Joseph Ecker, PhD


Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory

Director, Genomic Analysis Laboratory

Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator

Salk International Council Chair in Genetics

Salk Institute for Biological Studies - Videos Joe Ecker

Videos Joe Ecker

New kinds of brain cells revealed

LA JOLLA–Under a microscope, it can be hard to tell the difference between any two neurons, the brain cells that store and process information. So scientists have turned to molecular methods to try to identify groups of neurons with different functions.
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Epigenome Maps Uncover New Detail Into Human Organs

This new atlas of human organ epigenomes provides a starting place to understand the role of chemical markers in development, health and disease.

For more than a decade, scientists have had a working map of the human genome, a complete picture of the DNA sequence that encodes human life. But new pages are still being added to that atlas: maps of chemical markers called methyl groups that stud strands of DNA and influence which genes are repressed and when. Read more »

Cell reprogramming leaves a “footprint” behind

Reprogramming adult cells to recapture their youthful “can-do-it-all” attitude appears to leave an indelible mark, found researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. When the team, led by Joseph Ecker, PhD., a professor in the Genomic Analysis Laboratory, scoured the epigenomes of so-called induced pluripotent stem cells base by base, they found a consistent pattern of reprogramming errors. Read more »

What drives our genes? Salk researchers map the first complete human epigenome

Although the human genome sequence faithfully lists (almost) every single DNA base of the roughly 3 billion bases that make up a human genome, it doesn’t tell biologists much about how its function is regulated. Now, researchers at the Salk Institute provide the first detailed map of the human epigenome, the layer of genetic control beyond the regulation inherent in the sequence of the genes themselves. Read more »


BA, Biology/Chemistry, The College of New Jersey, Ewing, N.J.
PhD, Microbiology, Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine
Postdoctoral Fellow, Stanford University School of Medicine


Awards & Honors

  • 2019 Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to expand Human Cell Atlas
  • 2015 American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • 2012 Elected as AAAS Fellow
  • 2011 Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation
  • 2011 George W. Beadle Award, Genetics Society of America
  • 2009 #2 Scientific Discovery of the Year 2009-TIME Magazine
  • 2007 National Academy of Sciences, John J. Carty Award for the Advancement of Science
  • 2006 Elected, National Academy of Sciences
  • 2005 American Society for Plant Biology, Martin Gibbs Medal
  • 2004 Scientific American 50 Research Leader of the Year
  • 2004 International Plant Growth Substances Association Distinguished Research Award
  • 2001 Kumho Science International Award in Plant Molecular Biology
  • President International Society for Plant Molecular Biology