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Michael Rape studies molecular mechanisms of cell fate decisions – how a stem cell commits to one cellular lineage over another – using the post-translational modifier protein ubiquitin as a starting point. With a variety of techniques, Rape and his team dissect the mechanisms behind ubiquitin-dependent protein modifications that are critical to stem cell differentiation and homeostasis. Their findings provide insight into enzymatic reactions that are required for normal development and, when regulation fails, can contribute to several diseases, most notably cancer and neurodegeneration. The team is also devising methods to alter ubiquitin-dependent signaling with small molecules, aiming to identify potential therapeutics.