Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics
701 W. 168th Street
HHSC Room 902
New York, NY 10032
Sam was born and raised in Lancaster, PA. He earned his B.A. in biochemistry from Columbia University in 2007, where he trained with Professor Ruben Gonzalez, and his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley in 2014, under the mentorship of Professor Jennifer Doudna. He was awarded graduate student fellowships from the National Science Foundation and the Department of Defense, and received the Scaringe Award from the RNA Society and the Harold Weintraub Graduate Student Award from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. After a brief postdoc and book writing stint, Sam spent a year working at Caribou Biosciences, a Bay Area biotech start-up focusing on genome engineering applications, as a Scientist and Group Leader of Technology Development. He started his independent career in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at Columbia in February, 2018.
Sam's doctoral and postdoctoral research focused on the mechanism of nucleic acid targeting by RNA-guided bacterial immune systems (CRISPR–Cas) and on the development of these systems for genome engineering applications. His work has been published in the journals Nature, Science, and Cell, and been covered in The New York Times, Science News, The Scientist, and various other news outlets. His lab employs a range of biochemical, biophysical, and structural techniques to investigate CRISPR–Cas biology, with an eye towards applying mechanistic knowledge for tool development.
Sam is committed to being a supportive mentor and effective lab manager, and to nurturing a collaborative research environment. He has closely mentored over a dozen undergraduate and graduate students, and has participated in numerous mentorship programs, including Student Mentoring and Research Teams (SMART) and Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Exceptional Research Opportunities Program (EXROP) at Berkeley. The desire to work with students in the lab was a major driver of Sam’s decision to transition from industry back to academia.
Outside of the lab, Sam is a passionate advocate for science communication and science outreach. He regularly presents to public audiences on the discovery of CRISPR–Cas immune systems and the ensuing gene-editing revolution, including a TEDMED talk in 2015, and has co-authored a pop-sci book with Jennifer Doudna on the same topic, titled A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution.
Aside from science, Sam is an avid squash player, enjoys playing saxophone and piano, reads voraciously, and roots for the Philadelphia Phillies.
Sam’s CV can be found here.