Robert H. Singer is the Harold and Muriel Block Chair of Anatomy of Structural Biology, a Professor of Cell Biology and Professor of Neuroscience. He is Co-Director of the Gruss Lipper Biophotonics Center and a Senior Fellow of the Janelia Farm Research Campus of the HHMI. He received his undergraduate degree in physical chemistry from Oberlin College and his Ph.D. in developmental biology from Brandeis University. He did postdoctoral work at MIT and at the Weizmann Institute. His career has been focused on the cell biology of RNA: its isolation, detection, expression and translation. An in situ hybridization technique his lab developed revealed that messenger RNA localizes in specific cellular compartments. This work has given rise to the field of RNA localization, enhanced by Dr. Singer’s development of imaging technology and RNA reporters. Dr. Singer’s laboratory has been instrumental in developing rapid and sensitive microscopy to study single molecules of RNA in living cells to track them through their life cycle. He holds 12 patents on his work

Research Interests

Dr. Singer seeks to follow the expression and movement of mRNA from transcription through degradation in live cells. He develops methods to label RNA in fixed and living cells using fluorescent probes and the microscopy techniques and image analysis algorithms to visualize and quantify many mRNAs simultaneously. Using these technologies, he can observe single mRNAs as they are transcribed and processed, as they export from the nucleus, localize to cytoplasmic compartments such as dendritic processes of neurons, and finally when and where they translate and are degraded. Because these techniques yield quantitative fluorescence data, mathematical modeling can be applied to test mechanistic hypotheses about the kinetics of each of the events in an mRNA's life. By making transgenic, knock-in mice where the endogenous RNA is tagged with the stem loops of the MS2 phage, and bound to the cognate fluorescent coat protein, these events can be seen in living tissues, in order to ultimately understand the native regulatory mechanisms governing gene expression.

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Primary Section

Section 22: Cellular and Developmental Biology

Secondary Section

Section 29: Biophysics and Computational Biology