Michael Eisen

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Michael Eisen
Plos eisen.jpg
Michael Eisen
Michael Bruce Eisen

(1967-04-13) April 13, 1967 (age 51)
Alma materHarvard College
Known forPublic Library of Science (PLOS)
AwardsBenjamin Franklin Award (Bioinformatics) (2002)
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of California, Berkeley
ThesisStructural Studies of Influenza A Virus Proteins (1996)
Doctoral advisorDon Craig Wiley[citation needed]

Michael Bruce Eisen (born April 13, 1967) is an American computational biologist. He is Professor of Genetics, Genomics and Development at University of California, Berkeley.[2][3][4][5][6] He is a leading advocate of open access scientific publishing and is co-Founder of Public Library of Science (PLOS). Eisen has announced his intention to run for U.S. Senate from California in 2018 as an Independent.

Early life and education[edit]

Born in Boston, Eisen and his brother Jonathan were raised in a family of scientists. Their grandfather was an x-ray crystallographer, their father, Howard Eisen a physician, and mother, Laura[7] a biochemist. They moved to Bethesda, Maryland when Eisen was four or five years old. The brothers spent summers in Long Island with their grandparents. Eisen states that he loved frogs and salamanders '"Even more than I have a frog fetish, I have a swamp fetish. I really like being in swamps."' He was also very interested in math and was captain of the high school math team. Eisen graduated from Walt Whitman High School in 1985. Intending to major in mathematics at Harvard University, he realized that there [he may encounter] other more brilliant math students, it was a Good Will Hunting moment and he decided that he did not want to major in mathematics, '"You don't want to be Salieri to Mozart."' During his years at Harvard, Eisen worked on "unlocking the three-dimensional structures of proteins." He was shown a DNA microarray which taught him a '"new way of doing biology"'.[8]

Eisen completed his PhD at Harvard University in biophysics and a B.S. (also from Harvard) in Math.[9] He was under the supervision of Don Craig Wiley[10] while studying Influenza A virus Proteins.[11]

After earning his doctorate, Eisen was a Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford University in the lab of David Botstein, where he most notably developed a method for interpreting gene expression data from microarrays. The seminal research publication that Eisen authored about this project has been cited over 16,000 times.[12]


His academic research focuses on the evolution of gene regulation.[13][14][15][16] His research on is on fruit flies and Drosophila[17] and how they "develop from a tiny single-celled egg to a mature adult. He says they hold insights into what goes wrong in people as they age."[9] He receives funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for his research.[17]


Eisen announced via Twitter on January 25[18] his intention to run for U.S. Senate from California in 2018 when he registered the Twitter handle SenatorPhD. His campaign slogan is "Liberty, Equality, Reality". Eisen's reasons for running for Congress is because of his belief that the Trump administration is unresponsive to climate change and other science related issues. He feels that if science is to be on the forefront of policy making, '"scientists need to run for office."' Eisen is unsure he will be the traditional politician as far as wardrobe, his "professional attire consists of shorts and T-shirts bearing mottos supporting open access to scientific literature".[17] He plans on running for Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein's seat. He feels that because in 2018 there will be an open primary and a possibly open seat as Feinstein has not yet announced if she will be running again.[9]

Watching Cabinet appointees being interviewed by the Senate about climate change is one of the motivations that inspired Eisen to run for office. He thought '“It would be really nice to have scientists ask the questions of the Cabinet appointees, because the senators don’t seem to understand the issue and aren’t asking the right questions.”' He states that he has no political experience, but does not see that as a problem. He spent twenty years lobbying for greater public access to science on Capital Hill. "What we should try to be is nonpartisan." He believes that because science is a "worldview" we should use scientific thinking on how to address political decision-making.[9] About being a political novice, Eisen states, "If you’ve learned anything from this election, it’s that we're in a time where political outsiders are actually having some success." Eisen is on sabbatical in 2017 and although he loves his job, he is going to use his free time to see if "there's a path forward... This is not something we can afford to wait for."[18] Eisen states that he has mostly voted Democratic in his life, but he will probably run for Congress as an Independent, he says that this is because people who reject science are not of a specific political party, the "relationship between science and the public is broken in many ways."[19]

Open Access advocacy[edit]

Throughout his career he has been an advocate for "open science", which is the free release of the material and intellectual product of scientific research. He is a leading advocate of open access scientific publishing[20][21][22] and is co-Founder of Public Library of Science (PLOS) and serves on the PLOS board, the Academic Steering & Advocacy Committee of Open Library of Humanities,[23] and is an adviser to Science Commons.

