Faculty focus on Eva Nogales

Eva Nogales is a professor of biochemistry, biophysics and structural biology, and a Howard Hughes Investigator. The Nogales lab is dedicated to gaining mechanistic insight into crucial molecular processes in the life of the eukaryotic cell. The lab’s two main research themes are the dynamic self-assembly of cytoskeleton during its essential functions in cell division, and the molecular machines governing the regulation of gene expression, specially at the transcriptional level. The unifying principle in their work is the emphasis on studying macromolecular assemblies as whole units of molecular function by direct visualization of their architecture, functional states and regulatory interactions. With this overall aim in mind they use electron microscopy and image analysis, complemented with biochemical and biophysical assays, towards a molecular understanding of their systems of interest.

QB3-Berkeley: Are there any forthcoming papers or current projects that you’d be willing to tell us about?

Eva Nogales: We have a couple of stories I am very excited about concerning our studies of the gene silencer PRC2 that are either under consideration at a journal or about to be submitted. They involve two different mechanisms of regulation of this essential complex involved in establishing and maintaining cell identity.

QB3: You were recently awarded the Shaw Prize. Can you tell us a bit about that experience and what the prize means to you and your lab?

EN: Being awarded a prize of this magnitude is, obviously, very gratifying. It reflects the regard that the scientific community of peers has for the pioneering work done in my lab. It is also a unique opportunity to reflect and feel gratitude toward those young scientists that contributed to our scientific progress over the years.


Group shot of the Nogales lab with members standing in front of the sculpture in Hearst Mining Circle.
The Nogales lab. Photo courtesy of Eva Nogales.

QB3: When did you become interested in becoming a scientist?

EN: Sometime in high school, influenced by my STEM teachers (all women!) and by the wonderful program of Carl Saga, Cosmos. I have always been curious, a characteristic that has only increased with age as I better understand how much we still don’t know about nature and how wonderful it is to discover how the beautiful “logic” of evolution shapes the biological world.

QB3: What advice would you give to students interested in your field?

EN: To observe and question everything. To read, to listen, to engage with hands-on research.

QB3: What brought you to UC Berkeley and what do you love about being a faculty member here?

I was a postdoc at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, which I joined when my boyfriend (now husband) and I both looked for and found appointments in the area. My postdoctoral work was very successful and opened many doors, included that to the MCB department at UC Berkeley. I was blown away by the quality and style of my peers and the students and postdocs that are attracted to Berkeley. I love the caliber of the science, its collaborative nature, and the sense of shared purpose that I perceive here.