Director of Undergraduate Chemistry
Faculty Assistant for Teaching and Learning
Adjunct Professor of Chemistry
RNA Recognition By Proteins and Small Molecules. Our research program seeks to understand and control the recognition of RNA by proteins and small molecules. RNA is important in all steps of gene expression and usually acts in concert with proteins. Thus, an understanding of the recognition of RNA by proteins and small molecules is necessary for a complete description of biological processes involving RNA and the development of small molecules capable of modulating these processes.
One goal of our research is to determine how proteins achieve high affinity and specificity for RNA. To quantify and rationally modulate energetic contributions, we systematically modify protein sequences and RNA nucleotides. We use computational and fluorescence methods to understand and predict the contributions of energetic coupling and dynamic processes to the recognition of RNA by proteins. We have principally studied RNA recognition by proteins containing the RNA recognition motif (RRM), which is one of the most common RNA-binding domains and is found in proteins that function in nearly every step of post-transcriptional gene expression.
A second goal of our research is to develop a fundamental understanding of the recognition of non-helical nucleic acid structures by small molecules. Specific, high affinity ligands for RNA would be valuable tools for probing biological processes involving RNA and could be effective drugs. We use a combination of rational design, computational docking, and high throughput screening of small molecule libraries to identify compounds that bind to RNA. Our RNA targets include RNA tetraloops that are essential for ribosome structure and function, Stem Loop 3 of Y RNA of HIV, and bulged CUG and CCUG repeat RNAs that are the cause of myotonic dystrophy.
Chemical Education, Curricular Development, and Assessment. The chemistry department at the University of California, Berkeley serves a large population of undergraduate and graduate students and is a national and international leader in research. Therefore, the chemistry department is positioned to be a leader in the development of innovative programs in chemistry education that impact a large number of students. An overall goal our work is to increase the numbers of students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields and improve the scientific knowledge of both STEM students and students who do not ultimately choose to major in a STEM area. To achieve this, we are pursuing three broad topics: 1) curricular development, 2) improving the participation of underrepresented groups in our programs, and 3) developing rigorous and on-going evaluation of the program and assessment of student learning to allow an approach for educational reform based on hard data.
Anne Baranger received a B.S. in Chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1988 and a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1993, under the direction of Professor Robert Bergman. She was a postdoctoral fellow at Yale University with Professor Alanna Schepartz from 1993-1996. Professor Baranger joined the Wesleyan University chemistry faculty in 1996 and the University of Illinois chemistry faculty in 2006. At the University of Illinois, she was Associate Head of the Department, Director of Graduate Studies, and was a Chancellor's Fellow in the I-STEM Education Initiative. She joined the University of California, Berkeley, in 2011. She is the recipient of the Rudolph Anderson Postdoctoral Fellowship (1993-95), the Donaghue Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship (1995) and an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship (2002-2004).