Professor, University of California, Berkeley; Executive Director, Innovative Genomics Institute, Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Career & Education - selected:
- Li Ka Shing Chancellor’s Professor, University of California, Berkeley
- Chair, Chancellor’s Advisor Committee on Biology, University of California, Berkeley
- Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
- President & Chair of the board, Innovative Genomics Institute
- Faculty scientist, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
- Senior Investigator, Gladstone Institutes
- Adjunct Professor of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology, University of California, San Francisco
- Co-founder, Mammoth Biosciences
- Lead author, A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution
- Previously, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
- Previously, Robert Burns Woodward Visiting Professor of Chemistry, Harvard University
- Previously, Henry Ford II Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Buochemistry, Yale
- Previously, Assistant Professor, Yale
- Previously, Lucille P. Markey Postdoctoral Scholar in Biomedical Science, University of Colorado Boulder
- Previously, Research fellowship, Massachusetts General Hospital
- Previously, Research fellowship, Harvard Medical School
- PhD in Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Harvard Medical School
- Bachelor of Arts in Biochemistry, Pomona College
Awards & Recognitions - selected: - 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Emmanuelle Charpentier - 2000 Alan T. Waterman Award - 2020 jointly awarded Wolf Prize in Medicine - 2020 Guggenheim Fellowship - 2019 jointly awarded Harvey Prize of the Technion/Israel - 2019 LUI Che Woo Prize in Welfare Betterment - 2018 NAS Award in Chemical Sciences - 2018 Pearl Meister Greengard Prize, Rockefeller University - 2018 Medal of Honor, American Cancer Society - 2017 jointly awarded Albany medical Center Prize - 2017 Golden Plate Award, American Academy of Achievement - 2017 jointly awarded the Japan Prize - 2016 Foreign Member of the Royal Society - 2016 Heineken Prize for Biochemistry and Biophysics - 2016 jointly awarded the Tang Prize - 2016 jointly awarded Canada Gairdner International Award - 2015 jointly awarded Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences - 2015 jointly awarded the Gruber Prize in Genetics - 2015 100 most influential people, Time 100 - 2014 Elected to National Academy of Inventors - 2010 Elected to National Academy of Medicine - 2003 Elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences - 2002 Elected to National Academy of Sciences - 2001 Eli Lilly Award in Biological Chemistry of the American Chemical Society - 2000 Alan T. Waterman Award, National Science Foundation - 1996 Beckman Young Investigators Award
WHAT DO YOU DO?
I am a trained biochemist and professor at the University of California, Berkeley. I work with other scientists to better understand the molecular world of DNA, RNA, and proteins.
Fairly recently, my lab discovered how to use a special protein that is able to target and specifically cut any DNA sequence in nearly any organism. Now I work with large teams of scientists across the country to use this protein as a way to treat genetic diseases, engineer sustainable agriculture, and develop other exciting applications!
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS FIELD?
I have been fascinated with biology since my early childhood. I grew up in Hawaii and enjoyed exploring the rich tapestry of plants, animals, and insects around the island. My father was a significant influence on my academic interest and aspirations. He was a professor at the local University and fostered a culture of intellectual pursuit in our home. When I was in the sixth grade, my father gave me a copy of The Double Helix. This book opened my eyes to the wonders of DNA and the many questions left to answer about genetics and the molecular world.
In addition to my father, my high school chemistry teacher, Miss Wong, helped transition chemistry from being a potentially intimidating topic, to being a field of wonder and fascination.
Be curious. Observe the world around you.
WHAT DO YOU LOOK AT & THINK, "I WISH YOUNGER ME WOULD HAVE KNOWN THIS WAS POSSIBLE?"
CRISPR proteins are naturally found in bacteria and help defend bacteria against viral infection. This process of how bacteria use CRISPR as an immune system had many questions surrounding it, so my lab was eager to explore these mysterious CRISPR proteins. After many months of experiments, we began to learn that one of the CRISPR proteins, called Cas9, could be used to cut DNA in a very precise way. If we had known this 5, 10, or even 20 years ago then modern medicine and agriculture would look very different than it does today.
WHY DO YOU LOVE WORKING IN STEM?
One of the best things about working in STEM is its cross-disciplinary nature. I get to work with biologists, chemists, physicists, medical doctors, plant scientists, and many more! At UC Berkeley there is no shortage of extraordinary scholars who are eager to collaborate. These exciting collaborations are a great motivation for waking up each morning.
BEST ADVICE FOR NEXT GENERATION?
It's never too early to start asking questions. Ask “why?” and “how?” It is through developing this curiosity that you set yourself up for a successful journey in any STEM field.
INSPO / FUN FACT
Some of my previous students have developed a CRISPR video game that helps brings some of my lab’s scientific discoveries to life. Visit: innovativegenomics.org/phage-invaders