The Vilcek Foundation congratulates biophysicist Ibrahim Cissé on his receipt of a 2021 MacArthur Fellowship. Awarded by the MacArthur Foundation, the fellowships are awarded ‘to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.’ Fellows receive an unrestricted fellowship award of $625,000.
The Scientific Education of Ibrahim Cissé
Cissé immigrated to the United States from the Republic of Niger as an adolescent to pursue higher education. Fascinated by the sciences and the thrill of bench science and experimentation, he began his undergraduate career at North Carolina Central University, where he studied physics, before going on to pursue his PhD at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and postdoctoral studies at the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris, France.
A Bi-coastal Professor
Following his postdoctoral work, Cissé undertook teaching and research leadership positions at the Whitehead Institute of Biomedical Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). He was recently appointed director of the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics (MPI-IE) in Freiburg, Germany.
Research Leadership in Biophysics
Cissé and his research team investigate the behavior of individual molecules in living cells—particularly their behavior during gene transcription, a central biological process in which RNA decodes DNA to mRNA to make proteins. Cissé calls on a deep understanding of conceptual physics to shed light on the biophysical principles that regulate these genomic processes.
“Ibrahim Cissé is one of a number of young scientists whose deep understanding of behavioral and particle physics is revolutionizing the processes by which biomedical researchers are able to observe and understand the behavior of biomolecules in living cells,” says Jan Vilcek, chairman and CEO of the Vilcek Foundation. “I am delighted at Ibrahim’s success thus far, and look forward to his future achievements as the director of the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics, and as a MacArthur Fellow.”
The Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise
Cissé is the recipient of a 2021 Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Biomedical Science. Awarded annually, the Creative Promise Prizes recognize young immigrant scientists who have demonstrated outstanding accomplishments in their early careers. Recipients of the Vilcek Prizes for Creative Promise receive an unrestricted cash award of $50,000 and are honored in an annual ceremony by the Vilcek Foundation.