Revolutionizing Biology: The Life and Achievements of Randy Schekman


Randy Schekman is a renowned American cell biologist who revolutionized the field of cell biology with his research on cellular secretion. Schekman’s findings have fundamentally changed the way scientists understand the movement of proteins in the cell, the ways in which they are sorted, and the methods by which they are transported. Born in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1948, Schekman’s contributions to science have earned him numerous accolades, including the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award, the Shaw Prize in Life Science and Medicine, and the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. In this biographical article, we will explore Randy Schekman’s early life, education, career, personal life, challenges and struggles, as well as his legacies.

Early life and Education

Randy Wayne Schekman was born on December 30, 1948, in St. Paul, Minnesota. He was the youngest of three children born to Alvin Schekman, a radiologist, and Ethel Schekman, who worked as a physical therapist. Growing up, Schekman was fascinated by science, and he would often spend his free time reading books on astronomy and biology. In high school, he excelled at science and mathematics, winning the Westinghouse Science Talent Search in 1966, the highest honor a high school student can receive in science in the United States.

Schekman went on to attend the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where he received his undergraduate degree in 1971. He earned his Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1975, where he worked with Arthur Kornberg, a Nobel laureate in biochemistry.


After completing his Ph.D., Schekman began his academic career as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, San Diego. In 1976, he was appointed as an assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of California, Berkeley. Schekman’s research at Berkeley focused on the mechanism of protein secretion in yeast cells, which led to the discovery of the genes and proteins that control the process.

In 1986, Schekman became a professor of molecular and cell biology at Berkeley, where he has remained ever since. He also served as the editor-in-chief of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences from 2006 to 2011.

One of Schekman’s most important contributions to science was his discovery of the machinery that controls the movement of proteins in the cell. Schekman used the simple yeast cell as a model organism to investigate cellular secretion, and his findings demonstrated that the transport of proteins is highly regulated and requires specific proteins and pathways. This work revolutionized the field of cell biology, revealing the intricate systems by which proteins are transported in the cell.

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In 1998, Schekman co-founded the biotechnology company Amgen, which developed drugs used in the treatment of cancer, anemia, and other diseases. Schekman continued to work at both Amgen and Berkeley until 2004, when he resigned from Amgen to focus solely on his academic research.

Personal life

Schekman is married to Nancy Walls, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Berkeley. They have two children together. In his free time, Schekman enjoys photography, hiking, and skiing.

Challenges and Struggles

Schekman faced numerous challenges throughout his career, both personal and professional. In the early years of his research, he struggled to find funding for his work, and his grant applications were often rejected by funding agencies. Schekman was also faced with skepticism from other scientists, who were skeptical of his methods and findings.

In addition, Schekman had to navigate the intense pressures and competition of the academic world, as well as the demands of his role as an entrepreneur at Amgen. Despite these challenges, Schekman remained committed to his research, and his dedication and persistence eventually paid off in the form of numerous awards and accolades.


Schekman’s work has had a profound impact on the field of cell biology, shedding light on the complex systems that govern the movement of proteins within cells. His discoveries have led to the development of new drugs and therapies for a range of diseases, including cancer and diabetes.

In addition to his contributions to science, Schekman has also been an advocate for scientific integrity and academic freedom. He has spoken out against the commercialization of research and the growing pressure on scientists to prioritize profits over scientific discovery.

Today, Schekman continues to inspire future generations of scientists with his research and advocacy. His legacy is a testament to the power of scientific inquiry and the importance of supporting scientific research and discovery.

Famous quote from Randy Schekman

1. “I think that we have got to stop evaluating research simply by where it’s published.”

2. “Publishing in glamour journals can be dangerous to science.”

3. “We’ve created a culture where everyone is fighting for reputation, and where the outcome of our scientific endeavours are judged by where we publish.”

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4. “The pressure to publish in high-impact journals is leading some scientists to cut corners in their research.”

5. “By tying career advancement to publishing in prestigious journals, we’ve created a system where scientists are incentivized to do whatever it takes to get their work into those journals.”

Technology inspired from Randy Schekman

Randy Schekman is a Nobel Prize-winning biologist who has made significant contributions to the field of cell biology and genetics. His work on vesicle trafficking in cells has inspired several technological advancements and inventions, including:

1. Microfluidic systems: Schekman’s research on the transport of vesicles within cells has contributed to the development of microfluidic systems, which are miniature devices that allow the manipulation and control of small volumes of fluids. These systems have numerous applications in biotechnology, drug discovery, and diagnostics.

2. CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing tool: Schekman’s research on the mechanisms that regulate protein sorting and secretion in cells has led to the development of the CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing tool. This tool has revolutionized the field of genetic engineering and has enormous potential for treating genetic disorders and developing new therapies.

3. Protein engineering: Schekman’s work has also inspired advances in protein engineering, which is the manipulation of proteins to modify their properties or design new functions. Researchers have used his insights into the sorting and secretion of proteins to develop new methods for engineering proteins with improved stability, specificity, and activity.

4. Drug delivery: Schekman’s research on vesicle trafficking has also contributed to the development of new drug delivery systems. These systems use liposomes or other vesicles to encapsulate drugs and target them directly to specific cells or tissues, improving efficacy and reducing side effects.

Overall, Schekman’s contributions to the field of cell biology have had a profound impact on science and technology, inspiring numerous innovations and inventions that have the potential to revolutionize medicine, engineering, and other fields.