NAS Taps Stephen Kowalczykowski ’72
Stephen Kowalczykowski ’72, distinguished professor of microbiology and of molecular and cellular biology and founding director of the Center for Genetics and Development at the University of California, Davis, has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences.
“Professor Kowalczykowski is an internationally renowned scholar whose group has used novel single-molecule techniques to answer fundamental questions that simply could not be addressed using previously available methods,” said UC Davis Dean Ken Burtis.
Kowalczykowski studies the molecular mechanisms that copy and repair DNA, using unique equipment to film individual molecules at work on DNA in real time.
Errors in copying or translating DNA can lead to cancer and birth defects. Kowalczykowski’s lab developed techniques to study this process at the level of single molecules, providing new insights into fundamental biology.
Kowalczykowski calls this work “visual biochemistry,” because he can literally watch the machinery that makes life possible at work.
Some of the key proteins involved in DNA repair in humans have recently been linked to breast cancer. Kowalczykowski, whose work has been continuously supported by the National Institutes of Health since 1981, said that this showed how decades of basic science contribute to understanding human health.
Kowalczykowski earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry at Rensselaer and his Ph.D. in chemistry and biochemistry from Georgetown University. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the American Academy of Microbiology. He was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2005.