Innovative DNA studies earn computational biologist a lifetime spot in the world’s largest scientific organization
- USC Dornsife scholar Remo Rohs receives a lifetime appointment as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
- Rohs uses computational methods, including artificial intelligence, to understand how cells regulate genetic activity.
- Founding chair of USC Dornsife’s newest academic department, he established quantitative biology, “a hard major at the interface of biology, math and computer science.”
Remo Rohs, professor of quantitative and computational biology, chemistry, physics and astronomy, and computer science at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, has been elected a fellow of the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
“I was very honored to be recognized as a fellow because my most distinguished colleagues are AAAS fellows,” Rohs said. “Joining them was touching to me, and my initial thought was also that this is an honor for all current and past members of my lab who have earned this recognition.”
AAAS members elected Rohs to the lifetime appointment for “integrating structural biology and genomics with high-throughput methods to predict the three-dimensional structure of DNA, which allowed the prediction of transcription factor-DNA binding and revealed mechanisms of protein-DNA recognition.”
Rohs uses computational and experimental approaches, including artificial intelligence, to understand mechanisms of gene regulation. Such mechanisms describe how proteins that regulate genes, called transcription factors, detect and interact with specific regions of the genome.
“My lab deciphers gene regulatory mechanisms through AI, machine learning and biophysics to understand development, aging and disease, and to develop drugs,” he said.
He notes that his role as founding chair of the Department of Quantitative and Computational Biology leaves him much less time to work on research, making the award all the more valuable to him.
“When I took on administrative duties, I had less time for my research, but it is important as a department chair to excel in research. I was particularly pleased that I was elected an AAAS fellow and recognized for the core research contributions of my laboratory,” he said.
“It is a hard major at the interface of biology, math and computer science, but so far every student who applied to medical school has been accepted, and the same can be said for those who applied to MD-PhD programs,” he said.
Widely recognized as a scientist and mentor, Rohs received an American Chemical Society OpenEye Outstanding Junior Faculty Award in Computational Chemistry in 2016 and a USC Mentoring Award in the “Mentoring of Graduate Students” category in 2015.
He earned an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship in 2013, and since 2012 he has garnered nine RECOMB/ISCB Top-10 Paper Awards and an NAR Breakthrough Article honor for research papers published in high-impact journals such as Cell, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and Nucleic Acids Research.
He has been a member of the AAAS since 2013 and the American Chemical Society and International Society for Computational Biology since 2012.
In addition to Rohs, other USC faculty elected AAAS Fellows this year are Carolyn Meltzer and Richard Watanabe of Keck School of Medicine of USC, and Massoud Pedram of USC Viterbi School of Engineering.