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Dr. Irina Arkhipova is a molecular evolutionary geneticist who is interested in the role of mobile genetic elements in eukaryotic genome structure, function and evolution. She studies the genomes of bdelloid rotifers, tiny aquatic invertebrates best known for their long-term asexuality and the ability to withstand frequent cycles of desiccation and rehydration at any life stage. She discovered that bdelloid genomes contain significant amounts of foreign DNA horizontally transferred from sources as diverse as bacteria, fungi, protists, and plants. She also described a novel class of intron-containing retroelements that may play a role in telomere maintenance and share a common ancestor with telomerase reverse transcriptases. Current research directions in her lab include elucidation of the role of reverse transcriptase-related cellular genes, investigation of the involvement of RNA-mediated silencing pathways in genome defense and genome integrity in bdelloids, functional studies of horizontally transferred genes, and rotifer genomic studies that are pursued together with members of several consortium labs. Research in the lab is expanded into fungal or bacterial model systems when they provide better molecular tools for addressing the basic questions that initially emerged from rotifer studies. Dr. Arkhipova’s research is supported by grants from the U.S. National Science Foundation and from the National Institutes of Health. She is a leading expert on transposable elements, which she studied since her undergraduate years. She published over 50 papers on this topic, including articles in high-profile journals such as Science, Cell, Nature Genetics, and PNAS, contributed chapters to books from Wiley, McGraw Hill and Karger, and co-authored a book “Drosophila Retrotransposons” for Landes/Springer. She serves on the national advisory panels and on the editorial board of Mobile DNA, the main specialty journal in the field.
Dr. Arkhipova received her B.S./M.S in Biochemistry from Moscow State University, and her Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from the Engelhardt Institute of Molecular Biology in Moscow, Russia, where she first elucidated the replication mechanism of LTR retrotransposons. She received post-doctoral training at the University of Edinburgh in the UK as a Wellcome Trust Fellow, and then moved to the US to become a post-doctoral researcher and then a staff scientist at Harvard University in the laboratory of Prof. Matthew Meselson, where she continued her work on transposable elements. She joined the faculty at the MBL in 2004 as an Assistant Research Scientist, was promoted to Assistant Scientist in 2009 following a national search, and to Associate Scientist in 2012. She is also an Associate Professor in the Department of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry at Brown University, and a member of the MCB Graduate Program at Brown. She is one of the founding members of the Mobile Genetic Element Cluster at the MBL, and has been organizing a bi-annual regional meeting on mobile genetic elements since 2007 (schedules can be found at the link below):