Jan Liphardt, PhD

Professor of Bioengineering at Stanford University
Jan grew up in Michigan and New York. He received a BA from Reed College (1993-96) and a PhD from Cambridge University, UK (Churchill College, 1996-99). PhD Research. In Cambridge, he used stochastic context free grammars (SCFGs) to find patterns in genomes; the computational problem is that some biological regulatory patterns are palindromes, which are difficult to detect with conventional machine learning or statistical tools. Palindromes are longer range, possibly knotted, correlations among elements within strings (such as genomes). The human brain can pick out the palindrome in 1111234111114321111 (1234<->4321), but it’s not so easy to do that with a conventional computer, especially with degenerate/noisy palindromes. Jan used SCFGs to find signals in the yeast genome that may regulate translational recoding, a process in which one strand of RNA can encode two different proteins. Postdoctoral Research. After his PhD, he joined the labs of Carlos Bustamante and Nacho Tinoco, Jr. (in the UC Berkeley Physics and Chemistry Depts.). With Carlos and Nacho, he developed methods for using light to stretch single strands of RNA, and then used these tools to study the dynamics of small, violently perturbed small systems. After 2 years as a postdoc, he became the divisional fellow of the Physical Biosciences Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. He joined the Berkeley Physics faculty in 2004. Jan is now an associate professor of Bioengineering at Stanford University.
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