Ryan Andrews, Ph.D. candidate in Biochemistry, is a recipient of the 2020-2021 Brown Graduate Fellowship award from Iowa State’s Office of the Vice President for Research. He is one of 14 outstanding students from across Iowa State to receive this year’s award that includes $10,000 in institutional funding.
Ryan was nominated for this award because of his significant research accomplishments in RNA biology that involves the insightful analysis of big data, leading to discoveries relevant to human health. His mentor, Roy J. Carver Department of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology (BBMB) Professor Walter Moss, said “Ryan is an exceptional student who embodies ISU’s mission and values and who has produced important and impactful work that helps raise our stature as a research institution”. In his first year, Ryan constructed a genome-wide atlas of RNA molecular structure for humans, created an ISU hosted public database (the RNAStructuromeDB). He has followed this up with the creation of a novel predictive algorithm (ScanFold) that was used to deduce functional elements in the Zika virus and HIV. More recently, his algorithm was used to characterize functional elements in the MYC protooncogene and across mRNAs encoding disordered proteins, the results of which are being used to design novel RNA-targeting therapeutics (by researchers at Scripps, Eli Lilly and elsewhere). He increased the impact of this work by creating a webserver for ScanFold that has been used by researchers across the world. His research has led to nine published papers, three as first author, and he currently has three manuscripts in preparation. Regarding this research, Professor Moss states, “this work is helping to open new frontiers in RNA-targeting therapeutics and is poised to have a transformative effect on how we treat some of humanity’s deadliest diseases”.
In addition to his graduate studies, Ryan has been a leader and peer mentor in the Biochemistry and Biophysics graduate programs Graduate Learning Community (GLC) where he helps organize meetings to help develop professional skills and explore career options for graduate students and also assists in the recruitment and peer mentoring of new graduate students.
Established in 2011 and administered by the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR), the annual Brown Graduate Fellowship Program is used to advance Iowa State research in science, agriculture, and space science. Criteria for this year’s awards included GPA, GRE scores, and nomination letters provided by candidates’ respective director of graduate education. The complete list of 2020-2021 awardees can be viewed here. In 2019-2020, Daniel Kramer, another Biochemistry Ph.D. candidate, was a Brown award recipient.