In 2012 Eisen began protesting against the Research Works Act as part of his appeal to promote open access to information.[24]

Baseball and biology[edit]

When Eisen lived in Tennessee he worked as a play-by-play announcer for a minor league baseball team,[9] the Columbia Mules. He is a self-proclaimed Red Sox fanatic.[8] He and computational biologist, James Fraser recorded a video for iBiology about the role baseball statistics influenced their research. Their argument is that sequencing DNA is similar to scoring a baseball game, and that many computational biologists learned to think about science computations from an obsessive interest in baseball stats. The exercise of comparing a specific player's stats to a database of other similar players allows a baseball fan to predict future performance. This same system works with proteins and predicting functions. As tools are developed that break down and track all stats concerning baseball players, so will technology improve with genetics. With both baseball and genetics, tools are being developed that refine the models.[25] In a lecture in 2015, Eisen stated that he received a computer from his grandfather for his twelfth birthday and spent the next five years teaching himself how to program so that he could keep track of baseball stats.[10]

Awards and honors[edit]

In 2002, Eisen was awarded the inaugural Benjamin Franklin Award in bioinformatics, for his work on PLOS and the open-access availability of his microarray cluster analysis software.[26]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ Michael Eisen publications indexed by Google Scholar
  2. ^ "Michael B. Eisen, PhD". Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
  3. ^ Michael Eisen's publications indexed by the Scopus bibliographic database. (subscription required)
  4. ^ Perou, C. M.; Sørlie, T; Eisen, M. B.; Van De Rijn, M; Jeffrey, S. S.; Rees, C. A.; Pollack, J. R.; Ross, D. T.; Johnsen, H; Akslen, L. A.; Fluge, O; Pergamenschikov, A; Williams, C; Zhu, S. X.; Lønning, P. E.; Børresen-Dale, A. L.; Brown, P. O.; Botstein, D (2000). "Molecular portraits of human breast tumours". Nature. 406 (6797): 747–52. doi:10.1038/35021093. PMID 10963602.
  5. ^ Iyer, V. R. (1999). "The Transcriptional Program in the Response of Human Fibroblasts to Serum". Science. 283 (5398): 83–7. doi:10.1126/science.283.5398.83. PMID 9872747.
  6. ^ Ross, D. T.; Scherf, U; Eisen, M. B.; Perou, C. M.; Rees, C; Spellman, P; Iyer, V; Jeffrey, S. S.; Van De Rijn, M; Waltham, M; Pergamenschikov, A; Lee, J. C.; Lashkari, D; Shalon, D; Myers, T. G.; Weinstein, J. N.; Botstein, D; Brown, P. O. (2000). "Systematic variation in gene expression patterns in human cancer cell lines". Nature Genetics. 24 (3): 227–35. doi:10.1038/73432. PMID 10700174.
  7. ^ Okie, Susan. "NIH SCIENTIST A SUICIDE AMID PROBE OF PAPER". Washington Post. Retrieved 7 February 2017.
  8. ^ a b Mechanic, Michael. "Steal This Research Paper! (You Already Paid for It.)". Mother Jones. Retrieved 7 February 2017.
  9. ^ a b c d e f Krieger, Lisa. "Bay Area molecular biologist Michael Eisen announces bid for U.S. Senate". California News. San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved 7 February 2017.
  10. ^ a b c "Michael Eisen: Baseball, mathematics and biology". India Bio Science. Retrieved 7 February 2017.
  11. ^ Eisen, Michael Bruce (1996). Structural Studies of Influenza A Virus Proteins (PhD thesis). Harvard University. OCLC 48938206.
