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Faculty Profile

George E. FoxGeorge E. Fox

John and Rebecca Moores Professor of Biology and Biochemistry and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Department of Biology and Biochemistry

Office: Houston Science Center, 424
Contact: fox@uh.edu - (713) 743-8363

Education: Ph.D., Syracuse University, B.S., Syracuse University

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The primary focus of the Fox laboratory is to understand the mechanism and evolution of ribosomes, which are responsible for all coded protein synthesis. Early ribosomes are thought to predate the last universal common ancestor of all living organisms, and therefore likely existed in some form at the dawn of life. Modern ribosomes are very complex molecular machines and much of this complexity has been added over evolutionary time. The Fox lab is attempting to understand the relative order of addition of the various subsystems and how the machine actually works.

Because ribosomes are dynamic RNA machines, their history has relevance to the hypothetical RNA World that is championed in the Origin of Life Research Community. From the Fox lab’s perspective, the importance of RNA means we must understand RNA structure and dynamics. Thus, the lab demonstrated the utility of comparative analysis in determining RNA structure and discovered RNA nanopores, one of which is central to ribosome function. In addition, the lab located pivot points in the RNA that are associated with ribosome motions.

As the co-discoverer of the Archaea, Dr. Fox was one of the first to use rRNA sequence information to elucidate evolutionary relationships between different types of bacteria and thereby established the first “tree of life” that encompassed procaryotes. These technologies have evolved and now routinely utilize NextGen sequencing. The Fox group continues to participate in a modest way. The focus is primarily on organisms that are important in space flight or utilized as model organisms for bacterial survival in extreme planetary environments.

Honors and Awards:

Esther Farfel Award, University of Houston, 2016
Elected Fellow, International Astrobiology Society, 2014
NASA Space Act Award, 2007
Sigma Xi Faculty Research Award-Full Professor, 2005
Elected Fellow, American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering, 2002
Elected Fellow, American Association for Advancement of Science, 1995
Elected Fellow, American Academy of Microbiology, 1994

Organizations, Outreach, Boards, Memberships:

Editorial Boards: Endocytobiosis and Cell Research; Biology Direct; PLoS ONE; LIFE; 2014
Session Chair and Organizer: Astrobiology Science Conference, April 16-20, 2012, Atlanta, Ga.
Chair: Origin of Life Gordon Conference, 2010
Member: USRA Division of Space Life Sciences Advisory Council, 2004-2010
Member: Texas Southern University NASA Research Center National Advisory Committee, 2003-2008.