Photo by Tony RinaldoPhoto by Tony Rinaldo
Helen Putnam Fellow
Mount Holyoke College
Needle in a Haystack: Removing Base Lesions from DNA

Megan Núñez is the Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Mount Holyoke College. She teaches and does research in the interdisciplinary area of chemical biology—the application of chemical tools and understanding to intractable biological questions.

While a fellow, Núñez will explore a cellular mechanism that maintains the integrity of the genome, the base excision repair pathway. This pathway repairs small modifications and mistakes on DNA, preventing them from persisting and causing mutations, cancer, or cell death. Though many of the molecular details of how these enzymes bind and excise lesions are well understood, the important question of how they find damaged bases in the first place remains unanswered. She will use a combination of organic chemistry, biochemistry, and physical chemistry to elucidate the search and recognition process of these enzymes.

Núñez received her AB in biochemistry from Smith College in 1996 and her PhD in chemistry from the California Institute of Technology in 2001. She was the recipient of a predoctoral fellowship from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a postdoctoral fellowship from the James Irvine Foundation, and a Camille and Henry Dreyfus Faculty Start-Up Grant. Along with the Clare Boothe Luce Foundation, the biological sciences and physical sciences directorates of the National Science Foundation currently fund her research.

This information is accurate as of the fellowship year indicated for each fellow.
Photo by Tony Rinaldo