Lois Pollack

Lois Pollack

John Edson Sweet Professor of Engineering
Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies
College of Engineering


Lois Pollack received her Ph.D. in physics from MIT and came to Cornell in 1989 as a postdoctoral associate in the Microkelvin Laboratory. In 1997, she changed the focus of her research program to biophysics. She joined the Cornell faculty in Applied and Engineering Physics in 2000. The goal of her research is to determine the dynamic structures of RNA, DNA and proteins, alone and in complex, on all relevant time and length scales.  Her research exploits and couples state-of-the-art experimental tools, including x-ray free electron laser sources, micro/nano fabricated mixers and single molecule microscopy.  She served as AEP’s Director of Undergraduate Studies from 2005 to 2010 and Department Director from 2014-2020. She received the Swanson Excellence in Teaching Award in 2003 and the Chau Excellence in Teaching Award in 2012.

Research Interests

Pollack's research program has two distinct themes. The first theme is instrumentation: the development of experimental tools that enable novel, time-resolved studies of proteins, DNA or RNA. By coupling microfluidics with light (either x-rays or lasers), our group has developed and applied tools that report dynamic shape changes as these large molecules assume ('fold' to) their biologically active states.

The second theme is a tight research focus on electrostatic interactions in RNA and DNA. The large negative charge carried by these nucleic acids significantly impacts their structure and function. This topic is timely, as recognition of RNA's central role in the cell continues to increase at an astonishing rate.

Selected Publications

  1. Y-L Chen, W. He, S. Kirmizialtin and L. Pollack, “Insights into the structural stability of major groove RNA triplexes by WAXS-guided MD simulations”, RNA triplex structures revealed by data-driven MD simulations”, Cell Reports, Physical Science, 3 100971 (2022).
  2. S. Pandey et al., “Observation of substrate diffusion and ligand binding in enzyme crystals using high-repetition-rate mix-and-inject serial crystallography”, IUCrJ, 8 (6), 2021.
  3. W. He, Y.-L. Chen, L. Pollack and S. Kirmizialtin, “The structural plasticity of nucleic acid duplexes revealed by WAXS and MD”, Sci. Adv., 7, eabf6106 (2021).
  4. G. Calvey, A. Katz, K. Zielinski, B. Dzikovski, and L. Pollack, “Characterizing Enzyme Reactions in Microcrystals for Effective Mix-and-Inject Experiments at X-ray Free Electron Lasers”, Anal. Chem. 92 (20), 13864-13870 (2020).
  5. J. San Emeterio and L. Pollack, “Visualizing a viral genome with contrast variation small angle x-ray scattering”, J. Biol. Chem., 295 (47), 15923-15932 (2020).
  6. J. A. Kelly, A. N. Olson, K. Neupane, S. Munshi, J. San Emeterio, L. Pollack*, M. T. Woodside*,and J. D. Dinman*, “Structural and functional conservation of the programmed −1 ribosomal frameshift signal of SARS coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)”, J. Biol. Chem., 295 (31), 10741-10748 (2020).
  7. Y.-L. Chen and L. Pollack, “Machine Learning Machine Learning Deciphers Structural Features of RNA Duplexes Measured with Solution X-ray Scattering”, IUCrJ, 7 (5) (2020).
  8. A. Plumridge, K. Andresen and L. Pollack, “Visualizing disordered single-stranded RNA: connecting sequence, structure and electrostatics”, J. Amer. Chem. Soc., 142, 109-119 (2020).

Selected Awards and Honors

  • AAAS Fellow (American Association for the Advancement of Science)
  • Chau Excellence in Undergraduate Research Supervision (Cornell University) 2012
  • Dorothy and Fred Chau Excellence in Teaching Award 2011
  • NIH EUREKA-R01 2009
  • National Science Foundation Career Award 2004
  • Mentor of Merrill Presidential Scholar (Cornell University) 2003


  • B.A. (Physics), Brandeis University, 1983
  • Ph.D. (Physics), MIT, 1989


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