Steven J. Altschuler, PhD

Steven J. Altschuler, PhD

Professor, Dept. of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, UCSF

Phone: (415) 502-3195
Box 2542
San Francisco, CA 94158

UCSF Profiles | Lab Website

Research Summary

I have over 20 years of experience performing research and developing advanced technologies. I bring to my biology research a blend of experimental science, engineering, and mathematics. In 1994, I left a mathematics faculty position at Princeton to join the fledgling Research Division at Microsoft. At Microsoft, I co-ran an advanced technology team (with Dr. Lani Wu) that worked on problems ranging from video compression, to data mining, to speech recognition. In 2000, I moved into biology. I was recruited by Rosetta Inpharmatics, where I developed new approaches for predicting gene function and mechanisms of drug perturbation. I moved to Harvard University in 2001 to immerse myself in the world of experimental biology, and then to UTSW in 2005 to establish my independent laboratory. In August of 2014, I moved my laboratory to UCSF as a Professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry.

Over the past decade, my laboratory has pioneered multiple approaches for quantifying and interpreting cellular heterogeneity. I have been fascinated by the functional consequences of cell individuality in normal and diseased tissues. I was stunned by the phenotypic diversity that can arise both within and across cancer clones from a single patent population and can be used to predict mechanisms of drug action. Traditionally, this phenotypic heterogeneity, whether arising from microenvironment, epigenetic, or genetic sources, has been viewed as an impediment to understanding and treating cancer. I was therefore very surprised by our ability to use quantitative measurements of heterogeneity to predict drug responses. Since uncovering these results, my lab has been focused on identifying which components of cell-to-cell differences are unimportant and which contain functional information. Currently, my lab’s research program focuses on understanding the dynamic responses of cancer cells to drugs, and identifying molecular bases for drug resistance.


University of Pennsylvania, BA, 1985, Mathematics
University of California, San Diego, MA, 1986, Mathematics
University of California, San Diego, PhD, 1990, Mathematics (Advisor: Richard Hamilton)

Professional Experience

  • 1990-1991
    Research Fellow, University of Minnesota, Institute for Mathematics and its Applications Minneapolis, MN.
  • 1991-1992
    Research Associate, Australian National University, Centre for Mathematics and its Applications, Canberra, Australia.
  • 1992-1993
    Research Fellow, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey.
  • 1993-1994
    Instructor, Mathematics Department, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey.
  • 1994-2000
    Group Manager and Senior Researcher, Microsoft Corporation, Redmond, WA.
  • 2001-2005
    Fellow, Bauer Center for Genomics Research, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.
  • 2000-2001
    Director Research, Informatics, Rosetta Inpharmatics, Kirkland, WA.
  • 2005-2009
    Assistant Professor, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX.
  • 2005-2014
    Associate Professor, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX.
  • 2014-present
    Professor, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA.

Honors & Awards

  • 1985
    B.A. Magna Cum Laude, Departmental Honors
  • 1989
    Alfred P. Sloan Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship
  • 1997
    AMS Profiled Industrial Mathematician of the Month
  • 2005
    UTSW endowed scholar: W. W. Caruth, Jr. Scholar in Biomedical Research
  • 2008
    Rita Allen Foundation Scholar: Milton E. Cassel Scholar

