Alexander F. Schier (born 1964) is the Leo Erikson Life Sciences Professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Harvard University. He is a member of the Center for Brain Science, a member of the Center for Systems Biology, a principal member of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, and an associate member of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.
Schier received a B.A. in Cell Biology in 1988 from the Biozentrum at the University of Basel, Switzerland, followed by a PhD in Cell Biology in 1992 under Walter J. Gehring, also from the University of Basel, Switzerland. He conducted his postdoctoral research in Wolfgang Driever’s lab at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University in Boston, USA. In 1996, Schier was recruited as Assistant Professor in the Developmental Genetics Program to the Skirball Institute and Department of Cell Biology, NYU School of Medicine. Since 2005, he has been Professor at the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences. He chaired the department from 2014-2017. Schier is also a Site Director of the Allen Discovery Center for Cell Lineage Tracing.
Schier is internationally recognized for his pioneering work on vertebrate development using zebrafish (Danio rerio) as a model organism. During his postdoctoral work, Schier and colleagues performed one of the first large-scale forward genetic screens in a vertebrate.
In his own lab, Schier has made fundamental advances to the understanding of the molecular basis of vertebrate embryogenesis, including signaling, cell fate determination, cell movement, the maternal-zygotic transition, microRNAs, chromatin and non-coding RNAs. Schier’s more recent interest in behavior has established zebrafish as a model for sleep and behavioral research, determined neural circuits that underlie sleep and identified small molecule sleep regulators.
He has contributed to the development of zebrafish as model system, including positional cloning, germ-line replacement to generate maternal-effect mutants, photobleaching and photo conversion, Brainbow imaging, brain activity atlas, small molecule profiling, transcriptomics and epigenomics, gene annotation, CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing, and lineage tracing by genomic barcode editing.
Schier is also well known for having an unusually high rate of placing trainees in academic positions. Previous mentees have gone on to PI positions at Yale, Princeton, Caltech, UCLA, University of Toronto, U Mass Amherst, NYU School of Medicine, University College London, MPI Dresden, University of Tokyo, UCSD, University of Calgary, Medical College of Georgia, MPI Tuebingen, IMP Vienna, University of Utah, and Cambridge University. Key to his mentoring philosophy are five questions he has developed to sharpen the thoughts of his mentees (see also ):Do you work on an important problem?
Do you work with sustained concentration?
Do you have a sense of urgency?
Are you able to troubleshoot?
Do you have the killer instinct to do the key experiments that will result in a coherent, conclusive and publishable study?
1999-2002 McKnight Scholar for Neuroscience
2001-2005 Irma T. Hirschl Scholar
2002-2005 Established Investigator of the American Heart Association
2006 Harland Winfield Mossman Developmental Biologists Award of the American Asc. of Anatomists
2006-2008 McKnight Neuroscience of Brain Disorders Award
2014 Everett Mendelsohn Excellence in Mentoring Award from Harvard’s Graduate Student Council
2016 NIH MERIT Award
2016 Bjorkman-Strominger-Wiley Prize for Collaboration (with Florian Engert)