User:Julius B. Lucks

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Julius B. Lucks

I am a Miller Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley. With Adam Arkin, I am studying and engineering RNA-based systems that control gene expression. I am also part of the Cornell University project, where I am the lead developer of the applications programming interface. You can reach me at jblucks at berkeley dot edu.


As a Miller Fellow, I have become interested in RNA-based mechanisms that regulate gene expression, and in particular how the interplay between RNA structure and function can be engineered to create a platform for the scalable control of gene expression. One of the most thrilling aspects of this work is that it is at the interface between basic science and engineering. On the basic science side, we use computational structure prediction and in-vivo mutation analysis and screening to uncover RNA-RNA binding and folding pathways that are at the core of the regulatory mechanism. Information gleaned from these mechanistic studies are then used to develop more general engineering principles, where we make targeted changes to the RNA molecules to design functional RNA motifs that have tunable function, can act orthogonally inside the same cell, are both physically and functionally composable, and that ultimately facilitate the design and construction of scalable genetic architectures for controlling gene expression.

In addition to scientific research, I am involved in projects aimed at improving the general science landscape.

  • With Lorrie LeJeune, I helped to start OpenWetWare's Open Writing Projects. As a first article, I have written an introduction to the Python programming language for scientists - Python, All A Scientist Needs.
  • I am also the lead developer of the API, which allows easy, programmatic access to the vast amounts 'open source' scientific information housed at The API allows software developers to include information, thereby giving scientists easy to use tools to access scientific literature. It also paves the way for creative uses of the information, and the creation of better search interface tools.

For my PhD, I worked in the area of biophysics with David Nelson, where we used theoretical physics to study problems related to

  • Unzipping DNA at a constant force
  • Translocating RNA through nanopores
  • Geometrical Defects in curved, two-dimensional crystals (related to viral capsids)
  • Phage genome landscapes - a way to visualize important genomic features related to comparative genomics of bacteriophages


Julius B. Lucks

Miller Fellow
Department of Bioengineering
University of California Berkeley
309 Hildebrand Hall
mailcode 5230
Berkeley, CA 94720
jblucks at berkeley dot edu



Honors and Awards

  • Robert Karplus Prize in Chemical Physics, Harvard University (2002)
  • Francis P. Venable Medal, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill (2001)
  • Academic Excellence in Physical Chemistry, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill (2001)
  • Phi Beta Kappa, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, (2000)
  • American Chemical Society Undergraduate Research Award, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill (1999)


J. B. Lucks, L. S. Qi, W. Whitaker, A. P. Arkin. Toward scalable parts families for predictable design of biological circuits., Current Opinion in Microbiology, 11, 567-573, 2008.

DOI: 10.1016/j.mib.2008.10.002 (Not Free)

J. B. Lucks Python - All a Scientist Needs, 2008.

OWW: Article Page (FREE)
Arxiv: arXiv:0803.1838 (q-bio.QM) (FREE)
Video (Pycon 2008 Presentation)

J. B. Lucks, D. R. Nelson, G. Kudla, J. B. Plotkin. Genome landscapes and bacteriophage codon usage, PLoS Computational Biology, 4, 1000001, 2008.

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000001 (FREE)
Arxiv: arXiv:0708.2038v1 (q-bio.GN) (FREE)

J. B. Lucks, Y. Kafri. Dynamics of RNA Translocation through a Nanopore, 2007.

Arxiv: q-bio.BM/0703028 (FREE)

V. Vitelli, J. B. Lucks, D. R. Nelson. Crystallography on Curved Surfaces. PNAS, 103, 12323-12328, 2006.

DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0602755103 (FREE)
Arxiv: cond-mat/0604203 (FREE)

J. D. Weeks, J. B. Lucks, Y. Kafri, C. Danilowicz, D. R. Nelson and M. Prentiss. Pause Point Spectra in DNA Constant-Force Unzipping, Biophysical Journal, 88, 2752-2765, 2005.

DOI: 10.1529/biophysj.104.047340,
Arxiv: cond-mat/0406246 (FREE)


J. B. Lucks, Stanley Qi, Sarah Richardson, Adam P. Arkin Engineering an Antisense-RNA-Mediated Transcription Control System, Selected Presentation, Synthetic Biology 4.0 2008, Hong Kong. (Video)

J. B. Lucks Python - All a Scientist Needs, Pycon 2008, Chicago. (Video)


J. B. Lucks, Stanley Qi, Adam P. Arkin Toward Scalable Control of Gene Expression Networks with Composable RNA Transcription Attenuator, Gordon Research Conference on Nucleic Acids, June, 2009.

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