2021 Clapp Lecture with Prof. Cynthia Burrows

The Department of Chemistry presents Professor Cynthia Burrows as the 2021 Leallyn Burr Clapp lecturer. Prof. Burrows will give the Clapp Lecture on Thursday, March 18 and a colloquium the following day as part of Chemistry's Friday Colloquium Series. These events will be held virtually and will use the same Zoom login address for Thursday and Friday. Please login with your Zoom account: https://brown.zoom.us/j/96793430891

If you do not have a Zoom account you can download a free version here.

Below you will find the 2021 Clapp lecture title and abstract, colloquium title and abstract, and Prof. Burrows biography.  

Clapp Lecture: Thursday, March 18, 2021 

Beyond Watson & Crick: Roles for the DNA Quadruple Helix from Aging to Zika

Abstract: The DNA double helix is often considered a static repository of genetic information like dusty old books on a library shelf. We now know that the Watson-Crick duplex, first drawn in 1953, undergoes considerable changes on a daily basis, both (a) alterations in the four base structures (the 4 letters of the code), and (b) unwinding of the duplex, not just to single strands but also refolding to quadruplexes, 4-stranded structures that punctuate DNA. These quadruple helices are common at the telomere ends of chromosomes where they play roles in aging and cancer, and they are also common in regulatory regions of genes that impact the timing of gene expression. We recently found that the RNA comprising the Zika virus genome is rich in G-quadruplex sequences as well. This lecture will introduce G and C-quadruplex structures and discuss important areas of biomedical research stemming from these non-canonical structures. 

(history of the Clapp Lecture)

Chemistry Colloquium: Friday, March 19, 2021

Free Radical Oxidation of Guanine—Mutagenic or Epigenetic

Abstract:  ‘Free radicals’ and ‘oxidative stress’ sound like bad news in the context of the precious DNA constituting our genome, but yet we live and breathe in an atmosphere of O2, a diradical. This lecture will present the organic chemistry of guanine (G) oxidation to other heterocycles such as 8-oxoguanine (OG) and spirodihydantoin (Sp), followed by biophysical characterization of the impact of oxidized bases on DNA structure, then biochemical studies of how mutations arise from OG and Sp, and finally (the good news) that repair of oxidative DNA damage can alter gene expression allowing cells to respond appropriately to oxidative stress. In short—from organic chemistry to cell biology, there should be something for everyone!


Dr. Cynthia J. Burrows is the Thatcher Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.  Her early training was in physical organic chemistry with Prof. Stan Cristol at the University of Colorado (B. A. 1975) and Prof. Barry Carpenter at Cornell University (Ph.D., 1982), followed by a NSF-CNRS postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Prof. Jean-Marie Lehn, Université Louis Pasteur, Strasbourg (1981-83).  She was on the faculty at Stony Brook University, before returning to the West in 1995.  Her research focuses on nucleic acid chemistry, particularly base modifications in DNA and RNA.

Prof. Burrows has served in several editorial roles and is currently Editor-in-Chief of Accounts of Chemical Research.  Her research was recognized with the ACS Utah Award, ACS Cope Scholar Award, and the University of Utah’s Distinguished Creative and Scholarly Research Award.  She is also the 2018 recipient of the James Flack Norris Award in Physical Organic Chemistry and of the Gibbs Medal, both from the ACS.  She was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2009 and elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2014.  She is the 2019 recipient of the Rosenblatt Prize for distinguished service at the University of Utah.