Folding RNA

Event Date: 
June 8, 2005
Dr. Anthony Zee, KITP

Contrary to what Watson and Crick enunciated in their "central dogma" soon after they figured out the genetic code, biologists in recent years have elucidated the central role played by RNA. Indeed, current speculations on the origin of life generally place RNA before DNA. Biological functions depend largely on the shape of the molecules involved and thus understanding how RNA folds into the correct shape has emerged as an important problem in biology. Clearly, shape and topology (the branch of mathematics concerned with the difference between a ball and a doughnut) are relevant here. Given this fascinating interplay between mathematics and physics, the subject encourages an inter-disciplinary approach, requiring the efforts of theoretical physicists, mathematicians, as well as that of biochemists. I will describe an approach using quantum field theories with its built in topological character. This talk will not presuppose any knowledge of quantum field theory and mathematics. Instead I will use color (literally) to explain certain topological properties of Feynman diagrams.

Speaker Bio: 
Anthony Zee joined the Institute for Theoretical Physics and the Physics Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1985. Born in China, he attended high school in Brazil and came to the United States as an undergraduate at Princeton University. After receiving his doctorate from Harvard University in 1970, he spent various fractions of his life at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, Rockefeller University, Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Washington before coming to Santa Barbara. Among various distinctions he was an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellow and a Dyson Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study.