Joan A. Steitz, Ph.D., the Sterling Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at Yale University and Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, received her B.S. and Ph.D. degrees from Antioch College and from Harvard University, respectively. She then pursued postdoctoral studies at the Medical Research Council (MRC) Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) at the University of Cambridge.
The Steitz laboratory studies the roles of non-coding RNA (ncRNA)-protein complexes in mammalian gene expression. Recently, Dr. Steitz and her team have made several exciting discoveries revolving around viral RNA processing. Some highlights include the discoveries that (1) splicing-like snRNPs are made by a virus to degrade host microRNAs; (2) viral ncRNAs form triple helices that stabilize its RNA in the host nucleus; and (3) viral ncRNAs direct host transcription factors towards the viral DNA. Steitz’s research has yielded new insights into the diagnosis and treatment of autoimmune disorders including lupus.
In 2017, Steitz was awarded the William Clyde DeVane Award for Teaching Excellence at Yale University. In addition, Steitz has been awarded the RNA Society Lifetime Achievement Award (2004), the Gairdner Foundation International Award (2006), the NCI Roasalind E. Franklin Award for Women In Sciences (2006), and has been inducted into the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame (2008). Dr. Steitz has received 17 honorary degrees, and todate, has hundreds of publications which have placed her among the most highly cited researchers for decades.