Bruce Alberts


Bruce Michael Alberts (born April 14, 1938, in Chicago, Illinois) is an American biochemist and the Emeritus Chancellor’s Leadership Chair in Biochemistry and Biophysics for Science and Education at the University of California, San Francisco.[3] He has done important work studying the protein complexes which enable chromosome replication when living cells divide. He is known as an original author of the "canonical, influential, and best-selling scientific textbook" Molecular Biology of the Cell,[4] as an Editor-in-Chief of Science magazine. [5][6] He was awarded the National Medal of Science for "intellectual leadership and experimental innovation in the field of DNA replication, and for unparalleled dedication to improving science education and promoting science-based public policy" in 2014.[7]

Bruce Alberts
Bruce Alberts in 2023
20th President of the National Academy of Sciences
In office
Preceded byFrank Press
Succeeded byRalph J. Cicerone
Personal details
Bruce Michael Alberts

(1938-04-14) April 14, 1938 (age 86)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S
SpouseBetty Neary Alberts
Alma materHarvard College (BSc)
Harvard University (PhD)
Known forMolecular Biology of the Cell
Scientific career
InstitutionsHarvard University
University of Geneva
Princeton University
National Academy of Sciences
Science magazine, AAAS
ThesisCharacterization of Naturally Occurring, Cross-Linked Fraction of Deoxyribonucleic Acid (1966[2])
Doctoral advisorPaul Doty[1]
External videos
video icon Bruce Alberts, “Learning from failure”, iBioMagazine
video icon Bruce Alberts, “DNA Replication”, iBioMagazine
video icon Bruce Alberts, ”Redefining Science Education”, Distinctive Voices

Alberts was the president of the National Academy of Sciences from 1993 to 2005.[4] He is known for his work in forming science public policy, and has served as United States Science Envoy to Pakistan and Indonesia.[1][8] He has stated that "Science education should be about learning to think and solve problems like a scientist—insisting, for all citizens, that statements be evaluated using evidence and logic the way scientists evaluate statements."[9] He is an Honorary Fellow of St Edmund's College, Cambridge.[10]



After graduating from New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois,[11] Alberts attended Harvard College, as a pre-medicine major.[4][12] Bored by assigned laboratory "cooking classes", he petitioned to skip the physical chemistry laboratory requirement and instead was allowed to work with his tutor Jacques Fresco, in Paul M. Doty's laboratory. The summer's research led to the publication of two successful papers on mismatch errors in the helical structures of DNA and RNA,[13][14] and Alberts decided to continue on in biophysics.[4] He graduated with his A.B. in biochemical sciences, summa cum laude, in 1960.[4]

Alberts then worked with Paul M. Doty on "enormously ambitious" PhD thesis projects, first attempting to solve the genetic code using nearest neighbor analysis after treatment of DNA with various mutagens, and then trying to test his theoretical model for how DNA polymerase could replicate a double-helical DNA template.[11][12] After failing his first oral examination in spring 1965, he completed his Ph.D. research in fall 1965.[1][11][15] His doctorate in biophysics was finally awarded by Harvard University in 1966.[2] Alberts credits his initial failure with teaching him much more than his successes.[11] "That was a very important learning experience for me. I had decided that experimental strategy was everything in science, and nobody had ever told me anything about this."[1]



After graduating, Alberts went to the Institut de Biologie Moléculaire[16] at the University of Geneva as a postdoctoral fellow, and worked with Richard H. Epstein on genes involved in DNA replication of phage T4. Epstein and his students had shown that there were at least seven different proteins needed for replication of T4 DNA. Alberts decided to do something that no one else was doing, and developed a DNA column for the purification of proteins that bound to DNA.[1] This enabled him to purify the T4 Bacteriophage Gene 32 protein, thus identifying the first single-stranded DNA binding protein – a type of protein now known to be present in all cells.[17]

In 1966, Alberts joined the department of biochemical sciences at Princeton University as an assistant professor. In 1971, he became an associate professor and in 1973 a full professor, holding the Damon Pfeiffer Professorship in life sciences from 1975 to 1976.[16][18][19] At Princeton, he continued to work in the area of protein biochemistry, eventually reconstituting a DNA replication system in a test tube from seven purified proteins.[1]

