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Hughes Undergraduate Research Laboratory

Research Summary

Manuel Ares's research focuses on RNA processing and the structure and function of RNA, with special attention to the role of RNA processing in genome function and evolution. To encourage the development of scientist-teachers, he recruited undergraduates to participate in a research group that conducted genomic studies of splicing in humans and Plasmodium spp., the causative agent of malaria.

Between 2002 and 2006, Ares ran an undergraduate research group composed of 10 to 15 students each quarter (mainly juniors and seniors); the program served more than 50 students over the course of its four years. This research group conducted genomic studies of splicing in humans and the malaria parasite Plasmodium spp. These studies were interdisciplinary in nature, requiring students from traditional molecular biology and from computer science and bioinformatics to work in teams.

A main goal was to learn how such teams of undergraduate researchers might learn to value interdisciplinary approaches early in their research careers and how this might affect their future career choices. In addition to gaining experience in the research lab, including learning how to use sophisticated instrumentation and technology, students were encouraged to experience teaching and learning as part of a research group. Four publications resulted from this project; three appeared in peer-reviewed journals and included participating students as co-authors. Today, many of these students are practicing scientists, engineers, and physicians.

Ares has continued to serve as a nominator and mentor for undergraduate students participating in HHMI’s EXROP summer research program for traditionally underrepresented students. In addition, Ares has become interested in the effects of unacknowledged bias in influencing decisions concerning academic advancement and funding of women and underrepresented minorities in science and engineering.

Research in the Ares Lab

Ares’s research interests are in RNA structure and function, especially as they pertain to genome function and evolution. His research focuses on the machinery and regulation of processes that alter genomic information posttranscriptionally. His research accomplishments include discovering the yeast U2 snRNA (small nuclear RNA), the first yeast snRNA with clear homology to mammalian splicing snRNA; annotating introns in the Saccharomyces cerevisiae genome and applying genome-wide technologies to the question of how RNA processing events lead to context-dependent interpretation of genomic information in normal and diseased cells. Future research will focus on understanding on a systems level how RNA processing mechanisms have contributed to the evolution of eukaryotes and eukaryotic genomes.

Last updated May 2014

Scientist Profile

HHMI Professor
University of California, Santa Cruz
Molecular Biology