Saurja DasGupta

Assistant Professor

Assistant Professor
437 Stepan Chemistry
Notre Dame, IN 46556


Research Areas

  • Biochemistry

Research Specialties

  • Life Processes
  • Medicine

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Year Title
2024 Assistant Professor, University of Notre Dame
2019-2023 Postdoctoral Research Associate, Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School
2018 Ph.D. in Chemistry, University of Chicago
2013 M.S. in Chemistry, University of Chicago
2012 M.Sc. in Chemistry, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay
2010 B.Sc. in Chemistry, University of Calcutta

Selected Awards

2023   Postdoctoral Fellow Career Development Grant (Massachusetts General Hospital)

2020   German Association for Synthetic Biology Best Presentation Award

2019   Sigma Xi Honor Society

2016   ACS Chemical Biology Outstanding Poster Award

Research Interests

RNA plays a crucial role in biology, and its significance continues to grow as new discoveries are made. The DasGupta lab will focus on a holistic exploration of RNA. We will investigate RNA structure, function, and evolution. By studying its structure, we will explore how its three-dimensional shape influences its function and its interactions with other biomolecules. We are deeply interested in a special class of RNA molecules, called Ribozymes, that show catalytic activity. We will use biochemistry, high-throughput sequencing, and structural biology approaches to understand how this special class of RNA molecules catalyze chemical reactions when most RNAs do not. We are also interested in the evolutionary processes that allow RNA molecules to adapt to new functions like enzyme catalysis or ligand binding (as in aptamers). We will routinely use combinatorial techniques like in vitro selection and directed evolution to discover RNAs de novo that perform functions not found in biology.

In addition to its many biological roles, RNA bears a profound weight of biological history. It is widely accepted that the earliest forms of life on Earth (~3.8 bya) used RNA to constitute their genomes and as enzymes. Understanding the capabilities of RNA is thus crucial for unraveling the mysteries surrounding life's origins and advancing our knowledge of early evolutionary processes. The DasGupta lab aims to create synthetic models of the earliest cells that show life-life behaviors such as growth, division, competition, and ultimately Darwinian evolution to understand how life emerged from non-living matter. These studies will reveal fundamental physical and chemical principles underlying biology. We are also invested in using evolutionary approaches to develop RNA-based technologies to probe largely unexplored areas of RNA biology. This includes generating reagents to interrogate the biologies of RNA cleavage and non-canonical RNA capping, and generating aptamer-based biosensors.

Selected Publications

  • DasGupta, S.; Zhang, S. and Szostak, J. W. "Molecular Crowding Facilitates Ribozyme-Catalyzed RNA Assembly" 2023 ACS Central Science, 9 (8), pp. 1670-1678. DOI: 10.1021/acscentsci.3c00547.
  • DasGupta, S.; Zhang, S. J.; Smela, M. P. and Szostak, J. W. "RNA-Catalyzed RNA Ligation within Prebiotically Plausible Model Protocells" 2023 Chemistry-A European Journal, e202301376. DOI: 10.1002/chem.202301376.
  • Muller, U. F.; Elsila, J.; Trail, D.; DasGupta, S.; Giese, C. C.; Walton, C. R.; Cohen, Z. R.; Stolar, T.; Krishnamurthy, R.; Lyons, T. W.; Rogers, K. L. and Williams, L. D. "Frontiers in Prebiotic Chemistry and Early Earth Environments" 2022 Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres, 52 (1-3), pp.165-181. DOI: 10.1007/s11084-022-09622-x.
  • Weiss, Z. and DasGupta, S. "REVERSE: A User-Friendly Web Server for Analyzing Next-Generation Sequencing Data from in Vitro Selection/Evolution Experiments" 2022 Nucleic Acids Research, 50 (W1), pp.W639-W650. DOI: 10.1093/nar/gkac508.
  • Radakovic, A.; DasGupta, S.; Wright, T. H.; Aitken, H. and Szostak, J. W. "Nonenzymatic Assembly of Active Chimeric Ribozymes from Aminoacylated RNA Oligonucleotides" 2022 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 119 (7), e2116840119. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2116840119.
  • DasGupta, S. "Molecular Crowding and RNA Catalysis" 2020 Organic & Biomolecular Chemistry, 18 (39), pp.7724-7739. DOI: 10.1039/d0ob01695k.