2017 Miller Senior Fellows: Jennifer Doudna, Alex Filippenko and Christos Papadimitriou

The Miller Institute is pleased to name Jennifer Doudna, Alex Filippenko and Christos Papadimitriou the 2017 Miller Senior Fellows.

Miller Senior Fellows Doudna, Filippenko and Papdimitriou join David Chandler, Professor of Chemistry and Barbara Meyer, Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology, as part of our community of world-renown scientists. Taking its place alongside the Institute's other programs: the Miller Fellowships, the Miller Research Professorships and the Miller Visiting Professorships, the Miller Senior Fellow Program was established in 2008. Its purpose is to support excellence in basic science at UC Berkeley by providing distinguished faculty on campus with discretionary research funds in support of their research and by involving them in the activities and intellectual fellowship of the Miller Institute. The Miller Senior Fellow Program enhances the Institute's mission by fostering interactions between these distinguished senior scientists in different disciplines and our postdoctoral Fellows.

Jennifer Doudna

Jennifer Doudna is a Professor of Chemistry and of Molecular & Cell Biology, a member of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. She joined the faculty of UC Berkeley in 2002, the same year she was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. She received her Ph.D. in 1989 at Harvard University with Dr. Jack Szostak. Doudna has been awarded Canada’s Gairdner Award for Research on CRISPR, a Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, the Gruber Prize in Genetics, the Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research, the Lurie Prize in Biomedical Sciences, and the Eli Lily Award in Biological Chemistry among many others.

Doudna’s research focuses on determining the molecular structures of RNA molecules as a basis for understanding their biological function. Her work lays the foundation for understanding the evolution of RNAs and their relationship to the molecules that played a role in early forms of life. Her work is cited so often that The Intellectual Property and Science division of Thomson Reuters named her as a citation laureate for her development of the CRISPR-Cas9 genome-editing method. She will join the Institute in July 2017.

I fully support The Miller Institute’s commitment to basic research in science. Throughout my career I have focused on the process of discovery and a desire to understand the world. I look forward to collaborating with the other Fellows to exchange ideas and approaches that will allow us to advance vital scientific research.

Alex Filippenko

Alex Filippenko is the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor in the Physical Sciences. His accomplishments, documented in more than 850 research papers, have been recognized by several major prizes, including a share of both the Gruber Cosmology Prize (2007) and the Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics (2015). One of the world’s most highly cited astronomers, he is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences (2009) and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2015). He has won the most prestigious teaching awards at UC Berkeley and has also been voted the “Best Professor” on campus a record 9 times. Filippenko was a Miller Research Fellow from 1984-86, and a Miller Professor in both 1996 and 2005.

Filippenko and his collaborators are determining the nature of the progenitor stars and the explosion mechanisms of different types of supernovae and gamma-ray bursts. He is also using supernovae as cosmological distance indicators, and he was a member of both teams that discovered (in 1998) the accelerating expansion of the Universe, probably driven by “dark energy” - a discovery that was honored with the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics to the teams’ leaders. He also works on quantifying the physical properties of quasars and active galaxies, and he searches for black holes in both X-ray binary stars and nearby galactic nuclei. Filippenko will join the Institute in January 2017.

The Miller Institute provides an amazing opportunity for cross-fertilization as passionate scholars in different disciplines share their ideas with each other.

Christos Papadimitriou

Christos Papadimitriou is the C. Lester Hogan Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. He received his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1976 and was awarded a Miller Research Fellowship in 1978-79. He taught at Harvard, MIT, the National Technical University of Athens, Stanford and UCSD before returning to Berkeley in 1996. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery and the National Academy of Engineering. His awards include the IEEE John von Neumann Medal, the EATCS Award, the Godel Prize and the Knuth Prize. He also held a Miller Professorship in 2005. He will start his Senior Fellowship in January 2017.

Papadimitriou is interested in the theory of algorithms and complexity, and its applications to optimization, control systems, databases, AI, the Internet, game theory, evolution, and the brain. In addition to his prolific academic writings, he is also the author of three novels, including the graphic novel “Logicomix”.

On life at Berkeley, Papadimitriou was once quoted saying, There is a very aggressive form of academic freedom at Berkeley. I first visited as a Miller Fellow in 1978, and it gave me a feeling of extreme freedom: If it feels good intellectually, then you must do it! And do it with passion