Thomas J. Silhavy is the Warner-Lambert Parke-Davis Professor of Molecular Biology at Princeton University. Silhavy is a bacterial geneticist who has made fundamental contributions to several different research fields. He is best known for his work on protein secretion, membrane biogenesis, and signal transduction. Using Escherichia coli as a model system, his lab was the first to isolate signal sequence mutations, to identify a component of cellular protein secretion machinery, and an integral membrane component of the outer membrane assembly machinery, and to identify and characterize a two-component regulatory system. Current work in his lab is focused on the mechanisms of outer membrane biogenesis and the regulatory systems that sense and respond to envelope stress and trigger the developmental pathway that allows cells to survive starvation. He is the author of more than 200 research articles and three books.
Professor Silhavy received his BS in Pharmacy (summa cum laude, 1971) from Ferris State College and his MS (1974) and PhD (1975) in Biological Chemistry from Harvard University. As a graduate student with Winfried Boos he helped characterize the role of periplasmic binding proteins in sugar transport. As a postdoctoral fellow with Jonathan Beckwith at Harvard Medical School he helped establish gene fusions as an experimental tool. He served as an Instructor of Microbiology at Harvard Medical School for two years, and he worked at the NCI Frederick Cancer Research Facility for five years where he was Director of the Laboratory of Genetics and Recombinant DNA. He came to Princeton in 1984 as a founding member of the Department of Molecular Biology.
In recognition of his scientific accomplishments Silhavy was awarded an honorary Doctor of Sciences degree from his alma mater, Ferris State College (1982), was elected Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology (1994), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2004), and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2005), and he is a member of the National Academy of Sciences (2005). In 1999 he received an NIH MERIT award. In 2008, he received the Novitski Prize for creativity from the Genetic Society of America and was also selected as an Associate Member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO). His commitment to teaching is evidenced by the President's Award for Distinguished Teaching at Princeton (1993), the Graduate Microbiology Teaching award from the American Society for Microbiology (2002), and the Graduate Advising Award at Princeton (2003). He was also elected Visiting Fellow Commoner, Trinity College, Cambridge University in 2012.