In 1976, Alberts accepted a position as professor and vice-chair of the department of biochemistry and biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco.[18] Also in 1976, he and his students were able to add all seven proteins to double-stranded DNA in an appropriate magnesium concentration to make DNA. More years of research were spent understanding the details of the reactions involved in the 7-protein “machine” that replicated DNA. Another important step in understanding DNA synthesis was the discovery that the leading strand DNA polymerase and lagging strand DNA polymerase were coupled.[1][20]

Alberts was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1978.[18][21] From 1981 to 1985 Alberts held an American Cancer Society Research Professorship, a title granted for life as of 1980.[16] From 1985 to 1990, he was chair of the department of biochemistry and biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco, and from 1990 to 1993 he again held an American Cancer Society Research Professorship.[18]

Science and education


Alberts served as the full-time President of the National Academy of Sciences for two terms, moving to Washington, D.C. from 1993 until 2005.[16][22]

Alberts has long been committed to the improvement of science education, dedicating much of his time to educational projects such as City Science, a program seeking to improve science teaching in San Francisco elementary schools.[4] He has served on the advisory board of the National Science Resources Center, a joint project of the National Academy of Sciences and the Smithsonian Institution working with teachers, scientists, and school systems to improve the teaching of science as well as on the National Academy of Sciences' National Committee on Science Education Standards and Assessment. When he was Academy president, the National Academies published more than a hundred reports on education, including the National Science Education Standards (NSES; NRC, 1996) and Inquiry and the National Science Education Standards (NRC, 2000),[22] both intended to change the way that science is taught K-12. From 2005 to 2024, he served as Board Chair for the Strategic Education Research Partnership (SERP), a non-profit focused on carrying out use-inspired education research, established according to recommendations in the 2003 report from the National Academies.

The Bruce Alberts Award for Excellence in Science Education is given in his name by the American Society of Cell Biology to those who have made outstanding contributions in science education.[23]

He has served in different capacities on a number of advisory and editorial boards, including as chair of the Commission on Life Sciences, National Research Council.[4] Prior to his election as president of the National Academy of Sciences in 1995 he was president-elect of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.[20] From 2007 to 2008 he served as president of the American Society for Cell Biology.[24]

He served as a trustee of the Carnegie Corporation of New York from 2000 to 2009, [25][26] and as a trustee of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation from 2005 to 2021. He and others have critiqued the biomedical research system, pointing out what they consider "systemic flaws"[27] and have created the Rescuing Biomedical Research organization, to "collect and organize input for solutions"[28] to the problems identified by themselves[27] and others.[29]

Alberts was editor-in-chief of the American Association for the Advancement of Science's flagship publication, Science for five years from 2008 to 2013.[30] He is one of the founding editors of the journal Cell Biology Education.[22]

Since 2013, Alberts has been listed on the Advisory Council of the National Center for Science Education.[31]

International work


From 2000 to 2009, Alberts was the co-chair of the InterAcademy Council, an advisory institution in Amsterdam governed by the presidents of fifteen science academies from around the world. This organization has since been renamed the InterAcademy Panel for Policy, and it is now located in Trieste.

In his June 4, 2009, speech at Cairo University, US President Barack Obama announced a new Science Envoy program as part of a "new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world." In January 2010, Bruce Alberts, Ahmed Zewail, and Elias Zerhouni became the first US science envoys to Islam, visiting Muslim-majority countries from North Africa to Southeast Asia.[32]



Alberts has had a productive research career in the field of DNA replication and cell division. His textbook, Molecular Biology of the Cell, now in its seventh edition, is the standard cell biology textbook in most universities; the fourth edition is freely available from National Center for Biotechnology Information Bookshelf.[33] This book and its counterpart for undergraduate students, Essential Cell Biology,[34] have been translated into multiple languages.[35]

Awards and honours


Alberts is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences,[36] the National Academy of Sciences,[37] and the American Philosophical Society.[38] In 2014, Alberts was awarded the National Medal of Science by President Barack Obama.[7]

Alberts has received many awards and honours, including the following:


