Current Research

Victor Corces studies gene expression and the role of chromatin structure and nuclear organization in the control of eukaryotic gene transcription. His HHMI project involves training and mentoring Atlanta public school students, with the ultimate goal of having them graduate from Emory University and go on to graduate science programs. The project also includes recruiting graduate students and postdocs to mentor the students and develop teaching skills.

We have created an educational program called Research Internship and Science Education, or RISE, at Emory University with the goal of mentoring students from Atlanta public high schools and developing their interest in biomedical science careers. A special instructional program prepares these students for admission to college and, more specifically, to Emory University, which will award a full tuition scholarship to any RISE student accepted to Emory.

These educational activities have three objectives: (1) to increase the number of undergraduate students from underprivileged backgrounds at Emory, (2) to train and mentor these students while they are in high school and at Emory in cutting-edge biomedical research through experiential learning in the laboratory augmented by specially designed lecture courses, and (3) to train graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to become passionate about teaching and to follow careers that combine undergraduate teaching and research.

To accomplish these goals, we first recruited a cadre of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows who are deeply interested in teaching. We and the students established an educational relationship with Atlanta public high schools. Talks by local scientists, with special emphasis on women and members of underrepresented minority groups, help make the high school students aware of career opportunities in the field of biomedical research. Students who show special aptitude and interest for the biological sciences receive academic enrichment and support during the academic year and summers to help them succeed in rigorous science classes. These high school students also work at Emory in a specially designed laboratory experience in which they carry out independent research projects and participate in other educational activities. The research projects involve the use of molecular genetics, genomics, bioinformatics, cell biology, and biochemistry to characterize the function of proteins involved in the organization of chromatin structure. The students carry out their research and are able to design, analyze, and interpret their own experiments. The goal of these activities is to mentor and motivate high school students to help them succeed in their academic courses, with the ultimate objective of being accepted into the Emory undergraduate program, where they continue to be trained for research careers. Once at the university, these and other undergraduates interested in biomedical research continue to participate in laboratory research. Upon graduation from college, the students should be well prepared for a research career and admission to the top graduate programs in the country.

Research in the Corces Lab

Our research interests are in the field of gene expression and the role of chromatin structure and nuclear organization in the control of eukaryotic transcription. In particular, our lab studies the mechanisms by which chromatin architectural proteins affect gene expression by establishing the three-dimensional organization of the genome. Work in the lab has lead to the identification of a dozen different architectural proteins in Drosophila. Studies of their biochemical properties and genomic distribution, together with Hi-C data, have led to a model suggesting that combinations of architectural proteins divide the genome into topologically associating domains (TADs). Sequences located within TADs show a high frequency of interactions whereas inter-TAD contacts occur at low frequency. We speculate that the organization of the eukaryotic genome into TADs serves to restrict interactions between regulatory sequences, such as enhancers and promoters, to certain domains in the genome. It is possible that cells control long-range contacts between sequences located in different TADs by regulating the recruitment of different architectural proteins to TAD borders, thus controlling their strength.

As of May 2014

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