William Earnshaw - Biography#

William C. Earnshaw grew up in Stockbridge, Massachusetts (USA).

He graduated summa cum laude from Colby College (Waterville, Maine) in 1972, then completed his Ph.D. with Jonathan King at MIT in 1977. Postdoctoral training in Cambridge with Aaron Klug, Tony Crowther and Ron Laskey and in Geneva with Ulrich Laemmli led to 13 years at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and promotion to the rank of Professor of Cell Biology and Anatomy plus Adjunct Professor of Medicine.

He moved to Edinburgh in 1996 as a Wellcome Trust Principal Research Fellow, which he remains today within the Wellcome Centre for Cell Biology. Funding for his Principal Research Fellowship extends until October 2025. He is an elected member/fellow of EMBO, the Royal Society of Edinburgh, The Academy of Medical Sciences and the Royal Society of London.

His research is focused on the packaging and segregation of chromosomes during cell division using an integrated multidisciplinary approach involving methods as diverse as light and electron microscopy, computer modelling, proteomics, synthetic biology, chemical genetics, high-throughput genomics and gene targeting/knockout technologies. His achievements include identification of the first centromere proteins in any species and the chromosomal passenger complex. He designed the first human synthetic artificial chromosome, which was used to demonstrate that mitotic centromere transcription prevents heterochromatin invasion and centromere inactivation. His team developed chemical-genetic tools allowing acute depletion of target proteins in cells undergoing mitotic entry with unparalleled synchrony. Application of this system in an interdisciplinary collaboration revealed that mitotic chromosomes consist of a network of nested DNA loops emanating from a helical staircase-like axial network of condensin II.

He co-authors the textbook Cell Biology with Tom Pollard, Graham Johnson and Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz (3rd edition published in 2017 and 4th edition to be released December 2022). When his entire output of 368 publications is considered, his work has been cited over 55,000 times, for an average of 120 times each (h = 123 – Google Scholar).

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