Selected Publications

  1. Zhang ER, Liu S, Wu LF, Altschuler SJ, Cobb MH. Chemoattractant concentration-dependent tuning of ERK signaling dynamics in migrating neutrophils. Sci Signal. 2016 Dec 13; 9(458):ra122.
    View on PubMed
  2. Coster AD, Thorne CA, Wu LF, Altschuler SJ. Examining crosstalk among Transforming Growth Factor ß, Bone Morphogen Protein, and Wnt pathways. J Biol Chem. 2016 Nov 28.
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  3. Deng Y, Altschuler SJ, Wu LF. PHOCOS: inferring multi-feature phenotypic crosstalk networks. Bioinformatics. 2016 Jun 15; 32(12):i44-i51.
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  4. Diz-Muñoz A, Thurley K, Chintamen S, Altschuler SJ, Wu LF, Fletcher DA, Weiner OD. Membrane Tension Acts Through PLD2 and mTORC2 to Limit Actin Network Assembly During Neutrophil Migration. PLoS Biol. 2016 Jun; 14(6):e1002474.
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  5. Ramirez M, Rajaram S, Steininger RJ, Osipchuk D, Roth MA, Morinishi LS, Evans L, Ji W, Hsu CH, Thurley K, Wei S, Zhou A, Koduru PR, Posner BA, Wu LF, Altschuler SJ. Diverse drug-resistance mechanisms can emerge from drug-tolerant cancer persister cells. Nat Commun. 2016; 7:10690.
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  6. Kang J, Hsu CH, Wu Q, Liu S, Coster AD, Posner BA, Altschuler SJ, Wu LF. Improving drug discovery with high-content phenotypic screens by systematic selection of reporter cell lines. Nat Biotechnol. 2016 Jan; 34(1):70-7.
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  7. Langen M, Agi E, Altschuler DJ, Wu LF, Altschuler SJ, Hiesinger PR. The Developmental Rules of Neural Superposition in Drosophila. Cell. 2015 Jul 2; 162(1):120-33.
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  8. Wu J, Pipathsouk A, Keizer-Gunnink A, Fusetti F, Alkema W, Liu S, Altschuler S, Wu L, Kortholt A, Weiner OD. Homer3 regulates the establishment of neutrophil polarity. Mol Biol Cell. 2015 May 1; 26(9):1629-39.
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  9. Steininger RJ, Rajaram S, Girard L, Minna JD, Wu LF, Altschuler SJ. On comparing heterogeneity across biomarkers. Cytometry A. 2015 Jun; 87(6):558-67.
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  10. Thorne CA, Wichaidit C, Coster AD, Posner BA, Wu LF, Altschuler SJ. GSK-3 modulates cellular responses to a broad spectrum of kinase inhibitors. Nat Chem Biol. 2015 Jan; 11(1):58-63.
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  11. Agi E, Langen M, Altschuler SJ, Wu LF, Zimmermann T, Hiesinger PR. The evolution and development of neural superposition. J Neurogenet. 2014 Sep-Dec; 28(3-4):216-32.
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  12. Coster AD, Wichaidit C, Rajaram S, Altschuler SJ, Wu LF. A simple image correction method for high-throughput microscopy. Nat Methods. 2014 Jun; 11(6):602.
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  13. Pavie B, Rajaram S, Ouyang A, Altschuler JM, Steininger RJ, Wu LF, Altschuler SJ. Rapid analysis and exploration of fluorescence microscopy images. J Vis Exp. 2014; (85).
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  14. Wang Y, Ku CJ, Zhang ER, Artyukhin AB, Weiner OD, Wu LF, Altschuler SJ. Identifying network motifs that buffer front-to-back signaling in polarized neutrophils. Cell Rep. 2013 May 30; 3(5):1607-16.
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  15. Zhang ER, Wu LF, Altschuler SJ. Envisioning migration: mathematics in both experimental analysis and modeling of cell behavior. Curr Opin Cell Biol. 2013 Oct; 25(5):538-42.
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  16. Altschuler D.J., Altschuler S.J., Angenent S.B., Wu L.F.. The Zoo of Solitons for Curve Shortening in Rn. Nonlinearity. 2013; 26(5):1189-1226.
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  17. Rajaram S, Pavie B, Hac NE, Altschuler SJ, Wu LF. SimuCell: a flexible framework for creating synthetic microscopy images. Nat Methods. 2012 Jul; 9(7):634-5.
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  18. Rajaram S, Pavie B, Wu LF, Altschuler SJ. PhenoRipper: software for rapidly profiling microscopy images. Nat Methods. 2012 Jul; 9(7):635-7.
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  19. Ku CJ, Wang Y, Weiner OD, Altschuler SJ, Wu LF. Network crosstalk dynamically changes during neutrophil polarization. Cell. 2012 May 25; 149(5):1073-83.
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  20. Orchard RC, Kittisopikul M, Altschuler SJ, Wu LF, Süel GM, Alto NM. Identification of F-actin as the dynamic hub in a microbial-induced GTPase polarity circuit. Cell. 2012 Feb 17; 148(4):803-15.
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