Prof. Harmit Singh Malik
B.Tech., 1993, Chemical Engineering

Prof. Harmit Singh Malik is Professor and co-Associate Director in the Division of Basic Sciences and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. He earned his B. Tech. degree in Chemical Engineering from IIT Bombay in 1993 and Ph.D. degree in Biology from the University of Rochester in 1999. Prof. Mallik then moved to Seattle to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (the “Hutch”), to do his postdoc.

After his postdoc in 2003, Prof. Mallik started his own lab at the Hutch, where he has been ever since. Prof. Malik studies the causes and consequences of genetic conflicts that take place between different genomes (e.g., host-virus interactions) or between components of the same genome (e.g., chromosomal competition) from the perspective of both evolutionary biology and human disease. He uses an evolutionary lens to dissect and discover both host as well as viral adaptation strategies. His lab has been able to describe functional outcomes of ancient host-virus arms races by resurrecting host and viral proteins from the evolutionary record. By taking advantage of viral fossils in animal genomes and ancient host gene adaptation, he established found the field of ‘Paleovirology’. He also studies unexpected rapid evolution in genes involved in essential cellular processes such as chromosome segregation. His lab showed that unusual genetic conflicts during meiosis drive the unexpectedly rapid evolution of centromeric DNA and proteins, which in turn may drive speciation, or postzygotic reproductive isolation between recently diverged species. Prof. Mallik was elected and served as President of the international Society of Molecular Biology and Evolution (SMBE) in 2021.

Prof. Mallik received the 2008 Presidential Early Career Award for Science and Engineering (PECASE) from President Obama, the 2010 Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise for immigrant scientists, the 2017 Eli Lilly Prize in Microbiology from the American Society of Microbiology, the 2022 Novitski Prize from the Genetics Society of America, and the 2022 SASTRA-Obaid Siddiqi award. He was selected as an HHMI Investigator in 2013 and elected to the American Academy of Microbiology, and the US National Academy of Sciences in 2019.

Special Memories

"I have very fond memories of hostel and academic life at IIT Bombay, where I made lifelong friends, who are all brilliant in their own specialties. I was heavily involved in extra-curricular activities. I was the Literary Secretary of Hostel 4 (elected the Best Office Bearer), Cultural Nominee of the Institute, an organizer for Mood Indigo, and unsuccessful scriptwriter/director for many unsuccessful PAF (Performing Arts Festival) competitions. I am also grateful to Prof. Shankar and Prof. Rao for easing my career path from chemical engineering to molecular biology".