July 11, 2023


Coleen T. Murphy, the James A. Elkins Jr. Professor in the Life Sciences in Molecular Biology, has been appointed as Director of the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics and will begin her tenure as director on July 1, 2023. She has been a faculty member of the LSI and Molecular Biology since 2005.

Dr. Murphy graduated from the University of Houston with a B.S. in Biochemistry and Biophysics, then earned her doctorate in Biochemistry at Stanford University, studying the structure-function determinants of pre-steady state kinetics and motility of the motor protein myosin. During her postdoctoral work at UCSF, Dr. Murphy built C. elegans microarrays and used them to identify the set of genes downstream of the insulin signaling/FOXO longevity pathway. This work revealed that insulin signaling coordinates the expression of a vast array of downstream cellular processes, including stress response, proteostasis, metabolism, immunity, autophagy, and intercellular signaling, to extend cellular and organismal maintenance with age. 

In her own lab, Dr. Murphy’s team has developed C. elegans models of human “quality of life” aging phenotypes, including cognitive aging and reproductive aging, using genetic, genomic, and microfluidic approaches; they have identified genetic pathways that can extend each of these processes with age. At the molecular level, these processes are remarkably well-conserved through humans. Dr. Murphy’s team has developed new genomic approaches to isolate and transcriptionally profile all of C. elegans’ adult cells, in order to better utilize this system as a model for human disease, and developed assays to model human neurodegenerative disease, including learning, memory, and movement disorders. Dr. Murphy’s lab made the surprising discovery that mating induces rapid post-reproductive aging, utilizing the same genetic pathways that extend longevity. Her lab discovered that C. elegans can interpret the small RNA code of the bacteria that they ingest to direct an avoidance response, and that information can be transmitted transgenerationally. Most recently, her team has shown that a memory pathway they first identified to rescue memory in old worms can also rescue memory in old mice, using the same molecular pathways.

Murphy’s awards for her research include being named a Pew Scholar, March of Dimes Basil O’Connor Scholar, Keck Scholar, McKnight Fellow, Sloan Fellow, Glenn Medical Research Foundation awardee, Howard Hughes Medical Institute-Simons Faculty Scholar, and she was awarded the New Innovator, Transformative R01, and two Pioneer awards from the NIH Director’s office. She has won both the Women in Cell Biology Junior and Mid-Career Awards for Excellence in Research from the American Society for Cell Biology. She is the Director of the Glenn Foundation for Research on Aging at Princeton, and she is the Director of the Simons Collaboration on Plasticity in the Aging Brain, and is the author of the upcoming book, “How We Age” (Princeton University Press).