Michael Purugganan

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Michael D. Purugganan (born Manila, Philippines in 1963), a Filipino-American biologist and former journalist, is the Silver Professor of Biology at New York University (NYU).[1] Since the summer of 2012, he has served as the Dean for Science of NYU.[2] He is also on the affiliated faculty at NYU Abu Dhabi,[3] and was the director of the NYU Center for Genomics and Systems Biology in New York (2010-2012) and Abu Dhabi (2012-2017).

Purugganan is a leading authority on plant molecular evolution and genomics, and has published over 140 research papers.[1] His work encompasses the study of plant transposable element evolution, the diversification of regulatory gene families, evolution of development, molecular population genetics, the domestication of crop species and microbial social evolution.

In June 2013, he was elected to the board of trustees of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and served as the US representative to the Council of Scientists of the Human Frontier Science Program (2013-2017) and the Biological Sciences Advisory Committee for the US National Science Foundation (2014-2017). In 2018, he was appointed as co-chair of the Carnegie-Mellon University Presidential Advisory Board on Science.


He studied chemistry as an undergraduate at the University of the Philippines in the early 1980s, while working as features editor for the student newspaper The Philippine Collegian. In the wake of the assassination of Philippine opposition leader Benigno Aquino, Jr. in 1983, Purugganan helped lead the initial news coverage in the Philippine Collegian documenting the events that eventually led to the downfall of the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship.[2] After leaving the Collegian, he continued to be active in journalism, working as a news stringer for Time, Newsweek and the Associated Press. Purugganan in 1984 was offered a position as a foreign correspondent for the Associated Press Manila Bureau, but had to decline as he still had to complete his university studies.[4]

He also wrote on politics and economics for various Philippine newsmagazines. In 1984 he was threatened with a libel suit by then Philippine Prime Minister Cesar Virata, a Marcos ally,[4] for publishing a widely circulated interview in the politically influential Mr & Ms Special Edition in which Virata was quoted as saying "Filipinos never had it so good." Said in the middle of a severe economic crisis and widening poverty, Virata and his quote were harshly criticized by numerous opinion makers as an example of the disconnect between the Marcos government and ordinary Filipinos.[5]

Since 2011 he has written occasional essays for the Huffington Post, and the Philippine Star, GMA News Online and Rappler in the Philippines.

Scientific career[edit]

After finishing his undergraduate work in the Philippines he moved to New York City in 1985, and studied at Columbia University, where he obtained an MA in Chemistry. In 1993 he graduated with a Ph.D. in Botany (minor in Global Policy) from the University of Georgia, where he studied the effects of transposable element "jumping genes" on the evolution of gene structures[6] and showed that regulatory genes evolve quite rapidly at the molecular level.[7]

Upon completion of his Ph.D. he was awarded an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship at the University of California, San Diego from 1993 to 1995. In 1995, he joined the faculty of North Carolina State University, where in 2005 he was named the William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor.[8] He was instrumental in promoting the use of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana to study evolution, quantitative genetics and ecology, publishing some of the first studies of DNA sequence diversity[9] and the genomic mapping of natural phenotype variation in this species.[10]

In 2006, he joined the faculty of New York University, where his work has focused on the study of the evolution of domesticated species, particularly rice. From 2006 to 2016, he was the Dorothy Schiff Professor of Genomics, and from 2016 the Silver Professor of Biology at NYU.

He has been on the editorial boards of several journals, including Molecular Biology and Evolution, Trends in Plant Science, Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics, Molecular Ecology, and Genome Biology and Evolution. Purugganan also serves on the international scientific advisory boards of the Philippine Genome Center,[11] the US Compositae Genome Project,[12] the Norwegian Aqua Genome Project, and the Genome Canada Sunflower Project.

He is listed in the miscellaneous crew credits of the award-winning 2008 feature-length film Sita Sings the Blues as a genetic engineer.[13] He is on the Board of Directors of Imagine Science Films.

Purugganan has contributed to the book Evolution: The Extended Synthesis (Edited by Massimo Pigliucci and Gerd B. Müller, 2010).[14]


Purugganan has numerous awards, including an Alfred Sloan Young Investigator Award (1997–2002) and a Guggenheim Fellowship (2006–2007).[15] He was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2005[16] and in 2011 was a Kavli Frontiers of Science Fellow of the Kavli Foundation and the US National Academy of Sciences.[17] While at NC State, he was honored with the Alumni Outstanding Faculty Research Award (2003)[18] and the Sigma Xi Prize (2003).[19] In 2011, he was cited for Excellence in Science and Technology by the Ayala Foundation USA/PhilDev Foundation.[20] He was bestowed the 2015 Khalifa International Date Palm Award, and in 2017 was named Global Chair at the University of Bath, UK.

Personal life[edit]

Michael Purugganan is married to Alessandra Pena, a New Yorker with Spanish and Dominican roots who works as a consultant to UN organizations, international NGOs and foundations. They live in Greenwich Village in Manhattan.


  1. ^ a b "Michael Purugganan, Faculty of Biology | NYU". Biology.as.nyu.edu. Retrieved 2012-05-18.
  2. ^ a b http://thefilam.net/archives/6972
  3. ^ "NYU Abu Dhabi Faculty > Michael Purugganan". Nyuad.nyu.edu. Retrieved 2012-05-18.
  4. ^ a b EVOLUTION & DEVELOPMENT, vol. 12 pp. 3 –4 (2010), DOI: 10.1111/j.1525-142X.2009.00385.x
  5. ^ http://www.asiandialogue.com/pdf/asean_forecast/Jan1984-Dec1984/Aug1984.pdf[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ TRENDS IN ECOLOGY & EVOLUTION Volume: 8 Issue: 7 Pages: 239-243 DOI: 10.1016/0169-5347(93)90198-X
  7. ^ GENETICS Volume: 138 Issue: 3 Pages: 849-854 Published: NOV 1994
  8. ^ "N.C. State announces new William Neal Reynolds Professors - Spring 2006". Cals.ncsu.edu. Retrieved 2012-05-18.
  9. ^ PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Volume: 95 Issue: 14 Pages: 8130-8134 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.95.14.8130
  10. ^ GENETICS Volume: 160 Issue: 3 Pages: 1133-1151 Published: MAR 2002
  11. ^ http://pgc.up.edu.ph/
  12. ^ http://compgenomics.ucdavis.edu/
  13. ^ https://www.imdb.com/name/nm3352204/
  14. ^ "Evolution, the Extended Synthesis". Retrieved July 1, 2018.
  15. ^ "Michael D. Purugganan - John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation". Gf.org. Archived from the original on 2012-09-16. Retrieved 2012-05-18.
  16. ^ "Two William Neal Reynolds Professors named AAAS Fellows - Winter 2006". Cals.ncsu.edu. Retrieved 2012-05-18.
  17. ^ "Kavli Frontiers of Science begins New Symposia Series with Indonesia". The Kavli Foundation. 2011-10-24. Retrieved 2012-05-18.
  18. ^ "News Release: NC State Alumni Association Honors 18 as Distinguished Faculty". Ncsu.edu. 2003-05-22. Archived from the original on 2013-08-23. Retrieved 2012-05-18.
  19. ^ "Awardees". Ncsu.edu. Retrieved 2012-05-18.
  20. ^ "Our Filipino genome - STAR SCIENCE By Michael D. Purugganan - The Philippine Star " Business Features " Science and Technology". Philstar.com. 2011-08-11. Retrieved 2012-05-18.

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