Cancer Institute A national cancer institute
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James Ferrell

Academic Appointments

  • Professor of Chemical and Systems Biology and of Biochemistry

Key Documents

Contact Information

  • Academic Offices
    Personal Information
    Email Tel (650) 725-0765


Academic Appointments

Administrative Appointments

  • Associate Chair, Stanford University School of Medicine - Chemical & Systems Biology (2011 - 2012)
  • Chair, Stanford University School of Medicine - Chemical & Systems Biology (2006 - 2011)

Professional Education

B.A.: Williams College, Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics (1976)
Ph.D.: Stanford University, Chemistry (1984)
M.D.: Stanford University (1986)

Community and International Work

Research & Scholarship

Current Research and Scholarly Interests

In some circumstances, the eukaryotic cell cycle can be best described as a succession of contingent events. For example, in most somatic cells in culture, cell growth is followed by DNA replication, then more cell growth, then mitotic entry and chromosome congression, then sister chromatid separation and mitotic exit. The transitions from one cell cycle phase to the next are generally all-or-none in character and irreversible. Our goal is to understand how these irreversible switches between phases occur.

In other contexts the cell cycle is better described as an autonomous oscillation. For example, in the early Xenopus embryo, every ~30 minutes CDK1 is activated and this reliable rhythm is maintained even if DNA replication or mitosis is blocked. Our goal is to understand how this oscillator works.

The approaches we have taken to these questions include quantitative experimental approaches, computational modeling, and the theory of nonlinear dynamics. We hope to understand the design principles of these systems, and perhaps to gain insight into other biological switches and oscillators as well.




Prior Year Coursescourses of James Ferrell

Graduate and Fellowship Program Affiliations



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