Alice S. Huang

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Alice S. Huang
Born (1939-03-22) 22 March 1939 (age 76)
Nanchang, China
Nationality United States
Fields Microbiology
Institutions University of Massachusetts Amherst
Johns Hopkins University
Keck Graduate Institute
Alma mater Wellesley College
Johns Hopkins University
Known for molecular biology of vesicular stomatitis virus
Notable awards Eli Lilly Award in Immunology and Microbiology (1977)
Alice C. Evans Award (2001)
Spouse David Baltimore (m. 1968; 1 child)

Alice S. Huang (traditional Chinese: 黃詩厚; simplified Chinese: 黄诗厚; Pinyin: Huáng Shīhòu;[1] Wade–Giles: Huang Shih-Hou) is an American biologist specialized in microbiology and virology. She is Senior Faculty Associate in Biology at the California Institute of Technology,[2] and served as President of AAAS during the 2010-2011 term.[3]


Early years[edit]

Quentin K. Y. Huang, Huang's father, was orphaned at age 12 in Anhui, China and was taken in by a missionary. He was later educated at the University of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Divinity School, returning to China as an Anglican bishop. He then later married Huang's mother, Grace Betty Soong. Soong came from a large landholding family in the Kiangsi Province.[4]

Alice Huang was born in Nanchang, the capital city of Jiangxi Province, in 1939.[1] Huang emigrated to the U.S. in 1949.[5]

Grace Betty Soong is the name of Alice Huang’s mother. She was from Kiangsi Province where they had large land ownership. Grace’s father allowed her to become Christian instead of remaining Buddhist. Huang was raised Christian. [4]

She attended St. Mary's Hall-Doane Academy (in Burlington, New Jersey), the National Cathedral School (in Washington, D.C.), and Wellesley College (in Wellesley, Massachusetts). Huang received B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. (in microbiology in 1966) degrees all from The Johns Hopkins University.

Huang subsequently conducted her postdoctoral research at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her research focused on vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV). Huang’s time here also led the way to her postdoctoral research mentor David Baltimore’s discovery of reverse transcriptase. Baltimore later became Huang’s husband in 1968.


As a graduate student, Dr. Huang was the first to purify and differentiate defective interfering (DI) viral particles. Dr. Huang thought that these mutants played a vital role in viral pahtogenesis and could possibly be used to prevent disease.[7]

In her postdoctoral work at the Salk Institute and MIT with David Baltimore, Dr. Huang worked on vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) and discovered that these viruses had RNA-dependent RNA-polymerase. Through this work on VSV she uncovered a mix of surface glycoproteins which resulted in a novel replication stratgey for Negative Strand Viruses as well as Pseudotyping.[7] Pseudotyping is combining a virus or a part of a virus (vector) with a foreign viral envelope protein. Doing this alters their antigenicity which allows them to have a more broad range of hosts.[7]

At the time, biologists knew the central dogma to be DNA to RNA to protein, with DNA replication as the way to replicate ones genome. Dr. Huang and Dr. Baltimore unraveled that RNA viruses were different and used RNA polymerase to replicate its RNA genome. With continued researched and publications from other researchers, along with help from Dr. Huang, Dr. Baltimore discovered an enzyme, reverse transcriptase (in a mouse leukemia retrovirus), that converts RNA to DNA (involved in a process now known as reverse transcription). Dr. Baltimore later received the Nobel Prize in 1975 for his discovery.[8]

Huang also did further work with Baltimore. The two coauthored a paper with Martha Stampfer titled "Ribonucleic acid synthesis of vesicular stomatitis virus, II. An RNA polymerase in the virion." This paper went on to show that “the virions of vesicular stomatitis virus contain an enzyme that catalyzes the incorporation of ribonucleotides into RNA”.[9]

Huang has spent more than twenty years as a faculty member at Harvard Medical School. In 1971, Huang was appointed Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at Harvard Medical School, and was promoted to full Professor in 1979. During her Harvard period, Huang was also a coordinator of the Virology Unit at the Channing Laboratories of Infectious Diseases at Boston Medical Center for two years. She also served as the Director of the "Virus-Host Interactions in Cancer" training program (funded by the National Cancer Institute) for fifteen years.

