Harvard University

For contributions that have had a major impact on scientific research in the area of Chemical Biology.

The 2021 ACS Chemical Biology Lectureship Award was presented to Professor Suzanne Walker. The award is sponsored jointly by ACS Chemical Biology and the ACS Division of Biological Chemistry.

Suzanne Walker earned her B.A. in English Literature at the University of Chicago where she did research in Professor David Lynn’s laboratory before applying to graduate school in Chemistry. She completed her PhD at Princeton University in 1992 under the supervision of Professor John Groves. She was appointed Instructor of Chemistry at Princeton where she started a research program studying bacterial cell wall biosynthesis and, after six years in this non-tenure track position, she was promoted to associate professor with tenure. Two years later she was appointed Professor of Chemistry at Princeton. Seeking greater exposure to cutting-edge biology, she moved in 2004 from Princeton’s Chemistry Department to the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at Harvard Medical School. She is an affiliate of Harvard’s Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, and is a founder and current director of Harvard’s PhD Program in Chemical Biology.

Walker’s research program is characterized by the creative use of chemical, biochemical, and genetic tools and methods to understand the biological problems that interest her. A major focus throughout her career has been to understand how the bacterial cell envelope is built and how the components of the cell envelope function together to allow bacteria to survive; a key goal has been to identify new vulnerabilities that can be exploited to treat antibiotic-resistant infections. She will talk about some of her work on the bacterial cell wall during the ACS Chemical Biology Award Lecture.

Professor Walker has received a number of awards and honors for her work, including an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship, a Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award, the Emil T. Kaiser Award in Protein Chemistry, an Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award, and the Andrew Braisted Lectureship Award in Chemical Biology. She has also been elected to the American Society for Microbiology, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the National Academy of Sciences. Here, Professor Walker wishes to acknowledge that the many brilliant students and postdocs she has been privileged to work with over the course of her career are really responsible for the recognition she has been given!