Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
Pennsylvania State University
104 Chemistry Bldg
University Park, PA 16802
Tel: (814) 863-3812
Biography: Phil was raised in North Collins, NY where he graduated from North Collins High School in 1983. His undergraduate degree was from John Carroll University where he majored in Chemistry and minored in Physics, graduating in 1987. He obtained his Ph.D. with Professor Douglas Turner at the University of Rochester in 1993 where he developed fluorescence-detected stopped-flow techniques for RNA secondary and tertiary structure formation in collaboration with Doug and Professor Ken Johnson (UT Austin). His postdoctoral studies were with Professor Thomas Cech at the University of Colorado, where he was a Jane Coffin Childs Postdoctoral fellow. There he worked on the then newly discovered dsRNA-binding domain and elucidated determinants of its substrate specificity. In 1997 he joined the faculty of the Department of Chemistry at Penn State University as an Assistant Professor of Chemistry. In 2003 he was promoted with tenure to Associate Professor of Chemistry and in 2007 he was promoted to Full Professor of Chemistry. In 2015 he obtained a partial appointment as Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology. He is a co-founder of the Center for RNA Molecular Biology at Penn State and is active in several interdepartmental graduate programs at Penn State including Plant Biology, Molecular Cellular and Integrative Biosciences (MCIBS), and Bioinformatics and Genomics. He has received recognition for his research with several awards and fellowships: a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellow, Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar, Elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and the Penn State Faculty Scholar Medal. He is the author of over 160 publications. In addition, his teaching has been recognized through the NSF CAREER Award, Camille Dreyfus Teacher Scholar, and Penn State Faculty Scholar Medal, as well as being designated a Distinguished Honors Faculty Fellow, a CESE Tombros Education Fellow, and awarded the C. I. Noll Award for Excellence in Teaching.
Beginning with his graduate work, through his post-doc, and into his independent career, Phil has focused on obtaining molecular insights into the myriad roles of RNA in biology through incisive mechanistic approaches. The Bevilacqua lab has diverse interests in RNA that include ribozyme mechanism, pathways for RNA folding in vivo, RNA structure in living organisms especially plants, roles for RNA on early earth, and functions of RNA in innate immunity. His lab has introduced a number of new approaches to study RNA, often in a collaborative fashion, including pKa measurements by novel means, use of conformationally restricted nucleotides to probe RNA structure and function, probing of RNA folding across an entire transcriptome in vivo, and compartmentalizing and studying RNA function. A number of new insights have arisen through these studies including demonstrations of active roles for nucleobases in RNA catalysis (‘nucleobase catalysis’), identification of functions for in vivo RNA structure in RNA processing events, and elucidation of RNA determinants for innate immune responses (PAMPs) at the primary, secondary, and tertiary RNA structural levels. Phil and his wife Jo live in State College, PA and have three girls–Sarah, Erin, and Chloe.