Huang became the Director of the Laboratories of Infectious Diseases at Boston Children's Hospital in 1979, where she studied viral diseases in pediatric patients.[10] Subsequently, she was the Dean of the Faculty of Science of the New York University. She spearheaded many interdisciplinary programs and was instrumental in providing vision and gaining support for what is known as "silicon valley" around NYU's neighborhood.[7] At New York University, Dr. Huang participated in a project in science education and received a grant that focused on improving teachers’ preparation and ability to engage students in science exploration and discovery.[11]

Huang is an emeritus member of the Board of Trustees of the Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Life Sciences (KGI).[12] Besides, Huang also served on the Board of Trustees of the Keystone Center, Health Effects Institute, University of Massachusetts Amherst, and her alma mater Johns Hopkins University.[2]

Huang one of the Directors of the Board of the Rockefeller Foundation, Waksman Foundation for Microbiology, and the Public Agenda. Huang is a Member of the Committee of 100. She was pointed a Council Member of the California Council on Science and Technology in 2004, and served for two terms. She currently consults on education, science, and science policy. Huang is commented as having a broad international view, and has also consulted on science policies for government agencies not only in the United States but also in several nations including Singapore, Taiwan, China, and Portugal.[3] Alice S. Huang joined the Rockefeller Foundation board of trustees in 2004.[13]

One of the bios for the multple awards Dr.Huang has won did a great job of summing up her achievements,"for original discoveries in virology; prominent leadership in medicine, science & technology policy, education and professional societies, the advocacy for women and minorities in science and the practice of science diplomacy as a force in international collaboration and for excellence in the practice of science." (Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award )[14]

During Dr. Huang's term as President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (Feb.2010-Feb.2011), she advocated the involvement of women and minorities in science-related fields.[15] One of her primary goals as an innovative leader in the scientific community is to build international ties in order to solve global issues in a collaborative manner. Such a goal stems from her Chinese roots and a desire to integrate a demographically youthful and energetic population. These aspirations, to positively impact the global community, set Dr. Huang apart as a pioneering force for women and minorities in science.[16]

At the 2010 AAAS Caribbean Division's 25th anniversary, Huang spoke about diversity in education:

"Your work needs to continue to focus on attracting the best and the brightest, no matter what their background is, or their economic situation, or whether they’re male or female, gay or straight. It is important that we use all the brainpower that we can muster in order to maximize the contribution to science, to development, and to progress.” [17]

Huang also has interest in the entertainment industry. She is currently waiting for an entertainment TV show, called The Dean , a scientific TV Show where a character will be based on her. She wishes that accurate science would be more in the entertainment industry.


Huang was married in 1968 to Dr. Baltimore, and both reside in Pasadena, California. Together, they have one daughter, Lauren, who lives in the New York City area. Huang also holds a private pilot license.[2] Huang values finding balance between her career and her family life allowing women to find joy in all aspects of science. She also feels women should not feel the need to take a lesser position for the possibility of flexibility alone, but to evaluate all options as a scientist and find the right fit for her. [18] Alice wanted to become a scientist since she was seven years-old. She decided to go into research because patient contact proved to be too much for her to handle, but she still wanted to help. She believes that the US needs to refocus our attention on important things in order to make science a bigger priority.[19]

Promotion of Women in Science[edit]

Dr. Huang has played a key role in promoting women’s involvement in the science. She was a part of The Committee on Women in Science and Engineering (CWSE). In 2006 they developed guidelines that focus on recruitment, retention, and promotion for women scientists and engineers in academia.

At the AAAS Caribbean Division’s 25th anniversary celebration, Dr. Huang presented on the importance of diversity in the scientific community. She stated in order for the U.S. to stay competitive in the global economy it needs to expand its pool of future scientists and engineers. She believes making college campus’ more welcoming to women and minorities will expand our pool.[17]

She stated, “Your work needs to continue to focus on attracting the best and the brightest, no matter what their background is, or their economic situation, or whether they’re male or female, gay or straight. It is important that we use all the brainpower that we can muster in order to maximize the contribution to science, to development, and to progress.”[17]

Dr. Huang stresses the importance that higher education institutes have educational management that focuses on minorities and gender issues in order to increase the rates of minorities and women in the scientific community. [17]


Alice Huang's research focused on defective interfering particles (DIPs) which can be utilized to combat viruses. DIPs are composed of viral structural proteins and sets of DNA or RNA which are incomplete.[20] These DIPs will interfere in replication of the virus because they are reproduced at the expense of a standard viral particle. Alice Huang's work on DIPs has been utilized to combat cancer, HIV, and plant related diseases.[21] Alice S. Huang’s passion for viruses drove her to her success in the discovery of viruses features and learning how to manipulate their development.

