David R. Liu
Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator
Administrative Contact: Aleks Markovic
David R. Liu is Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, and a Senior Associate Member of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT. Liu was born in 1973 in Riverside, California. He performed research on sterol biosynthesis under Professor E. J. Corey's guidance throughout his undergraduate years. Liu graduated first in his class at Harvard in 1994 with a bachelor's degree in chemistry before entering the Ph.D. program at U. C. Berkeley. In the group of Professor Peter Schultz, Liu initiated the first general effort to expand the genetic code in living cells. He earned his Ph.D. in 1999 and became Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University in the same year. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 2003 and to Full Professor in 2005. Liu was also appointed as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator in 2005 and joined the JASONs, academic advisors to the U.S. government on science and technology, in 2009.
Liu has taught more than 2,500 undergraduates and graduate students in the classroom, and has earned three university-wide distinctions for undergraduate and graduate student teaching at Harvard, including the Joseph R. Levenson Memorial Teaching Prize in 2007, the Roslyn Abramson Award in 2003, and a Harvard College Professorship in 2007. His undergraduate and graduate students have earned university-wide and national distinctions for their thesis research, including three Thomas T. Hoopes prizes and one Lawrence J. Henderson Prize at Harvard, the IUPAC Prize for Young Chemists, the Harold W. Weintraub Graduate Student Award, and the Fannie and John Hertz Foundation Doctoral Thesis Prize.
Liu has published more than 100 papers in chemical biology, molecular biology, and organic chemistry. His research accomplishments have earned distinctions including the American Chemical Society Pure Chemistry Award (2006), the American Chemical Society Arthur C. Cope Young Scholar Award (2004), the Glaxo-Smith-Kline Chemistry Scholar Award (2004), the AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals Excellence in Chemistry Award (2003), the Sloan Foundation Fellowship (2002), the Beckman Foundation Young Investigator Award (2002), the NSF CAREER Award (2001), the Searle Scholars Award (2000), and the Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award (2000).
Professor Liu’s research applies evolutionary principles to the study and manipulation of biological and synthetic molecules. His major research interests include (i) the evolution, delivery, and characterization of synthetic regulatory elements, macromolecules that precisely manipulate information flow in human cells; (ii) discovery of new structures and functions among cellular nucleic acids; and (iii) the discovery of bioactive synthetic small molecules, functional synthetic polymers, and new chemical reactions through DNA-templated organic synthesis, a technique developed in his laboratory, and in vitro selection.