Shelley L. Berger, PhD.

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, as well as the Biology Department in the School of Arts and Sciences.  Dr. Berger also serves as Director of the Epigenetics Program at Penn School of Medicine. Dr. Berger earned her Ph.D. from the 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 at Molecular 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 Novartis 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. 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 Ellison Foundation Senior Scholar Award and the HHMI Collaborative Innovator Award.  Dr. Berger is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine, elected member of American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and elected a fellow of the American Association for Advancement of Science.  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 has been a faculty member for more than twenty years, and the last seven at the University of Pennsylvania.  Her laboratory is engaged in studies of 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 at the School of Medicine at Penn.  Dr. Berger has trained more than 10 graduate students and 20 post-doctoral fellows who are successful in careers encompassing academia, the pharmaceutical industry, and scientific writing and teaching careers; an additional 13 trainees are currently in the lab, including a mix of undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral, and medical fellows.  Dr. Berger received the Penn Biomedical Postdoctoral Programs Distinguished Mentor Award in 2016.

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, memory, and behavior in mammals and the ant model system.  The lab has been productive and has published more than 170 papers and reviews and many in high impact journals, such as Nature, Science, Cell, and Genes & Development.  Her work on epigenetics of behavior in ants has been covered in The New York Times and The New Yorker.