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Ralph Kleiner Promoted to Associate Professor with Tenure

Announcements- - By Wendy Plump
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Ralph Kleiner, a chemical biologist who studies the function and regulation of cellular RNA, has been promoted to associate professor with tenure in the Department of Chemistry.

The promotion takes effect on July 1, 2024. It was approved by the Princeton University Board of Trustees at their meeting this week.


Associate Professor of Chemistry Ralph Kleiner.

Photo by the Department of Chemistry

“I was very excited to receive this vote of confidence in my research program from the Department and from the University, and to be fully embraced as a member of the community,” said Kleiner. “There aren’t that many days in your life when you get that kind of news, so I was incredibly excited.

“It made me think about all of the individual contributions that made this possible – the papers along the way, the thesis defenses, the research advances and discoveries that my lab made,” Kleiner added. “In chemistry and in the natural sciences, nobody succeeds on their own. I’ve been really fortunate to have an incredible group of co-workers and students over the years.”

Speaking at a gathering honoring the occasion, Department Chair Paul Chirik said, “This is really a momentous day for our department. Congratulations on your promotion to associate professor, Ralph. It speaks to your accomplishments as a scientist and as a colleague. But it’s extra special for us because you started as an undergraduate in Michael Hecht’s lab.” (Hecht has been a professor of chemistry at Princeton since 1990.)

“It’s also important to mention that, with all the senior hiring we’re doing, our department is a great place to hire junior people and mentor them and then see them through this process to promotion,” Chirik added. “Hopefully this is inspiring to all our junior faculty, too.”

Kleiner’s lab focuses on investigating the post-transcriptional regulation of RNA function by interactions with RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) and chemical “epitranscriptomic” modifications to the canonical nucleotides. Additionally, he has developed broadly applicable chemical tools for measuring cellular RNA synthesis and turnover, localization, and structure. All projects involve a mix of chemical and biological methods and span in vitro and cellular/organismal systems.

Kleiner’s undergraduate adviser at Princeton Chemistry, Professor of Chemistry Michael Hecht (left), with Kleiner at a congratulatory gathering earlier this month.

Photo by Wendy Plump

To pursue this work, Kleiner has developed strong, cross-disciplinary relationships with faculty through the Omenn-Darling Bioengineering Institute, Ludwig Princeton Branch, and Princeton Catalysis Initiative.

Kleiner grew up in Syracuse, New York, the son of an adjunct mathematics professor at Le Moyne College and a mathematics professor at Syracuse University. “My family played an important role in shaping my career trajectory. Growing up, I understood what it meant to have tenure, and felt that the academic life was something to aspire to. My interest in chemistry was initially sparked by my older brother, who was the first chemistry major in our family before going on to pursue a career in medicine,” said Kleiner.

Kleiner earned his A.B. in chemistry cum laude from Princeton University in 2005 under the advisement of Hecht, where he did research on the de novo design of 4-helix bundle proteins. He completed his Ph.D. in chemistry at Harvard University under David Liu, and did his postdoctoral work as a Damon Runyon Postdoctoral Fellow with Tarun Kapoor at The Rockefeller University.

Kleiner began his appointment as assistant professor at Princeton Chemistry in 2016.

He is a recipient of the Damon Runyon Dale F. Frey Award for Breakthrough Scientists, the Sidney Kimmel Foundation Scholar Award, an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Research Fellowship, the National Science Foundation CAREER Award, and the ICBS Young Chemical Biologist Award.

Kleiner lives in Princeton with his wife and their two sons.