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 $500M award from the energy company BP ( He is the Philomathia Professor in Alternative Energy at UC Berkeley. He was a professor at Stanford University and 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 200 scientific papers and patents in plant and microbial genetics, genomics, biochemistry, and biotechnology. His 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 was on the science advisory board of Monsanto for many years and cofounded three biotechnology companies, Mendel Biotechnology, LS9 Inc, and Poetic Genetics. He was the chairman of the board of Mendel from 1997-2007 and CEO for the period 2002-2007.