Susan Lindquist, a member of the Whitehead Institute and a professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is an expert in protein folding, studying the biological phenomena that influence the different shapes that proteins take. Her groundbreaking work has shown how changes in protein conformation affect processes such as stress tolerance, neurodegenerative disease, and heredity and has highlighted the importance of molecular chaperones: proteins whose function is to assist other proteins in achieving proper folding.
As a Radcliffe fellow, Lindquist will study the role of chaperones in modulating the phenotypic response of different cells and organisms to changing environmental conditions. A panel of cellular growth and response phenotypes will be analyzed in a high-throughput manner, in the context of increased or decreased chaperone activity. This analysis will be combined with large-scale genetic mapping to determine how molecular chaperones influence the relationship between genotype and phenotype encompassed by normal genetic variation.
Lindquist is a former director (2001–2004) of the Whitehead Institute and an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Previously, she was a professor in the Department of Molecular Biology at the University of Chicago. She received her PhD in biology from Harvard University in 1976 and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1997. Lindquist’s honors also include the Sigma Xi William Procter Prize for Scientific Achievement and places on Discover magazine’s 2002 list of the top fifty women scientists and Scientific American's list of “SA50” top leaders in business, policy, and research for 2006.