The Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics

Monday, Feb 13, 2012

Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics

How do our genes define who we are? Can we someday extend the human lifespan? Can we cure today’s untreatable diseases? Answering these questions increasingly relies not only on a rich understanding of biology but also the quantitative disciplines, especially physics, chemistry and computer science.

Princeton molecular biologist John Storey (left) and postdoctoral research fellow Keyur Desai analyzed the gene activity of a 168 blunt-force trauma patients and found that it correlated with a patient's deterioration. (Photo by Denise Applewhite)

The Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics is dedicated to this interdisciplinary approach to the study of modern biology. The Institute brings together faculty with joint appointments in the departments of physics, chemistry, computer science, chemical engineering and molecular biology. By applying intellectual power and laboratory skills across these disciplines, researchers are able to make tremendous progress in tackling the most difficult biological challenges of our time.

Essential to this new approach is the training of young scientists to be broad thinkers grounded in solid quantitative skills. Undergraduate and graduate researchers in the Lewis-Sigler Institute study quantitative disciplines concurrently with learning about biological systems. Early career experimental scientists and theorists are eligible to receive the Lewis-Sigler Fellowship, which supports outstanding young investigators working at the interface of quantitative disciplines and modern biology.

Under the Institute's leadership, the Graduate Program in Quantitative and Computational Biology (QCB) was established to train students in the fields of genomics, computational biology, systems biology, biophysics, quantitative genetics, molecular evolution, and microbial interactions. The QCB Program includes 70 faculty from 12 different departments. The Institute houses a Center of Excellence in Quantitative Biology, one of only five in the nation, which is funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences to focus on the application of genome-scale technologies, mathematical modeling and modern molecular imaging.

Led by David Botstein, the Anthony B. Evnin '62 Professor of Genomics, the institute is home to world-renowned faculty engaged at the frontiers of discovery. “The emergence of data from the Human Genome Project completely changes the way biology can and will be done,” Botstein said. “The question of what kind of preparation young people should have in entering this exciting new world requires serious thought and vigorous initiative.”

The Institute was founded by molecular biologist Shirley S. Tilghman, who today serves as University president. It is housed in the Carl Icahn Laboratory, a unique building designed by acclaimed architect Rafael Viñoly featuring open and accessible laboratory spaces that facilitate collaboration. The Institute was made possible by a generous gift from Peter B. Lewis, class of 1955, to honor his friend and Princeton roommate, Paul B. Sigler, class of 1955.