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Roger Y. Tsien

Roger Yonchien Tsien (1952-) is an American chemist and a professor at the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of California, San Diego.[1]


Birth and education

Roger Y. Tsien was born in New York, in 1952.[2] He grew up in Livingston, New Jersey[2] and attended Livingston High School there.[3] He had a number of engineers in his extended family, including his father who was a mechanical engineer and his mother's brothers who were engineering professors at MIT. Tsien, who calls his own work molecular engineering, once said, "I'm doomed by heredity to do this kind of work".[4]

Tsien suffered from asthma as a child, and as a result, he was often indoors. He spent hours conducting chemistry experiments in his basement laboratory. When he was 16 year old, he won first prize in the nationwide Westinghouse talent search with a project investigating how metals bind to thiocyanate.[2]

He attended Harvard University on a National Merit Scholarship and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in chemistry and physics in 1972. He graduated with summa cum laude. After completing his bachelor's degree, he joined the Physiological Laboratory at the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, England with the aid of a Marshall Scholarship. He received his Ph.D in physiology from the University of Cambridge in 1977. He was a Research Fellow in Gonville and Caius College, University of Cambridge from 1977 to 1981.

Academic career

After completing his PhD at Cambridge University, he was appointed to the faculty at the University of California, Berkeley from 1982 to 1989. Since 1989 he has been working at the University of California, San Diego, as Professor of Pharmacology and Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.


Tsien is renowned for revolutionizing the fields of cell biology and neurobiology by allowing scientists to peer inside living cells and watch the behavior of molecules in real time. He is well-known for developing colorful dyes, such as Fura-2, to track the movement of calcium within cells and has genetically modified molecules that make jellyfish and corals glow, creating fluorescent colors in a dazzling variety of hues. These multicolored fluorescent proteins are used by scientists to track where and when certain genes are expressed in cells or in whole organisms.

In 2004, Tsien was awarded the Wolf Prize in Medicine for "for his seminal contribution to the design and biological application of novel fluorescent and photolabile molecules to analyze and perturb cell signal transduction."[5]

Awards and honors

Roger Y. Tsien has received several honors and awards in his life, including:

  • W. Alden Spencer Award in Neurobiology, Columbia University (1991)
  • Artois-Baillet-Latour Health Prize, Belgium (1995)
  • Gairdner Foundation International Award, Canada (1995)
  • Basic Research Prize, American Heart Association (1995)
  • Elected to Institute of Medicine (1995)
  • Elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1998)
  • Elected to the National Academy of Sciences (1998)
  • Award for Innovation in High Throughput Screening, Society for Biomolecular Screening (1998)
  • Herbert Sober Lectureship, American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (2000)
  • Pearse Prize, Royal Microscopical Society (2000)
  • ACS Award for Creative Invention, American Chemical Society (2002)
  • Christian B. Anfinsen Award, Protein Society (2002)
  • Heineken Prize for Biochemistry and Biophysics, Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences (2002)
  • Max Delbrück Medal, Max Delbrück Centrum für Molekulare Medizin, Berlin (2002)
  • The Wolf Prize in Medicine (2004)


  1. ^ Roger Y. Tsien at the University of California, San Diego
  2. ^ a b c Nicole Kresge, Robert D. Simoni, and Robert L. Hill. "The Chemistry of Fluorescent Indicators: the Work of Roger Y. Tsien", Journal of Biological Chemistry, September 15, 2006. Accessed September 18, 2007. "At age 16, Tsien won first prize in the nationwide Westinghouse talent search with a project investigating how metals bind to thiocyanate."
  3. ^ Swayze, Bill. "Jersey teens call science a winner: Two finalists say just being in Westinghouse talent competition is prize enough", The Star-Ledger, March 11, 1997. Accessed September 18, 2007. "Only one New Jersey teenager has ever captured top honors in the history of the competition. That was Roger Tsien in 1968. The then-16-year-old Livingston High School math-science whiz explored the way subatomic particles act as bridges between two dissimilar metal atoms in various complex molecules."
  4. ^ Steele, D. (2004) Cells aglow. HHMI Bulletin, Summer 2004, 22–26
  5. ^ The Wolf Prize in Medicine
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Roger_Y._Tsien". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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