  12. ^ Eisen, MB; Spellman, PT; Brown, PO; Botstein, D (8 December 1998). "Cluster analysis and display of genome-wide expression patterns". Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 95 (25): 14863–8. doi:10.1073/pnas.95.25.14863. PMC 24541. PMID 9843981.
  13. ^ Eisen, M.; Spellman, P.; Brown, P.; Botstein, D. (1998). "Cluster analysis and display of genome-wide expression patterns". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 95 (25): 14863–14868. doi:10.1073/pnas.95.25.14863. PMC 24541. PMID 9843981.
  14. ^ Alizadeh, A. A.; Eisen, M. B.; Davis, R. E.; Ma, C.; Lossos, I. S.; Rosenwald, A.; Boldrick, J. C.; Sabet, H.; Tran, T.; Yu, X.; Powell, J. I.; Yang, L.; Marti, G. E.; Moore, T.; Hudson Jr, J.; Lu, L.; Lewis, D. B.; Tibshirani, R.; Sherlock, G.; Chan, W. C.; Greiner, T. C.; Weisenburger, D. D.; Armitage, J. O.; Warnke, R.; Levy, R.; Wilson, W.; Grever, M. R.; Byrd, J. C.; Botstein, D.; Brown, P. O. (2000). "Distinct types of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma identified by gene expression profiling". Nature. 403 (6769): 503–511. doi:10.1038/35000501. PMID 10676951.
  15. ^ Drosophila 12 Genomes, Consortium; Clark, A. G.; Eisen, M. B.; Smith, D. R.; Bergman, C. M.; Oliver, B; Markow, T. A.; Kaufman, T. C.; Kellis, M; Gelbart, W; Iyer, V. N.; Pollard, D. A.; Sackton, T. B.; Larracuente, A. M.; Singh, N. D.; Abad, J. P.; Abt, D. N.; Adryan, B; Aguade, M; Akashi, H; Anderson, W. W.; Aquadro, C. F.; Ardell, D. H.; Arguello, R; Artieri, C. G.; Barbash, D. A.; Barker, D; Barsanti, P; Batterham, P; et al. (2007). "Evolution of genes and genomes on the Drosophila phylogeny". Nature. 450 (7167): 203–18. doi:10.1038/nature06341. PMID 17994087.
  16. ^ Spellman, P. T.; Sherlock, G.; Zhang, M. Q.; Iyer, V. R.; Anders, K.; Eisen, M. B.; Brown, P. O.; Botstein, D.; Futcher, B. (1998). "Comprehensive Identification of Cell Cycle-regulated Genes of the Yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae by Microarray Hybridization". Molecular Biology of the Cell. 9 (12): 3273–97. doi:10.1091/mbc.9.12.3273. PMC 25624. PMID 9843569.
  17. ^ a b c Harmon, Amy; Henry Fountain. "In Age of Trump, Scientists Show Signs of a Political Pulse". The New York Times. NYT. Retrieved 7 February 2017.
  18. ^ a b Reardon, Sara. "Geneticist launches bid for US Senate". News:Q&A. Nature. Retrieved 7 February 2017.
  19. ^ Cohen, Jon. "Q&A: Michael Eisen bids to be first fly biologist in the U.S. Senate". Science. Retrieved 7 February 2017.
  20. ^ Eisen, Michael (8 October 2003). "Publish and be praised". Guardian. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
  21. ^ Brown, P. O.; Eisen, M. B.; Varmus, H. E. (2003). "Why PLoS Became a Publisher". PLoS Biology. 1 (1): E36. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0000036. PMC 212706. PMID 14551926.
  22. ^ https://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.04/rave_pr.html 2004 Wired Magazine Rave Awards "For cracking the spine of the science cartel"
  23. ^ Howard, Jennifer (29 January 2013). "Project Aims to Bring PLoS-Style Openness to the Humanities". The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved 19 November 2013.
  24. ^ Dobbs, David (6 January 2012). "Congress Considers Paywalling Science You Already Paid For". wired.com. Retrieved 12 February 2012.
  25. ^ "James Fraser & Michael Eisen: Baseball Meets Biology". Education. iBiology. Retrieved 7 February 2017.
  26. ^ "Benjamin Franklin Award - Bioinformatics.org". www.bioinformatics.org. Retrieved 7 February 2017.