Lab Members

Principal Investigator

Dr. Joseph Piccirilli

B.Sc., University of Scranton, 1982.
Rheinisch Westfalische Technische Hochschule Aachen, Fulbright Scholar, 1983.
Ph.D., Harvard University, 1989 with Steve Benner.
Harvard Traveling Scholar, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, 1986-1989.
University of Colorado at Boulder, Howard Hughes Postdoctoral Research Fellow, 1989-1993 with Tom Cech
The University of Chicago, Assistant Professor, 1993-2000.
Assistant Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, 1994-2000.
The University of Chicago, Professor, 2000
Associate Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, 2000-2004.
Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, 2004-2009
Joint Appointment in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Research Professionals

Dr. NanSheng Li

Ph.D. 1993, Shanghai Institute of Organic Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences
Research Specialist
Dept. of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

I am interested in the chemical synthesis and enzymatic synthesis of biologically interesting molecules including but not limited to the modification of nucleosides, nucleotides, and nucleic acids for the studies of RNA structure and function.

Graduate Students

Michael Disare

Michael grew up near Buffalo, NY and did his undergrad at Cornell University, so the winters here at UChicago don’t faze him at all. He joined the lab in 2018 and works on a project to study the structural biology of HIV-1 RNAs. In his free time he can usually be found in the (Pokémon GO) gyms around Hyde Park, or playing some other Nintendo game. He also found himself anointed CFO (Chief Fun Officer) of the lab, which ostensibly gives him as much authority as Joe Piccirilli himself.

Matt Moore

Amidst the insanity that was 2020, Matt had reached rock bottom. But then, out of nowhere, he realized that all of life’s problems could be solved by joining the Piccirilli Lab (multiple citations needed). We’re still not entirely sure that Matt is not multiple people as we’ve not seen him without a mask much, but his skill in getting the FPLC to do some work for him (them?) is unquestionable. His work is focused on nsp1 of some obscure virus that no one has heard of. COVID 91, or is it 19? I’m not sure, I’ll give it a quick google.

Allison Brink

B.A. Biochemistry, Grinnell College 2019

Allison is a chemistry graduate student from Minneapolis, MN who joined the lab in 2021. She is currently working on determining the structure of ribozymes using Fabs to assist in RNA crystallization.

Daniel Krochmal

MSc Molecular Biotechnology, Jagiellonian University 2019

Dan graduated with Master’s degree in molecular biotechnology from Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, and spent one year in the lab as a Fulbright scholar before joining for PhD in 2021. Currently, Dan is working on a phage-displayed antibody library tailored for RNA targets that will help in generation of RNA binders and facilitate structural studies.


Fulbright Scholars

Anna Lewicka

MSc Wrocław University 2013

In 2014, Anna started her PhD project at The Wrocław University, with the aim of studying the function of glycogenolytic enzymes in the formation of skeletal muscles. Currently occupying the (Fulbright) desk in the lab owned by the Polish consulate, Anna gets to sit on one of the only 16 square foot places in Illinois with a drinking age below 21 (though she is professional and doesn’t abuse that). Anna’s work is focused on creating Fab-RNA complexes to produce crystals, which are then shot with crazy strong lasers at Argonne national lab, which is constantly surrounded by thunderstorms and manic laughter. In addition, Anna has been very kind and generous by feeding the lab, though if this is some dastardly plot to give us all diabetes is yet to be revealed.

Wojciech Gogacz

B.E. Chemistry, University of Gdansk 2020

Wojtek is a chemistry graduate student, he joined the lab in 2021. Currently working with RNA mutants and their complexes with the ligands. In the previous labs, he worked especially with peptides, proteins, and peptidomimetics as well. Ever since he watched a movie called Backdraft he has always wanted to be a firefighter in Chicago (he visits very often various fire departments here).

Karolina Ryba

Biotechnology engineer, Department of Biological Chemistry and Bioimaging, Wrocław University of Science and Technology 2020

Officially Karolina, for friends – Fish. In her early study, she used to design short peptides for use in prodrugs for cathepsin B. Her interest in biology of RNA started while doing her Master’s degree at the Institute of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Polish Academy of Science in Warsaw. After two years of research on dsRNA sensor in human mitochondria, she made a gap year and moved to Chicago. As a Fulbright scholar, she joined Piccirilli Lab as “Crystals are a girl’s best friend”. Never fully unpacked, always ready for low-budget trips.

Post-Baccalaureate Students