Christian Beren

Teaching Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry

My research interests focus on the physical principles of viral self-assembly. Viruses are simple physical objects (and therefore, very simple organisms!), with the simplest viruses being composed of only two components, a single-stranded (ss)RNA genome and 180 identical copies of a single protein, called a capsid protein. When these two components are mixed under the right pH and salt conditions, they spontaneously self-assemble into perfectly-ordered icosahedrally-symmetric virus particles. I study this self-assembly process using a variety of biochemical assays and physical tools, and my collaborators are using our self-assembled virus-like particles for a variety of therapeutic applications. I now focus primarily on undergraduate education, and I hope to utilize my interdisciplinary research experiences to inspire students with diverse interests. In my teaching, I am interested in using inquiry-based methods to promote “hands-on” learning opportunities. In my free time, I enjoy skiing, hiking and playing hockey.


114B Coolbaugh Hall
Office: (303) 384 2187
Fax: (303) 273 3629


  • BS – Lehigh University
  • PhD – University of California – Los Angeles
  • Beren C, Cui Y, Chakravarty A, Yang X, Rao ALN, Knobler CM, Zhou ZH and Gelbart WM. Genome organization and interaction with capsid protein in a multipartite RNA virus. PNAS. 2020, DOI:
  • Thurm AR, Beren C, Duran-Meza AL, Knobler CM and Gelbart WM. RNA homopolymers form higher-curvature virus-like particles than do normal-composition RNAs. Biophys. J. 2019, 117(7), 1331-1341.
  • Beren C, Liu KN, Dreesens LL, Knobler CM and Gelbart WM. Enzymatic synthesis and fractionation of fluorescent polyU RNAs. Bio-protocol. 2018, 8(17), e2988.
  • Beren C, Dreesens LL, Liu KN, Knobler CM and Gelbart WM. The effect of RNA secondary structure on the self-assembly of viral capsids. Biophys. J. 2017, 113(2), 339-347.
  • Garmann RF, Sportsman R, Beren C, Manoharan VN, Knobler CM and Gelbart WM. A simple RNA-DNA scaffold templates the assembly of monofunctional virus-like particles. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2015, 24, 7584-7587.