Sarah Rauscher

Sarah Rauscher
Monday, September 17, 2018 - 9:17am

Position: Assistant Professor, Tenure Stream

Department: Chemical & Physical Sciences

Place of Birth: Welland, ON

Joined UTM Faculty: 2017

“Trying to get insights into the proteins responsible for diseases such as cancer, HIV and Alzheimer’s will offer a lifetime of work.”

Sarah Rauscher’s original career plan involved becoming an astrophysicist, but along the way, her plan changed and she became a computational biophysicist instead.

“I got into research as an undergraduate and, after the first year, I knew that I wanted to stay in academia and do research,” Rauscher says. “I tried doing some laboratory experiments, but I realized I was happier behind the computer.”

Today, she and her laboratory team are conducting large-scale computer simulations of how proteins with no specific structure – disordered proteins – behave so they can understand the role these proteins play in diseases. “Trying to get insights into the proteins responsible for diseases such as cancer, HIV and Alzheimer’s will offer a lifetime of work,” Rauscher says.

The computer simulations create “movies” of a protein in motion, allowing researchers to picture where each atom of the protein is at every moment in time.

“We try to get as close to reality as possible so we can predict what might occur in certain circumstances,” Rauscher says. “If we’re right, we have the most detailed picture of these proteins that exists.”

Her team works closely with experimental biophysicists and biochemists who use the predictions to design and conduct experiments into real-life behaviour of these proteins. Their results, in turn, inform and provide greater accuracy for Rauscher’s simulations.

“U of T is a great place to do interdisciplinary research, and there are several biophysics groups to collaborate with here and across Canada,” she says. Working at UTM has been a thrill for Rauscher, who was completing a postdoctoral fellowship at Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry when the job opportunity arose.

“It was the best possible circumstance,” she says. “My dream job opened up in the year I was looking for a position. I had the chance to come back to exactly the place I wanted to be.”

 Selected Publications:

1. Rauscher, S. and Pomès, R. (2017) The Liquid Structure of Elastin. eLife 6, e26526 doi:10.7554/eLife.26526

2. Huang, J., Rauscher, S., Nawrocki, G., Ran,T., Feig, M., de Groot, B. L., Grubmüller, H., and MacKerell Jr., A. D. (2017) CHARMM36m: An Improved Force Field for Folded and Intrinsically Disordered Proteins. Nature Methods 14, 71-73 doi:10.1038/ NMETH.4067

3. Rauscher, S.,* Gapsys, V., Gajda, M. J., Zweckstetter, M., de Groot, B. L., and Grubmüller, H. (2015) Structural Ensembles of Intrinsically Disordered Proteins Depend Strongly on Force Field: A Comparison to Experiment. Journal of Chemical Teory and Computation 11, 5513−5524. doi: 10.1021/acs.jctc.5b00736 *corresponding author