My program is focused on 
the use of viruses as genetic and molecular tools for fundamental discovery. By combining biochemical and genetic approaches, with the tools of molecular and structural biology. I examine the interplay of viral and host gene products and mechanisms of viral assembly and disassembly. The principle areas of research currently under investigation include:
 



1.  The use of viral protein cages as constrained reaction vessels for nano-materials synthesis with applications in medicine and material sciences. This research is based on the concept that a viral protein cages (devoid of its nucleic acid) can serve as a precisely defined molecular surface for driving chemical reactions. This area of research focuses on genetic and chemical modifications to impart desired functionality to viral protein cages on the interior surface, The exterior surface and the at the interface between the subunits that comprise the cage. A number of animal and plant viral protein cages, in addition to non—virus protein cages are be utilized. Applications of this work include creation of cage-based targeted drug delivery and MRI bioimaging agents to magnetic materials with applications in advances in computer memory.

 

2.  The isolation and 
genetic characterization 
of novel viruses from extreme thermal environments found in Yellowstone National Park and other thermal regions worldwide. We are interested in the unique biochemical adaptations required for life at high temperatures. One avenue to elucidate such mechanisms is to use viruses that replicate in such environments as tools to understand their hosts. Currently, very little is known about the viruses that replicate at high temperatures. Our efforts have been directed at the isolation & characterization of viruses that replicate in high temperature (>80C) acidic (<pH 3.0) environments using Yellowstone as our backyard laboratory. To date, we have isolated a number of viruses, all of which have been completely novel in morphology and genetic structure. We continue to isolate new viruses from thermal environments worldwide. We investigate the structure and gene functions of these novel viruses using the tools of molecular and structural biology.

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