New Faculty Profile: Randal Halfmann
Stowers Institute for Medical Research
We aim to discover new prions and explore how these remarkable elements of inheritance contribute to phenotypic diversity. Much of our work is performed in budding yeast, an exceptionally tractable organism that continues to illuminate the biophysical determinants of prions and the range of phenomena attributable to them. Our recent contributions in this area include the discovery that prions can act as environmentally-responsive epigenetic determinants of cell identity. In particular, prion formation by certain regulatory proteins leads yeast to switch between unicellular and multicellular growth forms. We are now investigating how distinct subpopulations of cells that result from prion switching interact with and influence each other’s fitness. We believe such interactions contribute to the emergence of cooperative intercellular behaviors that characterize phenomena ranging from microbial biofilms to tumor progression.
I am actively seeking enthusiastic, creative minds at all levels (technicians, students, postdocs, and research scientists) to contribute to my research program. (Contact)
“Science is the most rewarding intellectual pursuit I can imagine. It captures my curiosity and won’t let it go. It pushes my mental capabilities to their limits. And then it rewards me with something priceless: privileged insight into the workings of life. It’s no cheap thrill, but there’s nothing else like it.” – Randal Halfmann on his favorite part of his work
Role of GSA in your career:
I greatly value GSA conferences, particularly the Yeast Genetics and Molecular Biology Meetings. Attendance provides invaluable access to like-minded scientists and has kept me abreast of emerging technologies. Societies like GSA hence fulfill a critical role in academic research.
Previous training experiences:
- Undergraduate – BS in genetics, Texas A&M University
- Graduate – PhD in Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Whitehead Institute, Lindquist Lab
- Postdoc – Sara and Frank McKnight Independent Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
My position involves a small amount of optional teaching to graduate students. This semester I have opted to give two lectures in Cell Biology. I plan to contribute regularly, to a similar extent, to this or other basic biology courses in semesters to come.
Interests outside of work:
Exploring nature, gardening, and eating wild mushrooms.