Chris Somerville

Chris Somerville is the director of the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI), a research institute at UC Berkeley, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign initiated with a $500 million award from the energy company BP ( He is the Philomathia Professor in Alternative Energy at UC Berkeley. He was a professor at Stanford University, Director of the Carnegie Institution for Science from 1994 – 2007 and a professor at Michigan State University from 1982 – 1993. He has published more than 230 scientific papers and patents in plant and microbial genetics, genomics, biochemistry and biotechnology.

Somerville’s current research is focused on the characterization of proteins, such as cellulose synthase, implicated in biomass synthesis and modification. He is a member of the US National Academy of Sciences, The Royal Society of London and the Royal Society of Canada and has received numerous scientific awards including: the Gibbs and Schull awards from the American Society of Plant Biologists; the Mendel Medal from the Genetics Society; the Hopkins medal from the Biochemical Society; the Khumo Award from the Plant Molecular Biology Society, and most recently the Balzan Award, which he shared with Elliot Meyerowitz (Caltech). He cofounded six scientific journals, was on the senior editorial board of Science for many years and founded a major database (TAIR) that receives more than 36 million hits a year. Together with Elliot Meyerowitz, he founded an online reference book sponsored by the American Society of Plant Biologists, The Arabidopsis Book, downloaded 82,000 times in 2010. He co-founded three biotechnology companies: Mendel Biotechnology, LS9 Inc, and Poetic Genetics.