Scientist of the month: Eric Miska

We asked Eric Miska, Herchel Smith Professor of Molecular Genetics at the Gurdon Institute, about his research on non-coding RNAs.

Brief biography

Eric Miska, PhD

Eric Miska studied mathematics, physics and biology at Heidelberg, Berlin and Mainz and received a BA in Biochemistry from Trinity College, Dublin, in 1996.
He received his PhD in pathology from the University of Cambridge, UK in 2000.

Eric completed a post doc with Bob Horvitz at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before starting his own research group at the Gurdon Institute in 2005, focusing on non-coding RNAs and their role in gene regulation.

Eric currently is the Herchel Smith Professor of Molecular Genetics and a Senior Group Leader at the Gurdon Institute. Eric was an EMBO Young Investigator and is a full member of EMBO since 2012. Eric is the 2013 recipient of the Hooke Medal awarded by the British Society of Cell Biology.

Q. What sparked your passion for science?

Patterns in nature. A romanesco cauliflower is just shocking.

Q. What exciting research projects are going on in your lab?

Where to start? The role of non-coding RNA in organizing genome architecture is on top for me today. Just check us out at for all the other RNA biology we are excited about.

Q. What made you focus on RNA research?

Shear simplicity. Check out Jacob and Monod’s hypotheses about the nature of the repressor. RNA is the ideal regulatory molecule and still underestimated by most biologists today.

Q. You are chairing the upcoming Non-Coding RNA: New Mechanisms and Approaches conference in Boston. How did you first connect with Abcam and come to chair this conference?

This is my third time co-chairing this conference with Abcam. We already had two amazing meetings on non-coding RNA in London and Cambridge UK in 2011 and 2013. My connection to Abcam goes back a long time though – I shared a bench with former Abcam CEO Dr Jonathan Milner during my PhD.

Q. What makes this meeting different from other epigenetics and RNA meetings?

Key leaders from different areas of RNA biology together in a format that facilitates discussion and interaction. Very exciting to partner up with the epigenetics conference for even better cross-fertilization. A unique opportunity!

Q. The meeting is about bridging development and disease. What has changed in the field over the last 5–10 years?

Simple: the first RNA medicines are in the clinic now. This is just the beginning.

Q. Where do you see things going? What do you think will be the next big breakthrough in epigenetics and non-coding RNA research.

A plausible mechanism for transgenerational epigenetic inheritance in mammals involving RNA.

Q. What new and exciting developments may we hear more of at the meeting?

RNA pathways in mammalian immunity and new insights into long non-coding RNA mechanisms are two to watch out for I think.

Q. We have a great line up of international speakers for the conference. Is there a particular topic or speaker you are looking forward to hearing?

It is a fantastic line-up. I am most looking forward to the interactions and discussions between the speakers and all the participants to create something special.

Q. Any words of wisdom for young researchers just starting out?

Be brave. Try to be different.

Q. What would you be working on if you weren't a scientist?

Too scary to contemplate really.

Q. One thing you could not live without?

OK. It is my iPhone. It takes an extreme holiday to take me off the grid.