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Academic Background

Thoru Pederson received his Ph.D. in Zoology from Syracuse University and was a NIH postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Cell Biology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.He then joined the Worcester Foundation as a Staff Scientist in Cell Biology and was promoted to President of the institute in 1985. In 1997 the Worcester Foundation merged with UMass Medical School. Dr. Pederson holds the Vitold Arnett Professorship, an endowed position, and is also Associate Vice Provost for Research.

He has held a Scholar Award from the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of America and has served on the N.I.H. Cell Biology Study Section, the N.I.H. Molecular Biology Study Section, and the Editorial Board of the Journal of Cell Biology.He currently serves on the editorial board of Molecular Biology of the Cell.He is an Elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the American Academy of Microbiology.He has been awarded the Wilhelm Bernhard Medal and also the Medal of Charles University, Prague, for his research in the cell nucleus.He has served as the Chair of the Keith Porter Endowment Fund in Cell Biology, which supports the career development of young cell biologists, and also serves as Chair of the Research Awards Review Committee at the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, MA, which evaluates proposals for summer research grants -- again emphasizing young scientists.

Track record of most recent graduate student:

Qian Huang was the most recent graduate student to finish in the Pederson laboratory.She post-doc’d in the laboratory of Richard Young at the Whitehead Institute, MIT, and is now a Staff Scientist at the Novartis Research Institute, Cambridge, MA

Vitold Arnett Professor of Cell Biology

RNA traffic in eukaryotic cells, RNA processing, RNA-protein interactions, microRNAs

Dr.  Thoru Pederson, Ph.D.

We are investigating the functional significance of specific protein-RNA interactions in eukaryotic gene expression, with particular emphasis on RNA traffic and processing as well as domains in the cell nucleus where these events are set in motion. One axis of this program combines in situ RNA detection methods with novel approaches we have developed for following fluorescent RNA molecules in living mammalian cells. A recent focus has been the assembly of the signal recognition particle, which we have discovered occurs in an unanticipated place in the cell: the nucleolus. This has led us to look into the possibility that this special domain of the nucleus may be doing yet other things, beyond its long-known role in making ribosomes. We have found that the nucleolus harbors numerous proteins involved in cell cycle progression as well as a specific set of microRNAs. We are now trying to sort out the meaning of both of these unexpected discoveries. My laboratory follows the doctrine uttered by a famous biochemist when asked by a reporter how he planned his work, who replied “I follow my nose.”

Research Funding

National Science Foundation grant MCB-1051398, “Probing New Dimensions of the Nucleolus”; April 1, 2011-March 31, 2014


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