Christine Heitsch – Georgia Tech
Monday, September 21, 2015
Klaus 1116 W - 1:00 pm
(Refreshments will be served in Klaus 2222 at 2 pm)
Strings, Trees, and RNA Folding
An RNA molecule is a linear biochemical chain which folds into a three dimensional structure via a set of 2D base pairings known as a nested secondary structure. Reliably determining a secondary structure for large RNA molecules, such as the genomes of most viruses, is an important open problem in molecular biology. Using strings and (plane) trees as a combinatorial model of RNA folding, we give mathematical results which yield insights into RNA branching configurations and suggest new directions in understanding the structure of RNA viruses. We also demonstrate that, under a suitable abstraction, complex biological problems can reveal surprising mathematical structure.