Dr. Quake’s research pursuits span the fields of physics, biology, mathematics, and biotechnology. He pioneered development of microfluidic large-scale integration, which involves integrating microfluidic chips containing thousands of tiny mechanical valves and channels to enable biological experiments and investigations on a previously unattainable scale. By taking advantage of the unique physics of fluids in small volumes, such “lab on a chip” technology has been applied to a range of areas, including functional genomics, genetic analysis, microbiology, and structural biology. Microfluidic devices have been used to trap single cells and amplify their transcriptome or genome for further analysis.

Dr. Quake and colleagues were the first to use microfluidic technology in the determination of protein structure through X-ray crystallography. They found that the unique fluid physics of nanoliter-scale reactors allow for control and manipulation of the kinetics of protein growth that are impossible at the macroscale. This enabled creation of a chip that can superiorly screen protein crystal growth conditions and can be used to grow crystals from proteins that resisted all conventional attempts. 

Dr. Quake is also active in the field of single-molecule biophysics. His group has shown how to tie individual DNA molecules into knots and how to make extraordinarily precise force measurements on single molecules. In 2003, his team demonstrated the first successful single-molecule DNA-sequencing experiments—another promising technology for large-scale biological automation.

Dr. Quake received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Stanford University before obtaining his DPhil in physics from Oxford University in 1994. He returned to Stanford to complete postdoctoral work in physics and began his academic career at the California Institute of Technology, where he was professor of physics and of applied physics. He joined Stanford’s bioengineering department in 2004 and became a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator in 2006.

Dr. Quake has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Inventors, the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the National Academy of Medicine. He received the Human Frontier Science Program Nakasone Award in 2013 and both the Raymond and Beverly Sackler International Prize in Biophysics and the Promega Biotechnology Research Award from the American Society of Microbiology in 2011, among many others.