Malik Lab

Malik Lab Members

Rick McLaughlin

Rick studies the co-evolution of endogenous retroelements and primates.  Fascinated by the scale of the impact retroelements have had on the human genome, Rick wants to understand the genetic mechanisms used by humans to defend against retroelements and the genetic mechanisms used by retroelements to support their own propagation.  In his independent lab, he hopes to combine his experience in protein biophysics and genome evolution to more generally understand the mechanisms of adaptability in living systems.  Rick is also intensely interested in educating young people about science and, in particular, evolution.

Rick grew up in Arlington, Texas and completed his undergraduate studies in biology, Spanish, and business at Trinity University in San Antonio.  When not hanging out with his future wife Robyn, Rick could be found netting bats in the Hill Country for species diversity studies or building 3D models of rat skin to understand the physiological consequences of millimeter wave radiation.  After graduation, Rick spent a year as a technician at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio learning molecular biology and studying pathogenic fungi.

In 2004, graduate school at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center lured Rick away from beautiful south-central Texas.  There he worked in the laboratory of Rama Ranganathan studying the evolutionary design of proteins.  In his thesis work, he developed a high-throughput technology for measuring the functional effect of mutations and used this technology to develop a model for the physical basis of robustness and adaptability in natural proteins.

After twenty-five years in Texas, Rick and his wife decided to venture to the picturesque Pacific Northwest.  Rick now works in the lab of Harmit Malik at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center as a NIH NIGMS K99/R00 Pathway to Independence awardee and a former Helen Hay Whitney fellow.  In his free time Rick loves food, rowing, fishing, cooking, and enjoying the amazing outdoor activities of Seattle with Robyn, who builds cool contraptions as a mechanical engineer in the Surface group at Microsoft.


  • McLaughlin, R. N., Jr., Gable J. T., Wittkopp C.J., Emerman, M. & Malik H. S. Conservation and Innovation of APOBEC3A Restriction Functions during Primate Evolution. Molecular Biology and Evolution 33 (8): 1889-1901, doi:10.1093/molbev/msw070 (2016)
  • McLaughlin, R. N., Jr., Young J. M., Yang L., Neme R., Wichman H. A. & Malik H. S. Positive Selection and Multiple Losses of the LINE-1-derived L1TD1 Gene in Mammals Suggest a Dual Role in Genome Defense and Pluripotency. PLoS Genetics 10, e1004531, doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1004531 (2014)
  • McLaughlin, R. N., Jr., Poelwijk, F. J., Raman, A., Gosal, W. S. & Ranganathan, R. The spatial architecture of protein function and adaptation. Nature 491, 138-142, doi:10.1038/nature11500 (2012)
  • Reynolds, K. A., McLaughlin, R. N. & Ranganathan, R. Hot spots for allosteric regulation on protein surfaces. Cell 147, 1564-1575, doi:10.1016/j.cell.2011.10.049 (2011)