Faculty Directory
Julius Lucks

Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering


2145 Sheridan Road
Tech E154
Evanston, IL 60208-3109

Email Julius Lucks


Lucks Lab


Center for Synthetic Biology


Chemical and Biological Engineering


PhD Program in Interdisciplinary Biological Sciences

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Miller Fellow Postdoctoral Associate, University of California, Berkeley, CA

Ph.D., Chemical Physics, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

M.S., Chemical Physics, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

M.Phil., Chemistry, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

B.S., Chemistry, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC

Research Interests

Our research has led to fundamental contributions to our understanding of the molecular principles that enable biological systems to sense and adapt to changing environments, and to understanding how we can use these principles to engineer synthetic biological systems that benefit humankind. A focal point of our work is RNA – a fundamental component of all living systems that enacts genetic, regulatory and catalytic functions by folding into intricate shapes within cells. Through development of high throughput RNA structure/function measurement technologies, we have discovered new ways in which the complexity of RNA folding can be distilled into simple rules. Combining these discoveries with cutting-edge cell-free synthetic biology techniques has allowed us to translate these discoveries into designing low-cost, on-demand diagnostic technologies that can detect water contaminants and pathogens. Our discovery-to-design research paradigm is now making possible a whole new toolkit based on synthetic biotechnology principles that has the potential to transform our world through tackling global challenges.

Selected Publications

  1. K. J. Jung, K. K. Alam, Chloé M. Archuleta, J. B. Lucks (2022). “Programming cell-free biosensors with DNA strand displacement circuits”.
  2. Nature Chemical Biology, doi:10.1038/s41589-021-00962-9. 
  3. A. M. Yu, P. M. Gasper, L. Cheng, L. B. Lai, S. Kaur, V. Gopalan, A. A. Chen, J. B. Lucks (2021). "Computationally reconstructing cotranscriptional RNA folding from experimental data reveals rearrangement of non-native folding intermediates." Molecular Cell doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2020.12.017.
  4. J. K. Jung, K. K. Alam, M. S. Verosloff, D. A. Capdevila, M. Desmau, P. R. Clauer, J. W. Lee, P. Q. Nguyen, P. A. Pasten, S. J. Matiasek, J.-F. Gaillard, D. P. Giedroc, J. J. Collins, J. B. Lucks (2020). "Cell-free biosensors for rapid detection of water contaminants." Nature Biotechnology. doi: 10.1038/s41587-020-0571-7.
  5. W. Thavarajah, A. D. Silverman, M. S. Verosloff, N. Kelley-Loughnane, M. C. Jewett, J. B. Lucks (2019). "Point-of-use detection of environmental fluoride via a cell-free riboswitch-based biosensor." ACS Synthetic Biology. doi: 10.1021/acssynbio.9b00347.
  6. E. J. Strobel, L. Chang, K. Berman, P. D. Carlson, J. B. Lucks (2019). “A ligand-gated strand displacement mechanism for ZTP riboswitch transcriptional control.” Nature Chemical Biology. doi:10.1038/s41589-019-0382-7.
  7. E. J. Strobel, A. M Yu, J. B. Lucks (2018). "High-throughput determination of RNA structures." Nature Reviews Genetics, 19, 615-634.
  8. K. E. Watters, E. J. Strobel, A. M Yu, J. T. Lis, J. B. Lucks (2016). “Cotranscriptional Folding of a Riboswitch at Nucleotide Resolution”, Nature Structural and Molecular Biology, 23, 1124-1131.
  9. K. E. Watters, T. R. Abbott, J. B. Lucks (2015). “Simultaneous characterization of cellular RNA structure and function with in-cell SHAPE-Seq,” Nucleic Acids Research, 44, e12.
  10. J. Chappell, M. K. Takahashi, J. B. Lucks (2015). “Creating small transcription activating RNAs,” Nature Chemical Biology, 11, 214-220.
  11. M. K. Takahashi, J. Chappell, C. A. Hayes, Z. Z. Sun, J. Kim, V. Singhal, K. J. Spring, S. Al-Khabouri, C. P. Fall, V. Noireaux, R. M. Murray, J. B. Lucks (2015). “Rapidly characterizing the fast dynamics of RNA genetic circuitry with cell-free transcription-translation (TX-TL) systems,” ACS Synthetic Biology, 4, 503-515.