David Hirsh is a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics in the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, where he also served as department chairman from 1990 until 2003. In addition, during 2001 and 2002, he served as interim dean for research at the College of Physicians and Surgeons. In 2003, he was appointed Columbia University’s first executive vice president for research and served in that capacity until 2011. He currently serves as the chairman of the board of the New York Structural Biology Center.
After receiving a B.A. from Reed College, he earned a Ph.D. from the Rockefeller University in 1968. From 1968 to 1971, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Medical Research Council, Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England. He was a member of the faculty of the University of Colorado from 1971 to 1985.
His scientific research has been in the areas of nucleic acid structure and function and gene activity during early development of C. elegans. His lab studied the maternal and zygotic genes essential for early development as well as stochastic versus programmed determination of cell fates. They developed the first methods for DNA transformation of C. elegans and also studied RNA processing and unusual patterns of splicing (i.e., trans-splicing). More recently, they turned their attention to studies of the mammalian regulation of cytokines in the inflammatory response during infection and disease.