Messenger RNA (mRNA) is a single-stranded molecule of ribonucleic acid found in the nucleus of cells that transmits the genetic information needed to produce proteins. This production process involves “splicing” of the mRNA, whereby non-protein coding sections are removed. The splicing process must be precise as errors can result in genetic disease. For example, mutations in BRCA1, which are implicated in some breast cancers, and mutations in SMN2, which cause spinal muscular atrophy, result in defective splicing of their messenger RNA. To minimize mistakes, the cell regulates splicing. However, many of the details of this process are unclear. Dr. Kelly Aukema is studying the molecular mechanisms involved in splicing, using fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) – a cutting-edge technique for measuring interactions between two molecules. She will use FRET to investigate the structural RNA changes of the molecular machinery that carries out splicing. This knowledge should ultimately lead to a better understanding of, and more effective treatments for, splicing-related diseases.