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Jim MacDonald on changing the way scientists do research

The Humans of the Wyss series features members of the Wyss community discussing how they think about their work, the influences that help shape them as scientists, and their collaborations at the Wyss Institute and beyond.

In this installment of our Molecular Robotics Edition, we talk to Staff Scientist Jim MacDonald, Ph.D. about his work developing DNA-based molecular devices and how he envisions his research impacting the world.

What drives you?

I believe that scientific research today is severely limited by the high cost and low availability of research tools. I am interested in changing the way scientists do research by making it more efficient through the design of new research tools that are high-throughput and low cost. Ultimately, every scientist should have access to state-of-the-art research tools.

You’re working on developing DNA-based molecular devices, tell us more.

These molecular devices can be used to rapidly characterize proteins and can be programmed to bind to specified regions of a protein. By studying how the device interacts with the protein, we can identify a protein of interest. More importantly, these molecular devices can be designed to work in parallel to create a high-throughput research platform for studying many proteins at a time.

I am interested in changing the way scientists do research by making it more efficient through the design of new research tools that are high-throughput and low cost.

Jim MacDonald

Share with us some of the challenges you’re facing.

Our success is dependent on the integration of chemistry, DNA nanotechnology, biomolecular engineering, and biophysics. However, many of the well-established techniques in these respective fields are not compatible. As a result, a major challenge has been the development of new techniques from these fields that can be combined within a single system.

So, how do you envision your research impacting the world?

It has the potential to revolutionize the way proteins are studied by making the method more efficient and more accessible to scientists, as well as to not only help streamline processes like drug discovery, but also transform our understanding of biological processes.

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