Lydia Villa-Komaroff, Ph.D.

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About dr. Villa-Komaroff

Lydia Villa-Komaroff, Ph.D. is a molecular biologist, an executive, and a diversity advocate. She is a current board member, and former CEO and CSO of Cytonome/ST, LLC, a company developing and manufacturing purpose-built cell sorters. She currently serves on the boards of ATCC, an independent, private, nonprofit biological resource center and research organization, the Keck Graduate Institute, the Boston-based Biomedical Careers Programs, and the advisory board of the Sackler Graduate School. She is a member of the NSF Committee on Equal Opportunity in Science and Engineering, and the Advisory Council of the NSF Directorate for Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences. She is a founding member of the Society for the Advancement of Chicano’s/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS); the Society is the recipient of the National Science Board’s Public Service Award for contributions (2002) and the national Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (2004). She has been a board member and Vice President of SACNAS and currently serves as a member of the Committee of Senior Advisors and the Nominations Committee.

Dr. Villa-Komaroff held faculty positions at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School. As an administrator, she served as Vice President for Research at Northwestern University in Illinois and Vice President for Research and Chief Operating Officer of the Whitehead Institute (Cambridge, MA). She served on the bord of the Massachusetts Life Science Center (Gubernatorial appointment), Transkaryotic Therapies, Inc. a publicly-traded bio pharmaceutical company that developed products for the treatment of rare diseases, and was non-executive Chair of the Board before it was acquired by Shire Pharmaceuticals. Dr. Villa Komaroff was elected to the board of the American Association of the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and served on the Advisory Councils for National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke, the Biology Directorate of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Academies Committee on Women in Science, Engineering and Medicine. She was a member of the 2012 US State Department delegation to the Asian-Pacific Economic Conference-Women and the Economy Forum held in Russia.

Dr. Villa-Komaroff is a fellow of AAAS and the Association for Women in Science (AWIS). She has been honored by election to the Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Hall of Fame, a Lifetime Achievement Award by Hispanic Business Magazine, selection as 2008 Hispanic Scientist of the Year by the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa, Florida, 2013 Woman of Distinction by the American Association of University Women and is the 2016 recipient of the Elting Morison prize from the MIT program in Science and Technology. She was one of six women scientists whose work was featured in the PBS series Discovering Women (1995), her work was the subject of a one-hour segment entitled DNA Detective. She was one of 11 women scientists profiled on the website of the White House Office of Science and Technology during the Obama administration.

She received her BA from Goucher College and her Ph.D. in Cell Biology from MIT; her advisors were David Baltimore and Harvey Lodish. As a postdoc in Walter Gilbert’s laboratory, she was lead author of a landmark paper reporting the first synthesis of mammalian insulin in bacterial cells. During her career as a bench scientist, she focused on using the methods of recombinant DNA to address a number of fundamental questions in collaboration with neurologists, developmental biologists, endocrinologists, and cell biologists including studies of the insulin-like growth factors in developing tissues, the role of peptide sequence of the proinsulin c-peptide in insulin secretion, the connection between sensory experience and gene expression during the development of the visual cortex, and the first demonstration of the toxicity of amyloid in neural cells. She holds honorary doctorates from Goucher College, The Univeristy of Saint Thomas, Pine Manor College, Regis Colleg amd Cal State University San Marcos.