The most commonly understood role of RNA is as an intermediate in the decoding of genetic information in DNA into the proteins that carry out the majority of known structural and functional roles in the cell. A few other classes of functional RNA molecules, such as transfer RNAs, ribosomal RNAs and spliceosomal RNAs, are expressed from their own genes (so-called RNA genes), but were long assumed to be unusual specialised cases. However, in recent years it has become increasingly clear that RNA molecules are involved in essentially all cellular functions, including many that are linked directly to diseases. These RNAs can be tiny (just 20 or so bases in length in the case of a class called microRNAs) to extremely long (hundreds of thousands of bases). Current estimates suggest that there may be as many RNA genes as there are protein-coding genes in the human genome (i.e. tens of thousands), but we understand the functions of only a few hundred.
My group is interested in the structure, function and evolution of functional RNAs. We employ mainly computational, genome-wide approaches to their analysis. We have particular interests in the class of microRNAs, and we manage the world-wide repository of microRNA data.
Education and employment
2015-present Professor of Computational Biology, Faculty of Life Sciences, and Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, University of Manchester.
2011-2015 Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Manchester.
2009-2011 Lecturer, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Manchester.
2007-2009 Fellow, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Manchester.
2003-2006 Project Leader, Rfam database of RNA families and the miRBase database of microRNA sequences, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.
2001-2002 Post-doctoral Researcher, Pfam database of protein families, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.
1997-2000 PhD Chemistry, Design and analysis of model beta-sheet systems — implications for protein folding, University of Nottingham.
1994-1997 BSc (Hons) First Class, Biochemistry and Biological Chemistry, University of Nottingham.