David R. Walt is the Robinson Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Tufts University and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor. His laboratory is renowned for its pioneering work that applies micro- and nano-technology to urgent biological problems such as the analysis of genetic variation and the behavior of single cells, single molecule detection, as well as the practical application of arrays for diagnostics and the detection of explosives, chemical and biological warfare agents, and food and waterborne pathogens. He is a member of the US National Academy of Engineering, a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Walt is the Founding Scientist of Illumina, Inc. and has been a Director and Chairman of its Scientific Advisory Board since 1998. He is also the Founding Scientist of Quanterix Corporation and is a Director and Chairman of its Scientific Advisory Board since 2007. Dr. Walt serves on many government advisory panels and boards and serves on the editorial advisory board for numerous journals. He is a member of the Board on Chemical Sciences and Technology of the National Academy of Sciences and the Defense Sciences Research Council. From 1996 to 2003, he served as the Executive Editor of Applied Biochemistry and Biotechnology. He has published over 250 papers and holds over 60 patents. He has received numerous national and international awards and honors for his fundamental and applied work in the field of optical sensors and arrays including the American Chemical Society's 2010 National Award for Creative Invention. He received a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Michigan and a Ph.D. in Chemical Biology from SUNY at Stony Brook. He then did postdoctoral work with George Whitesides at Harvard, before starting his academic career at Tufts in 1981.
Walt is a recognized leader in the scientific community for his work on sensors in general and optical sensors in particular. Trained as an organic chemist, Walt brings a refreshing perspective with enormous creativity to the sensor field. He was one of the first researchers to work in the field of optical sensors in the early 1980s. His pioneering research has led to the elucidation of both fundamental principles as well as important applications of sensors. Walt reported the first use of imaging fibers for sensing, a field that turned out to define his career. He demonstrated that an optical imaging fiber could be modified with different chemistries to enable multi-analyte sensing in a unitary sensor format. By polymerizing different sensing spots on the end of an imaging optical fiber bundle, the Walt laboratory took the field of sensor arrays in an entirely new direction. A pair of papers published in Science reported a revolutionary sensor approach coined "random arrays." This idea is clearly Walt's most significant accomplishment, and has several levels of innovation. He reported the use of optical fiber arrays as a substrate for chemical sensors, demonstrated that the cores of these arrays could be preferentially etched relative to the cladding to create microwells, showed that microspheres could be inserted into each microwell, and that encoded beads could be used to assemble random arrays. These discoveries revolutionized the sensor array field.
Originally published at chemistry.nd.edu.