Tirrell Group: Jeffrey Vieregg

Senior Research Scientist

Tirrell Group



Nucleic acids are fascinating molecules, both in terms of their physical properties and their biological function. Over millions of years, DNA and RNA have evolved to perform myriad essential functions in the cell, from information storage to structural scaffolding to catalysis of chemical reactions. In particular, recent years have seen an explosion in our appreciation of RNA's many roles in gene regulation. We are only in the early stages of learning how these vital molecules interact to maintain life, and how we can intervene when things go awry. Nucleic acids' programmable self-assembly properties and biocompatibility also make them powerful platforms for engineering structures, sensors, and therapeutics at the nanoscale.

My research interests are at the intersection of nucleic acid biophysics, biochemistry, and bioengineering. Developing better nucleic acid nanodevices allows us to probe cellular processes with unprecedented levels of detail and obtain information not accessible through other techniques. In turn, learning more about nucleic acids' behavior in the natural environment allows us to more precisely engineer their behavior in the lab. At Chicago, I am working with the Tirrell group to deliver RNA therapeutics using engineered artificial micelles, and with the Ruthenburg lab (BSD) to understand the behavior of long non-coding RNAs, RNA gene products that play vital roles in gene regulation, epigenetics, and cancer. I also am actively involved in collaborations with research groups at Caltech and the University of Wisconsin.


Jeff Vieregg received his SB in Physics with Electrical Engineering and a minor in Chemistry from MIT. His undergraduate research focused on high-frequency electron devices for solid state NMR signal enhancement.

Jeff obtained a Ph.D. in Physics from Berkeley with Profs. Ignacio Tinoco, Jr. and Carlos Bustamante. His thesis research centered on single-molecule studies of RNA folding using optical trapping. Manipulating individual RNA molecules with mechanical force provides new windows into the structure and dynamics of biomolecules.

Prior to joining IME, Jeff worked as a postdoctoral scholar in the Bioengineering Department at Caltech, under the supervision of Prof. Niles Pierce. He developed nanoscale biosensors and actuators using conformation-changing nucleic acids and programmable hybridization.

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