Neal K. Devaraj

Current Fellow

Fellow: Awarded 2019

Field of Study: Biology

Competition: US & Canada


Neal K. Devaraj is a Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of California, San Diego. A major research thrust of his lab involves understanding how non-living matter, such as simple organic molecules, can assemble to form life. Along these lines, he has developed approaches for the in-situ synthesis of synthetic cell membranes by using selective reactions to “stitch” together lipid fragments. His lab’s work has enabled the first demonstration of perpetually self-reproducing lipid vesicles and artificial membranes that can dynamically remodel their chemical structure. Recently, his lab has demonstrated that in situ synthesis can assemble lipid species within living cells, enabling studies that decipher how lipid structure affects cellular function.

Raised in Manhattan Beach, California, Prof. Devaraj left the west coast to pursue undergraduate studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, graduating with dual bachelor’s degrees in Chemistry and Biology. He earned his doctoral degree in chemistry from Stanford University under the mentorship of Prof. James Collman (Guggenheim fellow 1977 and 1985) and Christopher Chidsey. After a postdoctoral fellowship with Prof. Ralph Weissleder at the Harvard Medical School, he joined the faculty of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of California, San Diego. His work has been recognized by the 2016 National Fresenius Award, the 2017 American Chemical Society Award in Pure Chemistry, being selected as the 2018 Blavatnik National Laureate in Chemistry, and the 2019 Eli Lilly Award in Biological Chemistry. In recognition of his contributions to teaching, Dr. Devaraj was named a 2016 Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar.

Dr. Devaraj resides in La Jolla where he enjoys long walks on the beach with his wife Bess.