Tilman Baumstark PhD

Tilman Baumstark

Tilman Baumstark

Research Associate Professor

Department of Microbiology and Immunology

Jacobs School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences

Specialty/Research Focus

Molecular and Cellular Biology; RNA; Virology

Contact Information
215 Biomedical Research Building
University at Buffalo, SUNY
Buffalo, NY 14214
Phone: (716) 829-6061

Professional Summary:

My research is dedicated to the folding of biological macromolecules such as ribonucleic acids and proteins into higher-order structures and to the role their conformation plays in the way they exert their function within the cell. In particular, my research group studies RNA structural switches involved in the replication of RNA viruses and subviral RNA pathogens. We also study RNA and protein structures that contribute to the regulation of gene expression in other microbial systems through specific RNA-RNA and RNA-protein interactions.

Plus-strand RNA viruses are responsible for many diseases in humans, animals and plants. Our efforts are focused on an early step in the viral life cycle within the host cell, the recruitment of the viral RNA genome into a replication complex with viral and cellular proteins. We use yeast as a model host to express two RNA replicons, turnip crinkle virus associated with satellite RNA, by itself or in the presence of viral replication proteins, and potato spindle tuber viroid RNA. Satellites and viroids are subviral RNAs that do not encode their own proteins; they rely entirely on factors provided by the associated helper virus or the host cell. The smaller size and simpler organization of their genome makes them convenient model systems to investigate the role of RNA structure in recognition by viral and host proteins, structural changes involved in these interactions, molecular evolution and intracellular transport. Our goal is to develop a fully controlled replication system where every component is tractable and tunable using tools from genetics, biochemistry, cellular and molecular biology. With this system, we will be able to screen for RNA replication inhibitors and develop RNA vectors with novel functions.

I enjoy teaching and mentoring students from a variety of disciplines in the laboratory as well as in the classroom. I believe that meaningful faculty/student interaction is mutually beneficial: it helps students grow into well-rounded citizen-scientists, researchers or health care professionals, and it helps me become a better educator. In my research group, I deeply value and strive to foster diversity. I believe a diverse team creates a more energizing and successful research environment--one where everyone learns from one another and the range of backgrounds and perspectives adds up to a rich learning environment that is much more than the sum of its parts.

I am the course director for, and teach in Microbiology for Allied Health Professionals. On the graduate level, I direct the master’s program and teach in the core course of virology.

Education and Training:

  • PhD, Biophysics, Heinrich-Heine Universität, summa cum laude (1997)
  • MS, Biology, Heinrich-Heine Universität (1989)


  • Research Associate Professor, Microbiology and Immunology, University at Buffalo, SUNY (2014-present)
  • Visiting Associate Professor, Office of Institutional Analysis, University at Buffalo, SUNY (2013–2014)
  • Senior Project Manager, Division of Planning and Budget, Cornell University (2013)
  • Assistant Dean, The Graduate School, Cornell University (2011–2013)
  • Associate Professor, Biology, University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, Misher College of Arts and Sciences (2008–2011)
  • Assistant Professor, Biology, University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, Misher College of Arts and Sciences (2002–2008)
  • Postdoctoral Research Associate, Institute for Molecular Virology, Howard Hughes Medical Institute at University of Wisconsin-Madison (1997–2002)
  • Research Associate, Institute for Biophysics, Heinrich-Heine Universität, Germany (1997)

Research Expertise:

  • Bacterial pathogenesis: conformational stability of heat-labile type-II enterotoxins from E. coli
  • Molecular virology: RNA folding and structural dynamics, virus-associated Satellite RNA replication in yeast, role of G-quadruplex formation in regulation of ribosomal protein mRNAs
  • Viral pathogenesis: RNA pathogen replication, potato spindle tuber viroid processing in yeast, intracellular localization and transport of pathogenic RNA replicons

UB 2020 Strategic Strengths:

  • Molecular Recognition in Biological Systems and Bioinformatics

Journal Articles:

Professional Memberships:

  • Council of Graduate Schools (2011–present)
  • Sigma Xi research Society (2005–present)
  • American Society for Virology (2001–2011)
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science (1998–present)
  • RNA Society (1996–present)

Service Activities:

  • Microbiology and Immunology, Jacobs School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences Graduate Affairs; Member (2014)
  • Ad-hoc Journal Review; Invited to review manuscripts by the editors of Virology, Journal of Virology, Journal of Molecular Biology and RNA; Peer Reviewer (2005–2011)

School News:

In the Media:

Clinical Specialties:

Clinical Offices:

Insurance Accepted:

Contact Information

215 Biomedical Research Building
University at Buffalo, SUNY
Buffalo, NY 14214
Phone: (716) 829-6061