding of these phenomena to create engineered RNAs to control gene expression in an array of biotechnologies? His group creates new classes of programmable RNA regulators with protein-like dynamic ranges, and uses SHAPE-Seq to understand RNA folding dynamics in the cell. Recently, the group has become interested in how RNAs fold during transcription, and how RNA folding dynamics can be programmed to create new classes of decision making genetic switches. The group is working towards a vision of RNA engineering that incorporates RNA structure/function measurements with quantitative models to unlock the potential of RNA regulators for responsible applications of synthetic biology in a range of applications, from sustainable biomanufacturing to new molecular level technologies for water quality diagnostics.

Professor Lucks is also heavily invested in helping to train the next generation of scientists and engineers through his co-founding of the Cold Spring Harbor Synthetic Biology Summer Course and his roles as a founding board member of the Engineering Biology Research Consortium.