Stephen Quake studied physics (BS 1991) and mathematics (MS 1991) at Stanford University, after which he earned a doctorate in theoretical physics from Oxford University (1994) as a Marshall Scholar. He then returned to Stanford University, where he spent two years as a post-­doc in Steven Chu’s group. Quake joined the faculty of the California Institute of Technology in 1996, where he rose through the ranks and was ultimately appointed the Thomas and Doris Everhart Professor of Applied Physics and Physics. At Caltech, he received “Career” and “First” awards from the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health and was named a Packard Fellow. These awards supported a research program that began with single molecule biophysics and soon expanded to include the inventions of single molecule sequencing and microfluidic large scale integration, and their applications to biology and human health. He moved back to Stanford University in 2005 to help launch a new department in Bioengineering, where he is now the Lee Otterson Professor and an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Quake’s contributions to the development of new biotechnology at the interface between physics and biology have been widely recognized. Honors include the Human Frontiers of Science Nakasone Prize, the MIT-­Lemelson Prize, the Raymond and Beverly Sackler International Prize in Biophysics, the American Society for Microbiology Promega Biotechnology Research Award, the Royal Society of Chemistry Publishing Pioneer of Miniaturization Award, and the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award. He is an elected fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Medicine, the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering and of the American Physical Society.

Research Interests

His research interests unite physics, biology, and biotechnology. In addition to further applications of microfluidic technology, Quake is also active in the field of single-­molecule biophysics. His group has shown how to tie individual DNA molecules into knots and how to make extraordinarily precise force measurements on single molecules. In 2003, his group demonstrated the first successful single-­molecule DNA-­sequencing experiments another promising technology for large-­scale biological automation. Quake's most recent research focuses on providing tests that can determine earlier and more easily whether a transplant recipient's immune system is at risk of rejecting a donated organ. A tissue transplant is really a genome transplant. There's a little bit of the donor DNA in the blood of the host. The blood can be tested and measured to evaluate how well the recipient is doing. At present, organ recipients have to undergo repeated intrusive biopsies to get such an assessment.

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Primary Section

Section 29: Biophysics and Computational Biology

Secondary Section

Section 13: Physics