Dipankar Sen

Professor Emeritus
Molecular Biology & Biochemistry

Areas of interest

A major and long-term interest of my research program is to gain a deep understanding of the catalytic possibilities of DNA and RNA. Astonishing recent discoveries in the biology of RNA (such as riboswitches and miRNA) have shown it to be anything but a passive carrier of genetic information. Indeed, the existence of ribozymes (catalytic RNAs) has long bolstered the notion of an “RNA World”, an early stage in evolution in which RNA was responsible for both informational and catalytic functions within organisms. A focus of my lab is to search for new and often unexpected catalytic properties of RNA (and of its surrogate, DNA). We are one of only a few labs in the world that specialize in this area; however, our key papers have contributed to new thinking about primordial biochemistry, the de novo design of biocatalysts, and generated often unexpected practical applications, particularly in the field of biosensing.


  • B.A., Cambridge University 
  • M.Phil., Ph.D., Yale University

Selected Publications

  • Cernak, P. and Sen, D. (2013) A Thiamin-Utilizing Ribozyme Decarboxylates a Pyruvate-like Substrate. Nature Chemistry 5: 971-977.  [Featured in the New York Timeshttp://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/10/science/vitamins-old-old-edge.html?_r=0 ]
  • Huang, Y. C. and Sen, D. (2014)  A Twisting Electronic Nanoswitch made of DNA. Angewandte Chemie53: 14055-14059.
  • Grigg, J. C., Shumayrikh, N., and Sen, D. (2014) G-Quadruplex Structures Formed by Expanded Hexanucleotide Repeat RNA and DNA from the Neurodegenerative Disease-Linked C9orf72 Gene Efficiently Sequester and Activate Heme.  PLOS One 9(9):e106449.
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This instructor is currently not teaching any courses.