Shelley L. Berger, Ph.D.

Principal Investigator

Shelley Berger, Ph.D., is the Daniel S. Och University Professor at University of Pennsylvania (Penn), and is a faculty member in the Cell & Developmental Biology Department and the Genetics Department in the Perelman School of Medicine (PSOM), as well as the Biology Department in the School of Arts and Sciences.  Dr. Berger also serves as founding and current Director of the Epigenetics Institute in the PSOM, an internationally respected group of faculty members working on chromatin and epigenetics. Dr. Berger earned her Ph.D. from University of Michigan and was a post-doctoral fellow at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She previously held the Hilary Koprowski Professorship at Wistar Institute in Philadelphia. Dr. Berger has organized numerous international meetings on epigenetics and chromatin, has served as Senior Editor atMolecular and Cellular Biology, and other journals and participates on advisory committees for foundations (such as Stand Up to Cancer, CA), for research institutions (such as Max Planck Institute, Germany), and for biotechnology companies (such as Novaritis and Chroma).  She serves on review boards and panels for NIH/NIA Board of Scientific Counselors, Gladstone Institute at UCSF, IGBMC (Strasbourg), CPRIT (Texas), European Research Council (Brussels), Cancer Research UK (London), and numerous panels at NIH extramural and intramural (such as the Board of Scientific Counselors, NIA). She has served on international committees to establish nomenclature for histone modifying enzymes, and to help create the NIH-sponsored Human Epigenome Project. Dr. Berger received the HHMI Collaborative Innovator award, the Ellison Foundation Senior Scholar award, the Glenn Foundation award for Mechanisms in Aging and awards from the Stand Up To Cancer Foundation, the Kleberg Foundation, Sanofi, and Celgene. Dr. Berger received the Stanley N. Cohen award in 2016, the highest recognition for basic biomedical research at the Penn School of Medicine. Dr. Berger is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences (18), National Academy of Medicine (12), and American Academy of Arts and Sciences (13).

Dr. Berger has been a faculty member for more than twenty years, recently at the University of Pennsylvania. Her laboratory studies chromatin and epigenetic regulation of the eukaryotic genome, focusing on post translational modifications (PTMs) of histone proteins, and she teaches and mentors in these subjects for undergraduates and graduate students in the Biology Department and in the School of Medicine at Penn. Dr. Berger has trained numerous graduate students and postdoctoral fellows who are successful in careers in academia, in the pharmaceutical industry, and in scientific writing and teaching; an additional ~20 trainees are currently in the lab, including a mix of undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral, and medical fellows. Dr. Berger received the 2016 Penn Biomedical Postdoctoral Programs Distinguished Mentor Award and the 2017 Award for Faculty Mentoring Undergraduate Research.

Over its history, research in Dr. Berger’s lab has uncovered numerous chromatin enzymes and has addressed fundamental questions on their mechanisms in modifying both histones and DNA binding activators (i.e. the tumor suppressor, p53) in transcription. These findings have contributed to the explosion in broad interest and focus on epigenetics in biomedical research. Indeed, in recent years her lab’s effort has become increasingly focused on the study of mammalian biology and human diseases, including cancer and other diseases associated with aging, as well as epigenetic control of learning and memory in mammals and complex social behavior in the ant model system.  The lab has published more than 200 papers and reviews and many in high impact journals, such as recent papers in Cell, Nature, Science, Nature Neuroscience, and Genes & Development.  Her work on epigenetics of behavior in ants has been covered in The New York Times, The New Yorker, and the Washington Post.