Roger Kornberg is Winzer Professor in Medicine and Professor of Structural Biology at Stanford University. He received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Harvard College in 1967 and a Ph.D. in chemistry from Stanford in 1972.
His first research was on the dynamics of lipid bilayers. He used nuclear and electron paramagnetic resonance to determine the rates of diffusional motions of lipids, termed flip-flop and lateral diffusion. He then turned to X-ray diffraction of chromatin and, in 1974, proposed the existence and structure of the nucleosome. This proposal was borne out in detail by subsequent structural studies.
Kornberg moved to his present position in 1978, where his research has focused on the mechanism and regulation of eukaryotic gene transcription.
Results of this research include the near atomic structure of RNA polymerase II, the elucidation of the RNA polymerase II transcription machinery, and the discovery of the Mediator of transcriptional regulation. Parallel studies of metal clusters have included atomic structures large gold nanoparticles by X-ray crystallography and aberration-corrected electron microscopy.
Kornberg has received many awards, including the Welch Prize (2001), highest award in chemistry in the United States, the Leopold Mayer Prize (2002), highest award in biomedical sciences of the French Academy of Sciences, and the Nobel Prize in Chemistry (unshared, 2006). He is a member of national academies in the US and Europe and a recipient of honorary degrees from universities in Europe and Israel. His longest and closest collaborator has been his wife, Professor Yahli Lorch.