Skip to main content
Martin Chalfie Headshot

Martin Chalfie

Martin Chalfie is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Biological Sciences and the chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at Columbia University. In 2008 he shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Osamu Shimomura and Roger Y. Tsien for his introduction of Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) as a biological marker.

Dr. Chalfie was born in Chicago and grew up in Skokie, Illinois. He obtained both his A.B. and Ph.D. from Harvard University and then did postdoctoral research with Sydney Brenner at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, England (1977-1982). He joined the faculty of Columbia University as an Assistant Professor in 1982 and has been there ever since.

Dr. Chalfie uses the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans to investigate nerve cell development and function, concentrating primarily on genes used in mechanosensory neurons. His research has been directed toward answering two quite different biological questions: How do different types of nerve cells acquire and maintain their unique characteristics? and How do sensory cells respond to mechanical signals? In the course of his studies, he has introduced several novel biological methods in addition to his work with GFP.

Dr. Chalfie was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2003, the National Academy of Sciences in 2004, the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2007, and the Institute of Medicine in 2009. In addition to the Nobel Prize, he also shared (with Roger Tsien) the 2006 Lewis S. Rosenstiel Award for Distinguished Work in Basic Medical Science from Brandeis University and the 2008 E. B. Wilson Medal from the American Society for Cell Biology. He lives in New York City with his wife, daughter, and dog, and spends a great amount of time still trying to master the classical guitar, which he has been studying for 50 years.