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Department of

Chemistry and Biochemistry

Robert Dutnall, PhD

Assistant Professor

Robert N. Dutnall, PhD, is a biochemist and structural biologist. He teaches lecture and laboratory courses in biochemistry, biophysical chemistry, general chemistry and also genetics. His research focuses on understanding how proteins can manipulate packaging of genetic material in a eukaryotic cell to control gene expression that, in turn, drives cellular functions involved in the development and well being of complex multicellular organisms.

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Ph.D., University of Cambridge, U.K.
B.Sc. with First Class Honors, University of Aberdeen, Biochemistry

Scholarly and Creative Work

Dutnall's research centers on proteins involved in packaging DNA in eukaryotic cells, and understanding how proteins can modify DNA packaging to control gene expression. Current projects in his lab include studies of a histone modifying enzyme involved in gene silencing and DNA repair, and developing improved methods to produce histone proteins using bacterial expression methods. He uses an interdisciplinary approach, combining biochemical, biophysical and genetic methods to explore the three-dimensional structure, biochemical activity and biological function of these proteins. His goal is to build a detailed understanding of the structure and chemical mechanism of these proteins and use this knowledge to examine how they control crucial aspects of cellular function.

Teaching Interests

Dutnall focuses on relationships between molecular structure, biochemical activity and biological function. His lectures incorporate historical perspectives and describe key experiments that show how our understanding of how molecules work has developed and highlight questions that remain to be answered.  In lab courses he likes to show how experimental techniques can be used to understand complex processes.  In genetics he relates how genetic material is inherited, controls aspects of cell function and organism development, and creates the capacity for evolution by natural selection. In biochemistry and biophysical chemistry he focuses on how the structure of a molecule allows it to perform a specific biochemical function and how complex biochemical pathways are built and integrated.