Emily Balskus, Ph.D.
Emily Balskus is an institute member of the Broad Institute and a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University. She is also a faculty associate of the Microbial Sciences Initiative at Harvard, a member of the Harvard Digestive Diseases Center, and a member of the MIT Center for Microbiome Informatics and Therapeutics.
Balskus graduated from Williams College as valedictorian with highest honors in chemistry. After spending a year at the University of Cambridge as a Churchill Scholar in the lab of Steven Ley, she pursued graduate studies in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University. Her graduate work with Eric Jacobsen focused on the development of asymmetric catalytic transformations and their application in the total synthesis of complex molecules. From 2008–2011 she was an NIH postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School in the lab of Christopher T. Walsh. Her research in the Walsh lab involved elucidating and characterizing biosynthetic pathways for the production of small molecule sunscreens by photosynthetic bacteria. She also received training in microbial ecology and environmental microbiology as a member of the Microbial Diversity Summer Course at the Marine Biology Lab at Woods Hole during the summer of 2009.
Balskus’s independent research seeks to enhance our understanding of microbial enzymes and metabolism, with a particular emphasis on the human microbiota. Her group has discovered gut microbial genes and enzymes that give rise to important metabolic activities and molecules and is developing methods for selectively manipulating microbial functions in native, complex microbial communities. The ultimate goal of these efforts is to gain a mechanistic understanding of how gut microbial functions influence host biology. Her research has been recognized with multiple awards, including the 2011 Smith Family Award for Excellence in Biomedical Research, the 2012 NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, and the 2013 Packard Fellowship for Science and Engineering. She was selected as one of MIT Technology Review’s 35 Innovators Under 35 in 2014 and in 2016 was named an HHMI-Gates Faculty Scholar.