Ryan Lee Hayes
: Post-Doctoral Research Associate
My thesis research focused on the magnesium dependence of RNA. The energy landscape of biological macromolecules such as RNA must be smooth and funneled in order for them to fold on biological time scales. In such a landscape, native contacts are on average more stabilizing than nonnative contacts and guide the search for the native state. A structure-based or Gō model includes only native contacts and topological constraints and is a useful approximation. In addition to being funneled, the energy landscape of RNA is strongly dependent on ionic conditions, because positive counterions such as magnesium are required to mitigate the electrostatic repulsion by negative backbone phosphates. Magnesium binds tightly to RNA because it is divalent and small. I developed models that described the sensitivity of competing RNA states to magnesium. My present interests include functional dynamics and design of proteins and RNA.