Stanford Biosciences faculty with student

Unparalleled Faculty

At Stanford, scientific giants actively nurture the next generation of innovators.

Stanford attracts the best because we have the best. The world's brightest minds come here to work with scientific giants like Brian Kobilka and Lucy Shapiro, just as those giants came here to work alongside greats like Paul Berg and Arthur Kornberg. (Learn about all of our faculty in our sortable database.) Greatness follows greatness, drawn here by the astonishing achievements of our faculty and cultivated in our classrooms and laboratories. The mentorship and training you receive at Stanford leads to your ability to ask yourself, What will my next contribution be?

While modest in size, Stanford's faculty has enormous impact. In the past six decades, there have been eight Stanford Nobel laureates in the biosciences alone. Stanford researchers have also garnered the largest number of NIH Pioneer Awards, New Innovator Awards, and Transformative Research Awards for a single institution—more than twice that of any other. Designed to encourage "out of the box" approaches to science, nearly one out of every seven of these awards has been won by a Stanford faculty member—a testament to the high-stakes, high-reward research that our scientists engage in every day.

But past scientific achievements are not the primary draw. Stanford has a long tradition of passing the flame of knowledge and inspiration down through the generations, and each member of our faculty is dedicated to the success of her or his students. From our faculty's perspective, the enormous energy they invest in nurturing their students is part of their passion. This mentorship seeds the future with talent that elevates standards around the world while infusing their labs with vital energy, enthusiasm, and creativity. At Stanford, our faculty works to ensure that those with the requisite talent, intellect, and drive will grow into the scientific giants, leaders, and innovators of tomorrow.

Nine Nobel Prize winners over the past six decades:

W.E. Moerner

Chemistry • 2014
PhD, Professor and Chair of the Department of Chemistry

Won for his work on microscopy techniques allowing for the visualization of precise molecular mechanisms inside living cells, opening new windows to how life can be studied. He shares the recognition with Eric Betzig of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Stefan W. Hell of the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Germany. The ability to resolve objects with optical microscopy had been limited by the wavelength of light; anything smaller than about half a micron would appear somewhat blurry. And although electron microscopy and X-ray technologies could surpass this level of detail, these techniques required scientists to kill the cell in order to make the observation. By keying in on fluorescent light, however, Moerner and his co-winners were suddenly able to see much smaller molecular structures. Stanford community profile

Thomas Südhof

Physiology or Medicine • 2013
MD, Avram Goldstein Professor of Molecular and Cellular Physiology at the School of Medicine

Won for his work in exploring how neurons in the brain communicate with one another across synapses. Shared the award with James Rothman, a former Stanford professor of biochemistry, and Randy Schekman, who received his doctorate at Stanford under Nobel winner Arthur Kornberg. Südhof has identified integral protein components critical to the membrane fusion process. He purified protein constituents sticking out of neurotransmitter-containing vesicles, protruding from nearby presynaptic-terminal membranes, or bridging them. Using biochemical, genetic, and physiological techniques, he then elucidated how interactions among these proteins contribute to carefully orchestrated membrane fusion. As a result, synaptic transmission is one of the best-understood phenomena in neuroscience, helping us to understand how synapse communication leads to learning on a larger scale. Stanford community profile

Michael Levitt

Chemistry • 2013
PhD, Professor of Structural Biology and Robert W. and Vivian K. Cahill Professor in Cancer Research in the School of Medicine

Won for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems. With Martin Karplus, PhD of the University of Strasbourg in France and Harvard University, and Arieh Warshel, PhD, of the University of Southern California. Levitt's work focuses on theoretical, computer-aided analysis of protein, DNA and RNA molecules responsible for life at its most fundamental level. Applying known three-dimensional structures and basic principles of physical chemistry as complementary guidelines, this modeling can, for example, predict a protein's molecular structure on the basis of that protein's amino-acid sequence. Delineating the precise molecular structures of biological molecules is a necessary first step in understanding how they work and in designing drugs to alter their function. Stanford community profile

Brian Kobilka

Chemistry • 2012
MD, Professor and Chair of Molecular and Cellular Physiology at the School of Medicine