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Gitschier, J. (2012). "Scientist Citizen: An Interview with Bruce Alberts". PLOS Genetics. 8 (5): e1002743. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1002743. PMC 3364944. PMID 22693457.
  2. ^ a b Alberts, Bruce Michael (1966). Characterization of a naturally occurring, cross-linked fraction of deoxyribonucleic acid (PhD thesis). Harvard University. OCLC 76977803.
  3. ^ "Bruce Alberts, PhD". UCSF Profiles. University of California, San Francisco. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Nuzzo, R. (21 June 2005). "Profile of Bruce Alberts: The education president". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 102 (26): 9109–9111. Bibcode:2005PNAS..102.9109N. doi:10.1073/pnas.0504186102. PMC 1166644. PMID 15972327.
  5. ^ Anon (2007). "Scientific publishing: Bruce Alberts Named Science Editor-in-Chief". Science. 318 (5858): 1852b. doi:10.1126/science.318.5858.1852b. PMID 18096779. S2CID 28935473.
  6. ^ Kirschner, M. (2008). "Profile: Bruce Alberts, Science's New Editor". Science. 319 (5867): 1199. doi:10.1126/science.1155869. PMID 18309070. S2CID 206511974.
  7. ^ a b "Remarks by the President at National Medals of Science and National Medals of Technology and Innovation Award Ceremony". United States Government. November 20, 2014. Retrieved 21 September 2015 – via National Archives.
  8. ^ Walsh, Bari (2011). "A Conversation with Bruce Alberts" (PDF). Colloquy: Alumni Quarterly. Fall/Winter: 8–9. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-09-08. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  9. ^ Roberts, Jacob (2016). "Q&A The Reformer". Distillations. 2 (1): 37–39. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  10. ^ "St Edmund's College – University of Cambridge". Archived from the original on 2018-09-10. Retrieved 2018-09-10.
  11. ^ a b c d Yollin, Patricia (October 28, 2011). "Bruce Alberts: He Has Science in His Soul". UCSF News Center. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  12. ^ a b "Bruce Alberts on Becoming a Scientist". CSHL Digital Archives, Oral History. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
  13. ^ Fresco, Jacques R.; Alberts, Bruce M. (1960). "The accommodation of noncomplementary bases in helical polyribonucleotides and deoxyribonucleic acids". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 46 (3): 311–321. Bibcode:1960PNAS...46..311F. doi:10.1073/pnas.46.3.311. PMC 222832. PMID 16578484.
  14. ^ Fresco, JR; Alberts, BM; Doty, P (8 October 1960). "Some molecular details of the secondary structure of ribonucleic acid". Nature. 188 (4745): 98–101. Bibcode:1960Natur.188...98F. doi:10.1038/188098a0. PMID 13701785. S2CID 36960556.
  15. ^ Alberts, Bruce (October 28, 2004). "A wake-up call". Nature. 431 (7012): 1041. Bibcode:2004Natur.431.1041A. doi:10.1038/4311041a. PMID 15510128. S2CID 4304855.
  16. ^ a b c d "Moments in Academy History Bruce Michael Alberts 1993–2005 NAS President". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
  17. ^ ALBERTS, BRUCE M.; FREY, LINDA (26 September 1970). "T4 Bacteriophage Gene 32: A Structural Protein in the Replication and Recombination of DNA". Nature. 227 (5265): 1313–1318. Bibcode:1970Natur.227.1313A. doi:10.1038/2271313a0. PMID 5455134. S2CID 4274542.
  18. ^ a b c d Register of the Bruce M. Alberts Papers, 1960-94, n.d., UC San Francisco Special Collections
  19. ^ "Endowed Professorships and Other Designated Chairs". Princeton University. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
  20. ^ a b Kresge, Nicole; Simoni, Robert D.; Hill, Robert L. (January 26, 2007). "DNA Polymerase and Leading and Lagging Strand Synthesis: the Work of Bruce Alberts" (PDF). The Journal of Biological Chemistry. 282 (4): e3–e6. doi:10.1016/S0021-9258(20)72146-0.
  21. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter A" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 6 April 2011.
  22. ^ a b c Labov, J. B. (1 September 2005). "From the National Academies: A Tribute to the Science Education Legacy of National Academy of Sciences President Bruce Alberts". Cell Biology Education. 4 (3): 185–188. doi:10.1187/cbe.05-06-0081. PMC 1200774.
  23. ^ "Bruce Alberts Award for Excellence in Science Education". ASCB. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
  24. ^ Farley, Pete (October 3, 2014). "UCSF Scientist Wins the National Medal of Science". University of California San Francisco News Center. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
