About Student Research

Julie Strauss-Soukup (1993–1997)

Understanding the role of electrostatics in DNA structure and flexibility

Julie Strauss-Soukup graduated from Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, and joined the Maher lab (then at the University of Nebraska Medical Center) to do pioneering work to explore electrostatic effects in DNA bending by proteins. In particular, Julie developed methods to create DNA molecules with laterally asymmetric electrical charge, combining chemical synthesis with neutral methylphosphonate internucleotide linkages and enzymatic ligation and electrophoretic shape assays. This work led to the first test of a key theory that DNA will bend if the electrostatic forces along the backbone are unbalanced. Julie went on to pioneer methods to engineer DNA bending proteins with modified charge and test these proteins as DNA bending agents in laboratory experiments. This work has been influential in the field of DNA biophysics.