Ross C. Hardison, Ph.D.
T. Ming Chu Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular BiologyPennsylvania State University
Dr. Hardison has studied molecular mechanisms of gene regulation for his entire career, beginning with undergraduate research at Vanderbilt University (BA in Chemistry in 1973). After graduate studies on chromatin structure at the University of Iowa (PhD in Biochemistry in 1977), he was a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Tom Maniatis at the California Institute of Technology. His work with many collaborators in the Maniatis lab not only established clone libraries as a means for gene isolation, but it also led to the development of a foundational approach to genomics, i.e. genomic libraries that captured entire genomes for sequencing, assembly, and functional interrogation. Since starting his lab at The Pennsylvania State University in 1980, Dr. Hardison has applied biochemical and evolutionary approaches on a genome-wide scale to find DNA sequences regulating the expression of genes, with a goal of elucidating gene regulatory networks controlling cell lineage commitment, proliferation of progenitor cells and differentiation into mature cells. He applies these approaches primarily to mammalian hematopoiesis. The need to analyze massive datasets generated by genomic approaches has inspired many new computational approaches, and Dr. Hardison has collaborated with computer scientists and statisticians (including Drs. Webb Miller, Francesca Chiaromonte, and Yu Zhang) to help develop effective methods that are widely used in the community. This research is deepening our understanding of the mechanisms of normal development and differentiation, and it also serves as a foundation for potential biomedical applications. Specifically, many of the most common diseases in humans result from inappropriate gene expression, and many of the genetic variants implicated in susceptibility to these diseases through genome-wide association studies reside in regulatory elements. Thus finding regulatory DNA sequences, analyzing how they act, and determining how variation in the DNA sequence affects their function are important areas of biomedical research.