Computational biology doesn't just answer questions; it can help you come up with questions that had never been thought about before.
Gene expression is regulated, in part, by sequence-specific transcription factors (TFs) that bind regulatory DNA sites across the genome and thus activate or repress the expression of target genes. I am generally interested in finding out what sequences TFs prefer to bind, what sequences they actually bind in vivo, how they interact physically with the DNA and with DNA-binding proteins, and how they regulate their target genes. More specifically, my research goals are to decipher the DNA binding specificity of TFs within and beyond the core DNA binding site motif, and to leverage this knowledge to design efficient computational approaches for finding transcriptional regulatory regions and for understanding how TFs with almost identical DNA binding preferences bind to different targets in vivo and thus perform different functions. To achieve these research goals, I use in vitro protein binding microarray (PBMs) assays and computational approaches that combine this in vitro data with in vivo TF binding data, DNA accessibility data, histone modification data, evolutionary conservation data, and potentially other types of information that are relevant for DNA binding and transcriptional regulation.
Raluca Gordân is a faculty member in the Department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics. She received her Ph.D. in Computer Science in 2009 from Duke University, where she worked on DNA motif discovery algorithms under the supervision of Prof. Alex Hartemink. Dr. Gordân conducted postdoctoral research with Prof. Martha Bulyk at Brigham & Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School (Boston, MA), studying the DNA binding specificity of transcription factors using protein binding microarrays. Her training was supported by a postdoctoral fellowship from the American Heart Association. She joined the faculty at Duke in September 2011.
Dr. Gordân is particularly interested in the mechanisms by which transcription factors are recruited to their specific DNA sites, both in vitro and in vivo, and how this recruitment is affected by changes in the DNA or protein sequence. Her work uses protein binding microarray assays and computational approaches that combine different types of information relevant for DNA binding and transcriptional regulation.