Friday, February 1, 2019 at 12:20pm
Molecular Biology and Genetics, Cornell University
Maureen R. Hanson is Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor in the Department of Molecular Biology & Genetics. She received a B.S. degree at Duke University and a Ph.D. in Cell and Developmental Biology from Harvard University. After completing an NIH postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard, she joined the faculty of the Biology Department at University of Virginia. She moved to Cornell as Associate Professor and was promoted to Professor in 1991. She is presently a member of the graduate Fields of Genetics and Development, Plant Biology, and Biochemistry, Molecular, and Cell Biology. She has previously served as Associate Director of the Cornell Biotechnology Program and Director of the Cornell Plant Science Center. She is currently Director for the Center for Enervating Neuroimmune Disease.
Dr. Hanson has two different research programs, related through their dependence on modern methods for examining genome sequences and gene expression. Her research in plant biology has always focused on the genome-containing organelles of plants, chloroplasts and mitochondria. Reflecting their prokaryotic origins, gene expression in these organelles differs from that of nuclear genes. In particular, organelle genes are often organized in operons that undergo considerable post-transcriptional processing, including RNA editing. The nuclear genome exerts significant control of organelle gene expression through the action of nuclear-encoded proteins targeted to the organelle. Research goals include identification of the components of the organelle RNA editing apparatus and an RNA/protein complex that suppresses the expression of an abnormal mitochondrial protein. Another study utilizes synthetic biology methods to introduce CO2-concentrating microcompartments into chloroplasts. A third project concerns engineering of the carbon-fixing enzyme Rubisco in chloroplasts in order to enhance the efficiency of photosynthesis. A second research area is the pathophysiology of the human illness Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME). Individuals with this illness often have evidence of immune system activation and dysfunction. One current project is examining metabolism of immune cells and metabolites in plasma. Another project aims to identify differences in gene expression and cargo of extracellular vesicles at baseline and following exercise in healthy and in subjects diagnosed with ME/CFS.