Loren Dean Williams

Georgia Institute of Technology

Loren Williams was born in Seattle, Washington. In 1981 he received his B.Sc. in Chemistry from the University of Washington where he worked in the laboratory of Martin Gouterman. In 1985 he received his Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from Duke University, where he worked the laboratory of Barbara Shaw. He was an American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellow first at Duke then at Harvard. From 1988 to 1992 he was an NIH Postdoctoral Fellow with Alexander Rich in the Department of Biology at MIT. He joined the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Georgia Tech in 1992 where is he currently a professor. Loren received an NSF CAREER Award in 1995, and a Sigma Xi Award for best paper from Georgia Tech in 1996. He received SAIC Student Advisement Award in 2012, the Petit Institute "Above and Beyond" Award in 2012, Georgia Tech's Faculty Award for Academic Outreach in 2013, and the Georgia Tech College of Science Faculty Mentor Award in 2013. He was director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute funded Ribo Evo Center from 2008 to 2015.

Research Interests: 

The ribosome is our molecular time machine to the origins of biology. We study the ribosome, using synthetic biology, phylogeny, biophysical chemistry, bioinformatics, molecular biology and paleogeology. We construct models of ancient ribosomes in silico, in vitro and in vivo. We deconstruct and reverse engineer the ribosome providing tools for understanding the origin of life

Selected publications: 

Runnels, C, Lanier, KA, WIlliams, JK, Bowman, JC, Petrov, AS, Hud, NV, and Williams, LD (2018) "Folding, Assembly, and Persistence: The Essential Nature and Origins of Biopolymers", J. Mol. Evol. 1-12 10.1007/s00239-018-9876-2.

Bray, MS, Lenz, TK, Haynes, JW, Bowman, JC, Petrov, AS, Reddi, AR, Hud, NV, Williams, LD, and Glass, JB (2018) "Multiple Prebiotic Metals Mediate Translation", Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 10.1073/pnas.1803636115.

Kovacs, NA, Penev, PI, Venapally, A, Petrov, AS, and Williams, LD (2018) "Circular Permutation Obscures Universality of a Ribosomal Protein", J. Mol. Evol. 1-12 10.1007/s00239-018-9869-1.

Okafor, CD, Bowman, JC, Hud, NV, Glass, JB, and Williams, LD. (2018) Folding and Catalysis near Life’s Origin: Support for Fe2+ as a Dominant Divalent Cation, in Prebiotic Chemistry and Chemical Evolution of Nucleic Acids (Menor-Salván, Ed.), pp 227-243, Springer International Publishing AG.

Fang, P-Y, Bowman, JC, Gómez Ramos, L, Hsiao, C, and Williams, LD (2018) "RNA: Packaged and Protected by VLPs", RSC Adv. 8, 21399 - 21406 10.1039/c8ra02084a.

Bernier, CR, Petrov, AS, Kovacs, NA, Penev, PI, and Williams, LD (2018) "Translation: The Universal Structural Core of Life", Mol. Biol. Evol. 34, 2065–2076 10.1093/molbev/msy101.

Fang, P-Y, Gómez Ramos, LM, Holguin, SY, Hsiao, C, Bowman, JC, Yang, H-W, and Williams, LD (2017) "Functional RNAs: Combined Assembly and Packaging in VLPs", Nucleic Acids Res. 45, 3519-3527.

Lenz, TK, Norris, AM, Hud, NV, and Williams, LD (2017) "Protein-Free Ribosomal RNA Folds to a near-Native State in the Presence of Mg2+", RSC Adv. 7, 54674-54681 DOI 10.1039/c7ra08696b.

Gomez Ramos, LM, Degtyareva, NN, Kovacs, NA, Holguin, SY, Jiang, L, Petrov, AS, Biesiada, M, Hu, MY, Purzycka, KJ, Arya, DP, and Williams, LD (2017) "Eukaryotic Ribosomal Expansion Segments as Antimicrobial Targets", Biochemistry 56, 5288-5299 10.1021/acs.biochem.7b00703.

Lanier, KA, Petrov, AS, and Williams, LD (2017) "The Central Symbiosis of Molecular Biology", J. Mol. Evol. 85, 8-13 10.1007/s00239-017-9804-x.

Lanier, KA, Roy, P, Schneider, DM, and Williams, LD (2017) "Ancestral Interactions of Ribosomal RNA and Ribosomal Proteins", Biophys. J. 13, 268-276 doi.org/10.1016/j.bpj.2017.04.007.

Okafor, CD, Lanier, KA, Petrov, AS, Athavale, SS, Bowman, JC, Hud, NV, and Williams, LD (2017) "Iron Mediates Catalysis of Nucleic Acid Processing Enzymes: Support for Fe(II) as a Cofactor before the Great Oxidation Event", Nucleic Acids Res. 45, 3634-3642 10.1093/nar/gkx171.

Kovacs, NA, Petrov, AS, Lanier, KA, and Williams, LD (2017) "Frozen in Time: The History of Proteins", Mol. Biol. Evol. 34, 1252–1260 10.1093/molbev/msx086.

Lanier, KA, and Williams, LD (2017) "The Origin of Life: Models and Data", J. Mol. Evol. 84, 85-92 10.1007/s00239-017-9783-y.