Biochemistry and Structural Biology

Reuben S. Harris, PhD

Principle Investigator, Professor and Chairman Biochemistry and Structural Biology

Personal Statement:



Ph.D. - University of Alberta, 1997
B.S. - University of Alberta, 1993


I have a deep interest in mutation research and a consistent record of breakthrough discoveries on every topic pursued. These accomplishments are due to an ability to identify important areas, define and ask key questions, and address each question from multiple independent angles. Central to this approach is providing my trainees with a rigorous, stimulating, thoughtful, and ethically responsible research environment, following traditions inherited from my mentors Drs. Susan Rosenberg, Nancy Maizels, and Michael Neuberger (and theirs, Drs. Franklin Stahl/Miroslav Radman, Walter Gilbert, and Klaus Rajewsky, respectively). Characteristically, my lab leads projects through all phases from idea generation to publication, developing new assays and leveraging expertise and technologies from other disciplines to expedite research and enrich answers to challenging problems. For example, our discovery of APOBEC3B mutagenesis in cancer combined my lab’s existing strengths (molecular biology, genetics, cell biology, and biochemistry) with clinical,
biophysical, and bioinformatic approaches from expert colleagues (Nature and Nature Genetics, 2013). I have been doing fundamental research on mechanisms of mutation for over 25 years and will continue to maintain vigorous research programs in cancer mutagenesis and antiviral immunity and, as opportunities arise, lead explorations into new areas. Two recent examples are the discovery of the molecular mechanism by which herpesviruses inhibit and relocalize APOBEC3B to prevent this nuclear enzyme from destroying lytic virus replication intermediates (Nature Microbiology 2018, Journal of Virology 2019, Science Advances 2022) and the development of the first murine models to study mutagenesis and carcinogenesis by human APOBEC3 enzymes (Journal of Experimental Medicine 2020). Overall, I have helped create and expand the restriction factor field, redefine the cancer mutagenesis field, and make “APOBEC” a keyword in several disciplines.
I also have a strong commitment and track record of mentoring and training the next generation of scientists. My lab is comprised of a program manager, five technicians, and at any given time a cohort of approximately 15 postdoctoral, doctoral, and undergraduate trainees. Individual projects are cancer-, drug and/ or virus-focused and span a range of areas from molecular biology and structural biology to cancer biology and bioinformatics. My trainees have equally diverse skill sets and affiliate with multiple programs, departments, and centers and institutes. Overall, I mentor a critical mass of skilled trainees with diverse technical and intellectual abilities, which combines to enable successful individual and collaborative projects.
As a testament to this robust training environment, I have now mentored 26 PhD students to completion and 9 of my first graduates have become tenure-track Assistant Professors (MacDuff, Jonsson, Stenglein, Offer, Burns, Hultquist, Olson, Lackey, Starrett). The postdoctoral cohort is similarly successful with several advancements to tenure-track faculty positions (Shindo, Land, Ebrahimi, Ikeda, Salamango) and leadership positions in industry (Liddament, Li, McCann).