Department of Medicine
Dr. Robert Tjian, Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology since 1979, recently also served as President of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute from 2009-2016. Trained as a biochemist at Cal and Harvard, he was a pioneer in studying how genetic information in our DNA is decoded to sustain life. During nearly 4 decades on the faculty here at Cal, he taught 1000's of undergrads while doing biomedical discovery research. He has received many scientific awards including election to the US National Academy of Sciences, American Philosophical Society, was California Scientist of the Year and he has been an HHMI investigator since 1987. Dr. Tjian's research aims to understanding how the molecular machinery that reads DNA operates to drive gene expression in human cells. His recent work focuses on deciphering how regulatory genes control the ability of embryonic stem cells to self-renew and differentiate into various cell lineages such as muscle, fat, neurons, etc. He has also co-founded biotech companies and a venture capital fund and now serves as scientific advisor to the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative in biomedical sciences.