Won for his work on the structure and mechanism of action of G-protein-coupled-receptors (GPCRs). He shares the prize with his former postdoctoral advisor, Robert Lefkowitz of Duke University. Kobilka was the first to crystallize and analyze the molecular structure of the β2-adrenergic receptor. GPCRs are important targets for pharmaceutical therapeutics, but notoriously difficult to study using X-ray crystallography. The β2-adrenergic receptor structure was soon followed by the determination of the molecular structure of several other G-protein coupled receptors. Stanford community profile

Andrew Fire

Physiology or Medicine • 2006
George D. Smith Professor in Molecular and Genetic Medicine and Professor of Pathology and Genetics

Along with Craig Mello of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 2006. The pair is part of a team of researchers credited with recognizing that certain RNA molecules can be used to turn off specific genes in animal cells. The discovery, made while Fire was at the Carnegie Institution's Department of Embryology in Baltimore, marked the first time that biologists were able to selectively "silence" the voice of one gene in the cacophony of the tens of thousands that give a cell its marching orders from development to death. Their description of the process, called RNA interference or RNAi, in Nature (1998) jumpstarted a new biological field by opening up previously inaccessible areas of research. Stanford community profile

Roger Kornberg

Chemistry • 2006
Professor of Structural Biology at the Stanford School of Medicine

Won for his work in understanding how DNA is converted into RNA, a process known as transcription. In 2001, Kornberg published the first molecular snapshot of the protein machinery responsible-RNA polymerase-in action. The finding helped explain how cells express all the information in the human genome and how that expression sometimes goes awry, leading to cancer, birth defects, and other disorders. Stanford community profile

Paul Berg

Chemistry • 1980
Robert W. and Vivian K. Cahill Professor of Cancer Research, Emeritus, and Director Emeritus of the Beckman Center for Molecular and Genetic Medicine

Won for his "fundamental studies of the biochemistry of nucleic acids, with particular regard to recombinant DNA," in the words of the selection committee.* Since receiving the prize, Berg has continued to conduct research in the Department of Biochemistry, where his focus is the mechanism of repairing DNA damage. He continues to influence federal policy regarding stem-cell research, biotechnology, and human cloning. Stanford community profile

*The other half of the 1980 Nobel Prize in Chemistry went to Walter Gilbert and Frederick Sanger.

Arthur Kornberg

Medicine • 1959
Professor of biochemistry at the School of Medicine. Passed away in 2007.

Won with Severo Ochoa for their discovery of the mechanisms in the biological synthesis of ribonucleic acid and deoxyribonucleic acid. Kornberg unearthed how the large amounts of DNA in a chromosome get constructed in the cell. Together, they discovered new enzymes that create the building blocks of DNA as well as the enzyme that assembles those building blocks, which Kornberg named DNA polymerase. Their work was fundamental to the creation of recombinant DNA and genetic engineering, and is the basis for many drugs used to treat cancer and viral infections today. Obituary

Joshua Lederberg

Medicine • 1958
Former Chair of Genetics. Passed away in 2008.

Joined Stanford to become the chair of genetics in 1959, months after sharing the Nobel Prize for his discovery that bacteria transfer genetic information, contrary to the thought that they do not exchange DNA. He demonstrated that bacteria exchange loops of DNA called plasmids, allowing them to pick up new genes and thus adapt to their environments. Lederberg's work revolutionized how researchers thought about infectious disease, paving the way for modern molecular biology, genetic engineering, and biotechnology. Obituary

*Lederberg shared the 1958 prize with two former Stanford professors, George Beadle and Edward Tatum.

Faculty Database

The faculty database is designed or you to search faculty by alphabetical order or home program. Learn More

Faculty Facts

7 Current Nobel Prize Winners

44 members of the National Academy of Sciences

57 members of the Institute of Medicine

18 Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigators

3 MacArthur "Geniuses"

1 in 8 of NIH Director's Pioneer Awards awarded to our faculty since established in 2004

16 NIH Innovator and Young Innovator Awards

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