Headshot of Chris Somerville

Chris Somerville

Member of the Scientific Advisory Board

Dr. Somerville is a Science Advisor at the Open Philanthropy Project, a philanthropic foundation. From 2007 to 2016, he served as Director of the Energy Biosciences Institute, a 300-person research collaboration between the University of California, Berkeley; Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, and BP plc. During that time, Dr. Somerville also served as the Philomathia Professor of Alternative Energy at U.C. Berkeley and a professor in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology. From 1994-2007, he was a professor at Stanford University and Director of the Carnegie Institution for Science. Prior to that, he served as a professor at Michigan State University. 

He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, The Royal Society of London, The Royal Society of Canada and Academia Europaea. His research accomplishments have also been recognized through numerous awards including the Presidential Green Chemistry Award, the Genetics Society Mendel Medal, the Biochemical Society Hopkins Medal, the ASPB Gibbs Medal and Schull Award, and a Humbolt Senior Research Award. He shared the Balzan prize, with Elliot Meyerowitz, for development of Arabidopsis as a model for plant molecular biology.

Dr. Somerville has published more than 250 scientific papers in plant and microbial genetics, genomics, biochemistry and biotechnology. His research has been primarily focused on characterizing biochemical processes involved in polysaccharide and lipid synthesis and function. He cofounded Mendel Biotechnologies, LS9 Inc., Poetic Genetics, and RedLeaf Biologics Inc., and currently serves as Chairman of the Board Mendel and of RedLeaf Biologics.

He received his Ph.D. from the University of Alberta for research in bacterial genetics and has subsequently been awarded six honorary doctorates.