National Academy of Sciences

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Liao James

Professor James Liao has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

Prof. Liao has received the honor in recognition of his work on the design of fundamental metabolic pathways to understand how cells manage carbon and energy transduction with application to production of fuels and chemicals using microorganisms and plants.

“The news about the honor took me completely by surprise,” said Prof. Liao. “I’d like to thank my colleagues and particularly by students and postdocs who have contributed to my success.” Election to the National Academy of Sciences is considered one of the highest honors that a scientist can receive.

Liao Team
Prof. James Liao (second from right) with his research group

Short Biography of Prof. James Liao

One of the worldwide most appreciated experts in metabolic engineering and synthetic biology, Professor Liao obtained his Bachelor of Science from the National Taiwan University.  It was followed in 1987 by a Ph.D. degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and by a period spent as a research scientist at Rochester, working for the Eastman Kodak Company.  In 1990 he joined Texas A&M University and in 1997, he joined UCLA. Prof. Liao is currently the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation Professor and Department Chair of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and a member of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. His current research interests are mainly focused on biological synthesis of fuels and chemicals, carbon and nitrogen assimilation, metabolic engineering and synthetic biology, transcriptional and metabolic networks analysis and fatty acid metabolism.  Together with his research group, Professor Liao developed synthetic pathways for production of isobutanol and other higher alcohols from various raw materials.  He deepened biological regulatory networks at the systems level, developing both experimental and computational methods for better understanding and predicting cellular behavior.  They developed a breakthrough technique, called Network Component Analysis (NCA), using mRNA expression and transcriptional network connectivity to determine network component dynamics, functions, and interactions.  The team designed novel synthetic gene-metabolic circuits, in order to demonstrate system-wide understanding of cellular regulation.
During his outstanding scientific career, he has been awarded with many recognition.  Among them, the NSF Young Investigator Award in 1992, the Merck Award for Metabolic Engineering in 2006 and the Food, Pharmaceutical and Bioengineering Division award of American Institute of Chemical Engineers in the same year.  He then won the Charles Thom Award of the Society for Industrial Microbiology in 2007 and the Marvin Johnson Award of American Chemical Society in 2009.  In 2010, he received the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award.  In 2012, Professor James Liao was proclaimed the White House Champion of Change in Renewable Energy and in 2013, he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering.  He was also selected as a co-winner for the 2013 ENI Award in Renewable and Non-Conventional Energy and he received the 2014 National Academy of Sciences Award for the Industrial Application of Science.

To learn more about Prof. Liao’s research visit his homepage.