Dr. Pamela Silver is one of the founders of the emerging field of synthetic biology – a interdisciplinary combination of biology and engineering. But before she was part of creating new scientific fields she was making her mark in other disciplines. With a BA in chemistry and a doctorate in biological chemistry she completed her postdoctoral work at Harvard University where she discovered the first nuclear localization sequences of the yeast GAL4 protein. Accepting a position as an assistant professor at Princeton University she continued her research and discovered the first eukaryotic DnaJ chaperone.
Returning to Harvard Medical School as a Professor of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology she also spent eleven years as a Professor of Cancer Biology at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. As part of her ongoing research she was among the first to follow Green Fluorescent tagged proteins in living cells and she initiated early studies in systems biology looking to examine interactions within the nucleus on a genomic scale. With a colleague she discovered molecules that block nuclear export which formed the basis for the clinical-stage pharmaceutical company Karypharm Therapeutics.
Dr. Silver is the first Director of the Harvard University Graduate Program in Systems Biology and one of the founding members of the Department of Systems Biology at Harvard which is home of the Silver Lab. Students and postdoctoral researchers from many different backgrounds work together using both computational and experimental approaches at the interface between systems and synthetic biology. Under Silver’s leadership they design and build biological systems in both mammalian and prokaryotic cells.
Some of her more recent innovations include an artificial extracellular matrix that could be used for the regeneration of bone, muscle, or other tissues. As part of a project for the U.S. Department of Energy she led efforts to develop new ways to make microbial biofuels using bacterium to convert carbon dioxide into gasoline.
An avid marathoner and sailor, she is a strong advocate for women in science and sits on the Board of Directors of the BioBricks Foundation.
Suggested by Gretchen Harwell
Written by Angela Goad