Professor Keriann Backus selected for the Packard Fellowship

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The David and Lucile Packard Foundation selects Professor Keriann Backus as one of 20 recipients of the 2020 Packard Fellowships for Science and Engineering.  

In being selected as one of the nation’s most innovative early-career scientists and engineers, each Fellow will receive $875,000 over five years to pursue their research.

Packard fellowships enable the nation’s most promising young professors to pursue science and engineering research early in their careers with few funding restrictions, providing them with the freedom to take risks and explore new scientific frontiers.

Backus joined the UCLA faculty in 2018 as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Chemistry at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine and in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry.  In February of this year she was selected for UCLA’s Alexander and Renee Kolin Endowed Professorship of Molecular Biology and Biophysics.

Backus received her bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and in Latin American studies from Brown University in 2007. As a 2007 Rhodes Scholar and an NIH Oxford Cambridge Scholar, Backus’ Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry was conducted jointly in the laboratories of Benjamin Davis (Oxford) and Clifton Barry (NIH, NIAID).  After completing her doctorate in 2012, she began an NIH postdoctoral fellowship at The Scripps Research Institute with Benjamin Cravatt.  

Among her awards and honors, Backus was selected for a prestigious 2019 Young Faculty Award from the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and as a 2019 Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation Young Investigator.

To learn more about Backus’ research, visit her group’s website.

Backus joins past departmental awardees Professors Ric Kaner (1989 Fellow), Yi Tang (2007 Fellow), Hosea Nelson (2017), and Jose Rodriguez (2019) who have also received this honor.  

From UCLA Newsroom – by Elaine Schmidt:

Chemist selected for prestigious research fellowship  

Keriann Backus, PhD, an assistant professor of biological chemistry at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine and College of Letters and Science, has been chosen as a Packard Fellow for Science and Engineering. She is one of 20 early-career investigators receiving a five-year research grant of $875,000 from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.  

Backus’ laboratory develops and applies new methods to study how proteins work and interact with each other. Her research blends multiple approaches to identify sites on proteins that could alter function and lead to new treatments for disease.   

As a Rhodes Scholar and National Institutes of Health Oxford-Cambridge Scholar, Backus earned her doctorate in organic chemistry at Oxford University and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. She completed an NIH postdoctoral fellowship at the Scripps Research Institute.  


Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry,