Prof. Neal Devaraj earned a dual B.S. in Chemistry and Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology followed by a Ph.D. in Chemistry at Stanford University. In 2011, after a postdoctoral fellowship at the Harvard Medical School, he joined the faculty of the University of California, San Diego, where he is currently Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry.
His research interests include bottom-up synthetic biology and bioconjugation chemistry. A specific research focus involves understanding the roles of lipids in biology. Along these lines, his research team has developed approaches for the in-situ synthesis of synthetic cell membranes by using selective reactions to “stitch” together lipid fragments. His lab’s work has enabled the demonstration of perpetually self-reproducing lipid vesicles and artificial membranes that can dynamically remodel their chemical structure. Recently, his lab has demonstrated that in situ synthesis can assemble lipid species within living cells, enabling studies that decipher how lipid structure affects cellular function. His work has been recognized by the 2017 American Chemical Society Award in Pure Chemistry, being named the 2018 Blavatnik National Laureate in Chemistry, the 2019 Eli Lilly Award in Biological Chemistry, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.