Congrats on successful dissertation

Published 09.02.2023

Congratulations to Nono Saha Cyrille Merleau on the successful defense of his PhD thesis on the computational study of RNA folding. Nono Saha will join ScaDS.AI as a postdoc, where he will continue to explore biological systems.

Nono Saha's dissertation is entitled “From RNA folding to inverse folding: a computational study”.

Since the discovery of the structure of DNA in the early 1953s and its double-chained complement of information hinting at its means of replication, biologists have recognized the strong connection between molecular structure and function. In the past two decades and with the corona pandemic, there has been a surge of research on an ever-growing class of RNA molecules that are non-coding but whose various folded structures allow a diverse array of vital functions. The high cost and low throughput of experimental techniques to document known non-coding RNAs make the computational methods a good alternative. During his PhD, using evolutionary algorithm techniques and fast Fourier transform (FFT), Nono Saha contributed to developing two algorithms that deal with inverse RNA folding and RNA folding. He also hopes to gain better insight into their function and design by understanding the rules that determine their structure.

Nono Saha recently joined the group of Prof. Sayan Mukherjee as a Postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Scalable Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence ScaDS.AI at the University of Leipzig. He will continue exploring biological systems using computational and mathematical tools, extending his work to:

  • The analysis of RNA 3D structures using probabilistic models.
  • The analysis of scRNA-seq data using the optimal transport techniques to identify developmental trajectories linked to a particular function.
  • The study of evolutionary dynamics properties such as plasticity and continuity using the RNA genotype-phenotype map.

Nono Saha was born in the western region of Cameroon in a small town called Bafoussam. At age 6, he moved to the northern part of Cameroon with his parents, where he completed his primary, secondary and high school studies. He earnt a Master's and Bachelor's degree in Computer Science from the University of Ngaoundere in Cameroon. Before moving to Germany, he was a student at the African Institute of Mathematical Science (AIMS-Ghana), where he completed a one-year Master's degree in Applied Mathematics. He has also professional experience in software engineering.

I am particularly grateful to my principal supervisor Matteo Smerlak who gave me this unique opportunity to complete my PhD in a professional and lovely environment such as Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences. Thanks to the AIMS network that connects young Africans to great scientists worldwide.

Thank you for these kind words, Nono Saha!