  25. ^ a b "Dr. Bruce Alberts Elected to the Board of Carnegie Corporation of New York". Carnegie Corporation of New York. March 7, 2000. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
  26. ^ a b "Bruce Alberts, a former Carnegie Corporation trustee, honored with Award for Advancing Cooperation in Science". Carnegie Corporation of New York. September 10, 2010. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  27. ^ a b Alberts, B.; Kirschner, M. W.; Tilghman, S.; Varmus, H. (14 April 2014). "Rescuing US biomedical research from its systemic flaws". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 111 (16): 5773–5777. Bibcode:2014PNAS..111.5773A. doi:10.1073/pnas.1404402111. PMC 4000813. PMID 24733905.
  28. ^ "Home – Rescuing Biomedical Research". Rescuing Biomedical Research. Retrieved 2015-12-13.
  29. ^ Pickett, Christopher L.; Corb, Benjamin W.; Matthews, C. Robert; Sundquist, Wesley I.; Berg, Jeremy M. (2015-09-01). "Toward a sustainable biomedical research enterprise: Finding consensus and implementing recommendations". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 112 (35): 10832–10836. doi:10.1073/pnas.1509901112. ISSN 0027-8424. PMC 4568264. PMID 26195768.
  30. ^ Alberts, B. (2013). "After 5 Years at Science". Science. 340 (6136): 1015. Bibcode:2013Sci...340.1015A. doi:10.1126/science.1240945. PMID 23723204.
  31. ^ "Advisory Council". National Center for Science Education. Archived from the original on 2013-08-10. Retrieved 2018-10-30.
  32. ^ Pellerin, Cheryl (16 February 2010). "First U.S. Science Envoys Begin Work in Muslim-Majority Countries". IIP Digital. U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  33. ^ Alberts, Bruce; Johnson, Alexander; Lewis, Julian; Raff, Martin; Roberts, Keith; Walter, Peter (2002). Molecular biology of the cell (4th ed.). New York: Garland. ISBN 0-8153-4072-9. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  34. ^ Alberts, Bruce; Bray, Dennis; Hopkin, Karen; Johnson, Alexander D.; Lewis, Lewis; Raff, Martin; Roberts, Keith; Walter, Peter (2014). Essential cell biology (Fourth ed.). New York, NY: Garland Science. ISBN 9780815344544.
  35. ^ "Molecular Biology of the Cell". Garland Science. Retrieved 21 September 2015., Click on "(Translations)" to see a list.
  36. ^ "Bruce Michael Alberts". American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Retrieved 2022-01-26.
  37. ^ "Bruce Alberts". Retrieved 2022-01-26.
  38. ^ "APS Member History". Retrieved 2022-01-26.
  39. ^ "NAS Award in Molecular Biology". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  40. ^ "Bruce Alberts". Academy Europaea. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  41. ^ Wang, Linda (April 5, 2010). "Bruce Alberts Wins Vannevar Bush Award". Chemical & Engineering News. 88 (14). Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  42. ^ Pinol, Natasha D. (26 March 2010). "Science Editor-in-Chief Bruce Alberts Wins 2010 Vannevar Bush Award". AAAS News. American Association for the Advancement of Science. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  43. ^ "Bruce Alberts to Receive National Science Board's Vannevar Bush Award". National Science Board. April 1, 2010. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  44. ^ Szalinski, Christina (October 4, 2014). "Former ASCB President Bruce Alberts Receives the National Medal of Science". ASCB, An international forum for cell biology. The American Society for Cell Biology. Archived from the original on 2016-02-28. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  45. ^ "GSAS Honors Four with Centennial Medals". 2014. Archived from the original on 2015-09-25. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
  46. ^ "Centennial Medalist Citations". Harvard Magazine. May 28, 2014. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
  47. ^ "Discoveries in DNA replication, and leadership in science and education". Lasker Foundation. September 10, 2016. Retrieved 9 September 2016.
  • Register of the Bruce M. Alberts Papers, 1960-94, n.d., UC San Francisco Special Collections
  • "Bruce Alberts on Becoming a Scientist (Oral History Collection)". CSHL Digital Archives. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
  • Appearances on C-SPAN
Professional and academic associations
Preceded by President of the National Academy of Sciences
1993 – 2005
Succeeded by
Preceded by ASCB President
Succeeded by
Preceded by Editor-in-chief of Science
Succeeded by