Brian D. Strahl a Professor and Vice-chair in the Department of Biochemistry & Biophysics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His lab has been at the forefront of deciphering how our genetic information or the blue print of life – which exists in the form of DNA – is packaged into cells and how it becomes accessed and read for the process of gene expression. Remarkably, each cell in our body contains ~3.4 billion base pairs, which if stretched out from end to end, would be 6 ft in length. This remarkable packaging is achieved by a class of proteins called histones, which act to open and close the genome (like opening a page in a book) to permit genes within DNA to be accessed and read. Cells are able to make genes accessible through the addition of small chemicals that are placed on the histone proteins (a.k.a. molecular “tags”) which then control the opening and closing of the genome. But how these tags on histones function are not well understood but are responsible for many human diseases, most notably cancer, when their placement goes awry. Thus, the Strahl lab is addressing the mechanisms by which histones become modified by these chemical tags and how they function.
Over the course of his career, Dr. Strahl has made numerous significant contributions to the understanding of histones and the chemical tags that occur on them, with over 130 publications in peer-reviewed journals. His discoveries resulted in a number of prestigious accolades. In 2003, Brian was awarded by the White House with a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). In the following year, Brian became a Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences. In 2005, he was given prestigious ASBMB Schering-Plough Research Institute Award, a very prominent honor that is only given once a year. In 2008, Dr. Brian Strahl was given an Exceptional, Unconventional Research Enabling Knowledge Acceleration Award (EUREKA) from the National Institute of Health (NIH) to study these histone tags. In 2009, UNC presented Brian with the Ruth and Phillip Hettleman Prize for Artistic and Scholarly Achievement, and most recently, Brian was named an Oliver Smithies Investigator – an award named after UNC’s first Noble Laurate. Dr. Strahl laboratory is currently supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and provides training to many undergraduates, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.
Prior to initiating his own lab, Dr. Strahl began his studies at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he finished his Bachelor’s Degree in both Chemistry and Biology in 1993. After graduation, Brian Strahl joined the Ph.D. program at North Carolina State University, and then began his postdoctoral studies at the University of Virginia under the mentorship of Dr. C. David Allis. Dr. Strahl started his own lab at UNC in 2001 and was promoted to full professor in 2014.
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