Reinterpreting the Genetic Code: How to Do It and Why You Might Want to
Dr. David Tirrell
Ross McCollum-William H. Corcoran Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, and Provost (effective October 1, 2017), California Institute of Technology
The genetic code, elucidated in the 1960s through the work of Nirenberg, Ochoa, Khorana and their coworkers, provides a set of molecular instructions for translating nucleic acids into proteins. Over the last decade, cells have been outfitted with modified translational machinery that enables the participation of an expanded set of amino acids in protein synthesis. These developments have provided a basis for powerful new approaches to macromolecular design and to spatially and temporally resolved analysis of protein synthesis in complex biological systems.
Dr. David Tirrell is the Ross McCollum-William H. Corcoran Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, and Provost (effective October 1, 2017) at the California Institute of Technology. Tirrell was educated at MIT and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where he earned his Ph.D. for research done under the supervision of Otto Vogl. After a brief stay with Takeo Saegusa at Kyoto University, Tirrell accepted an assistant professorship in the Department of Chemistry at Carnegie-Mellon University in the fall of 1978. Tirrell returned to Amherst in 1984 and served as Director of the Materials Research Laboratory at the University of Massachusetts before moving to Caltech in 1998. He served as chairman of the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Caltech from 1999 until 2009. Tirrell’s research interests lie in macromolecular chemistry and in the use of non-canonical amino acids to engineer and probe protein behavior. His contributions to these fields have been recognized by his election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and to all three branches (Sciences, Engineering and Medicine) of the U.S. National Academies.