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James Carothers

Faculty Photo

Chemical Engineering Department Interim Chair

Charles W. H. Matthaei Endowed Professor
Chemical Engineering

Adjunct Associate Professor


James is an Associate Professor and member of the Molecular Engineering & Sciences Institute (MolES) and Center for Synthetic Biology (CSB) at the University of Washington.

Previously, James was a postdoctoral fellow and research scientist with Jay D. Keasling at UC Berkeley and the DOE Joint BioEnergy Institute. There, he developed design-driven approaches to engineer RNA-based genetic control devices for programming quantitatively-predictable functions in synthetic biological systems. James was a graduate student at Harvard, where he earned a Ph.D. with Jack W. Szostak. As a graduate student, he used information theory, in vitro selection, RNA biochemisty and 3D solution NMR to show that there may be a fundamental, quantitative relationship between the informational complexities of molecular structures and the functional activities they can perform. James has a B.S. in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry from Yale. He has received the University of Washington Presidential Innovation Award and the Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship.

Outside the lab, he was a fellow of the Silicon Valley Startup Leadership Program (SLP), and enjoys backpacking, snowboarding, mountain biking, cooking BBQ ribs (native Tennessean), trail running with his adopted Boxer, and hiking with his son.


  • Ph.D., Harvard University, Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, 2005
  • B.S., Yale University, Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, 1998

Previous appointments

  • University of California, Berkeley, Jane Coffin Childs Research Fellow, 2006-2009

Research Statement

The Carothers Research Group integrates quantitative RNA device design, dynamic control system modeling, and CRISPR-Cas network engineering for applications in synthetic biology.  Our aims are to understand fundamental biological design principles and to engineer systems to meet demands for new sources of industrially- and medically-important chemicals and materials.

Honors & awards

  • UW College of Engineering Junior Faculty Award, 2016
  • Emerging Scholar, 2016, Diverse: Issues in Higher Education
  • UW Presidential Innovation Award, 2014
  • Sloan Research Fellow, Computational Molecular Biology, 2013, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation