Santhosh Girirajan, professor and interim head of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, has been named the T. Ming Chu Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. The professorship is awarded to outstanding faculty members and provides resources to further their contributions to teaching, research, and public service. The professorship was established in 1997 by Chu, who received his doctoral degree in biochemistry from Penn State in 1967 and went on to develop a widely used and simple blood test that detects prostate cancer.
“Santhosh is incredibly deserving of this of this honor,” said Tracy Langkilde, Verne M. Willaman Dean of the Eberly College of Science. “In addition to his many research accomplishments, he is dedicated to the training and mentoring of our students. We are also grateful for his high level of service to the department and the college.”
Girirajan’s research focuses on understanding how human genetics contributes to neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism, intellectual disability, schizophrenia, epilepsy, and congenital malformation. His research uses techniques ranging from human genetics, functional genomics in model organisms, and computational genomics. Girirajan has served on advisory boards for rare disease organizations, editorial boards of journals such as PLOS Genetics, and is a standing member of an NIH study section. He also served as director of the NIH Computation, Bioinformatics, and Statistics (CBIOS) training program.
At Penn State, Girirajan served as chair for the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology faculty search and Climate and Diversity committees, a member of the Eberly College of Science Next Steps committee, and a mentor for the college’s Launch program.
He has mentored 70 undergraduate and graduate students in his research group and works to foster an inclusive and healthy work climate. He is a dedicated educator and has won several awards for his teaching and research excellence, including the C.I. Noll Award for Excellence in Teaching from the Eberly College of Science in 2018, the Daniel R. Tershak Memorial Faculty Teaching Award from Penn State in 2015, the Basil O’Connor Award from the March of Dimes foundation in 2014, and the Young Investigator Award from the Brain and Behavior Foundation in 2014.
Girirajan joined Penn State as an assistant professor in 2012 in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and the Department of Anthropology. He was promoted to associate professor in 2018 and professor in 2023. Prior to that, he was a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Genome Sciences at the University of Washington, Seattle. He earned his doctoral degree in human genetics from the Medical College of Virginia of the Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, in 2008 and completed his medical training at Bangalore University, India, in 2001.