Douglas H. Turner

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Douglas "Doug" H. Turner is an American chemist and Professor of Chemistry at the University of Rochester.

Douglas H. Turner
Group picture of Turner group members and alumni, with Doug at center, at Doug's 60th birthday celebration.
Group picture of Turner group members and alumni, with Doug at center, at Doug's 60th birthday celebration.
Background information

Early life[edit]

Doug Turner grew up in Brooklyn, NY where he claims, "As a stick ball player I developed the best curve ball and screwball on my block" .


Doug attended Harvard College, where he graduated cum laude in Chemistry and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He did his graduate work in the Chemistry Departments of Columbia University and Brookhaven National Labs, where he worked with George Flynn and Norman Sutin to develop the Raman laser temperature jump method for measuring kinetics on a nanosecond time scale. During this period, he also spent three months in Anniston, Alabama taking the Officer's Basic Course of the Army's Chemical Corp. Deciding that he liked science more than war, he turned down the opportunity to continue as an active duty officer and went to the University of California at Berkeley to postdoc with Ignacio Tinoco, Jr.. There, he invented fluorescence detected circular dichroism for measuring the optical activity of the fluorescent component of a solution.

Professional life and scientific achievements[edit]

In 1975, Doug joined the faculty of the Chemistry Department at the University of Rochester, where he is still a Professor. Doug was also lucky to be part of the academic family of Tom Cech (Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1989) during 2 sabbatical years at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Doug has been unusually lucky with his own academic family of 8 postdocs, 49 students who have graduated with Ph.D.'s, and his other collaborators. Together, they have discovered many of the fundamental principles that determine RNA structure. [1] These principles, occasionally dubbed "Turner Rules",[2] are used in many RNA structure prediction algorithms. This has helped advance methods for predicting RNA structure from sequence, as well as RNA-RNA interactions: e.g. miRNA or siRNA target binding. Methods using the "Turner Rules" are widely used by biochemists and biologists.[3][4] In his own lab, these methods were used to discover potentially medically important RNA structures in influenza virus[5] including an RNA pseudoknot that may play a role in regulating splicing at the Influenza A Segment 7 3' Splice Site.

Recently, Doug and collaborators have used Nuclear Magnetic Resonance and Molecular Dynamics simulations of short RNAs to test understanding of the sequence dependence of stacking interactions[6][7]. Much remains to be discovered.

Papers coauthored by Doug have been cited over 18,000 times. The work has also been recognized by Sloan and Guggenheim Fellowships, election as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), selection by the American Chemical Society as a Gordon Hammes Lecturer, continuous funding of an NIH grant from 1976 to 2019, and coauthorship of more than 250 papers. With Ryszard Kierzek from the Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry in Poznan, he shared the AAAS Poland-US Science Award in 2016.

Doug has also served the scientific community by often teaching the first year undergraduate Chemistry course and the graduate Biophysical Chemistry course, by being a member of several NIH Study Sections, the Advisory Board of the Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry in Poznan, and the editorial board of the Biophysical Journal. He also co-chaired a Nucleic Acids Gordon Conference.


  1. ^ Turner, D H; N Sugimoto; S M Freier (1988). "RNA Structure Prediction". Annual Review of Biophysics and Biophysical Chemistry. 17 (1): 167–192. doi:10.1146/ ISSN 0883-9182. PMID 2456074.
  2. ^ Turner, D. H.; Mathews, D. H. (2009). "NNDB: The nearest neighbor parameter database for predicting stability of nucleic acid secondary structure". Nucleic Acids Research. 38 (Database issue): D280–D282. doi:10.1093/nar/gkp892. PMC 2808915. PMID 19880381.
  3. ^ Dotu, I.; Lorenz, W. A.; Van Hentenryck, P.; Clote, P. (2009). "Computing folding pathways between RNA secondary structures". Nucleic Acids Research. 38 (5): 1711–1722. doi:10.1093/nar/gkp1054. PMC 2836545. PMID 20044352.
  4. ^ Seetin, M. G.; Mathews, D. H. (2012). "RNA Structure Prediction: An Overview of Methods". Bacterial Regulatory RNA. Methods in Molecular Biology. 905. pp. 99–122. doi:10.1007/978-1-61779-949-5_8. ISBN 978-1-61779-948-8. PMID 22736001.
  5. ^ Moss, W. N.; Priore, S. F.; Turner, D. H. (2011). "Identification of potential conserved RNA secondary structure throughout influenza a coding regions". RNA. 17 (6): 991–1011. doi:10.1261/rna.2619511. PMC 3096049. PMID 21536710.
  6. ^ Condon, David E.; Kennedy, Scott D.; Mort, Brendan C.; Kierzek, Ryszard; Yildirim, Ilyas; Turner, Douglas H. (2015-06-09). "Stacking in RNA: NMR of Four Tetramers Benchmark Molecular Dynamics". Journal of Chemical Theory and Computation. 11 (6): 2729–2742. doi:10.1021/ct501025q. ISSN 1549-9618. PMC 4463549. PMID 26082675.
  7. ^ Zhao, Jianbo; Kennedy, Scott D.; Berger, Kyle D.; Turner, Douglas H. (2020-03-10). "Nuclear Magnetic Resonance of Single-Stranded RNAs and DNAs of CAAU and UCAAUC as Benchmarks for Molecular Dynamics Simulations". Journal of Chemical Theory and Computation. 16 (3): 1968–1984. doi:10.1021/acs.jctc.9b00912. ISSN 1549-9618.