She started studying about viruses as a graduate student, when little was known about them, where she was the first person "to purify and characterize interfering viral particles".[22] While at Johns Hopkins University, Huang conducted research looking into the inhibition of cellular RNA synthesis by nonreplicating vesicular stomatitis virus. She completed this research with Robert R. Wagner.[23] The vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), known to infect horses, cattle and swine, was the virus she first chose to study. It did not take long for her and her colleagues to find out about its single strand of RNA and many other features about the VSV, including replication details. Their findings about the VSV served as a model for the understanding of the biology of viruses. [24]

For the research, she isolated a rabies type of virus which produced mutant strains interfering with viral growth. Later, in her work with her husband at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of the vesicular stomatitis viruses (VSV) she studied made ribonucleic acid (RNA) from RNA instead of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), which did not follow the conventional central dogma: DNA RNA Protein. Her discovery of this VSV virion-associated RNA – dependent RNA polymerase led to Baltimore’s research on tumor viruses and the discovery of the enzyme called reverse transcriptase. This enzyme converted RNA to DNA, and became a major breakthrough in virology.[25]

At Harvard Medical School, Huang continued to study how mutant strains produced by rabies-like virus interfered with further growth of the viral infection. In 1977, she was awarded the Eli Lilly Award in Microbiology and Immunology for this research.[26]

Awards and Associate[edit]


  1. ^ a b AsianWeek Staff Report (April 3, 2009). "Chinese American Heroines: Alice S. Huang". AsianWeek. Retrieved January 1, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c "Dr. Alice S. Huang, Ph.D.". Baltimore Associates, California Institute of Technology. Retrieved January 1, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c "Alice S. Huang Chosen To Serve As AAAS President-Elect" (SHTML). News Archives, American Association for the Advancement of Science. 29 January 2009. Retrieved January 1, 2010. 
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^ "Alice S. Huang : The Rockefeller Foundation". The Rockefeller Foundation. 
  6. ^ "ALICE S. HUANG". CAFA. Retrieved January 1, 2010. 
  7. ^ a b c d e
  8. ^ Chung, King-Thom. Women Pioneers of Medical Research: Biographies of 25 Outstanding Scientists. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2010. 186.
  9. ^ Baltimore, D.; Huang, A. S.; Stampfer, M. (1970). "Ribonucleic acid synthesis of vesicular stomatitis virus, II. An RNA polymerase in the virion". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 66 (2): 572–576. doi:10.1073/pnas.66.2.572. 
  10. ^ AsianWeek Staff Report (April 3, 2009). "Chinese American Heroines: Alice S. Huang". AsianWeek. Retrieved January 1, 2010.
  11. ^ Haley-Oliphant, A.E. (1997). "Alice Huang, Microbiologist/Molecular Geneticist, 1939-present," in Matyas, M.L. & Haley-Oliphant, A.E. (Editors). (1997). Women Life Scientists: Past, Present, and Future –Connecting Role Models to the Classroom Curriculum. Bethesda, MD: American Physiological Society, p. 231-240.
  12. ^ "KGI Emeritus Trustee Alice Huang, PhD, Elected President of AAAS". Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Life Sciences. February 25, 2009; Claremont, California. Retrieved October 9, 2013.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  13. ^ Alice s. Huang board of trustees. (2014). Retrieved from
  14. ^
  15. ^ American Association for the Advancement of Science,
  16. ^ Huang, Alice S. (December 2011). Passions. Science: The World’s Leading Journal of Scientific Research, Global News, and Commentary. (334). Retrieved from
  17. ^ a b c d
  18. ^ Huang, A. S. (2011). "Why bother?". Science 331 (6019): 821–821. doi:10.1126/science.1203124. 
  19. ^ Huang, A. S. (2011, April 25). Interview by R Saslow []. Q and A with Virologist Alice Huang., Retrieved from virologist-alice-huang/2011/04/07/AFRBfokE_story.html
  20. ^ Hannon, J. (2006). Alice Huang. Alice Huang, 1.
  21. ^ Huang, A.; Baltimore, D. (1970). "Defective Viral Particles and Viral Disease Processes". Nature 226 (5243): 325–327. doi:10.1038/226325a0. 
  22. ^ AsianWeek: The Voice of Asian American. (2009). Chinese American Heroines: Alice S. Huang. AsianWeek Staff Report.
  23. ^ A S Huang and R R Wagner Inhibition of cellular RNA synthesis by nonreplicating vesicular stomatitis virus PNAS 1965 54 (6) 1579-1584 retrieved from
  24. ^ Huang, Alice S (2011). "Presidential Address. Passion". Science 334 (6061): 1362–1366. doi:10.1126/science.1213199. PMID 22175069. 
  25. ^ Martha, J. B. (1998). American women in science, 1950 to the present: a biographical dictionary. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO
  26. ^ USC University of Southern California, Department of Physics & Astronomy. (n.d.) Retrieved from
  27. ^
  28. ^ Huang, A.S. (2011). Dr. Alice S. Huang, Ph.D. Retrieved from: