Irene A. Chen

Associate Professor

Contact Phone

(805) 893-8364

Office Location

BioE 3112


Biomedical Sciences

Biology-Inspired Chemistry and Physics

Biochemistry & Biophysics

Synthetic Biology

Systems Biology

Origin of Life

Molecular Evolution

Phage-based Applications

Human Microbiome



Dr. Chen received a B.A. in Chemistry from Harvard in 1999, and a Ph.D. in Biophysics from Harvard and an M.D. from Harvard/MIT in 2007. She was a Bauer Fellow in Systems Biology at Harvard from 2007-2012.


Our mission is the quantitative study and engineering of artificial living systems. We work to achieve a predictive understanding of evolution, with a focus on functional RNAs and their interactions with membranes and proteins. We also study the microbes associated with humans, with a focus on bacteriophages and their potential applications.


Full list avaiable on group website:
Selected publications:
Athavale SS, Spicer B, Chen IA. Experimental fitness landscapes to understand the molecular evolution of RNA-based life. Curr. Opin. Chem. Biol. 2014, 22:35-39.
Jimenez JI, Xulvi-Brunet R, Campbell G, Turk-MacLeod R, Chen IA. Comprehensive experimental fitness landscape and evolutionary network for small RNA. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 2013 110(37):14984-9.
Leu K, Kervio E, Obermayer B, Turk-MacLeod R, Yuan C, Luevano J-M, Chen E, Gerland U, Richert C, Chen IA. Cascade of reduced speed and accuracy after errors in enzyme-free copying of nucleic acid sequences. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2013. 135(1):354-366.
Vaidya N, Manapat ML, Chen IA, Xulvi-Brunet R, Hayden EJ, Lehman N. Spontaneous network formation among cooperative RNA replicators. Nature 2012, 491:72-77.