Biochemistry faculty profile – Professor Samuel Butcher

Sam Butcher.
Professor Samuel Butcher.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school?

I grew up in southern California near Huntington Beach where I spent a lot of time in the ocean. I went to UC Davis. After graduating I worked as a technician for Gilead Sciences and after that I decided I wanted to live in Burlington, Vermont so I did my PhD at UVM.

Where did you carry out your postdoctoral research?


As a child, who was your biggest influence?

My grandfather, who worked on box cars for the Santa Fe railroad in Chicago

Why did you decide to study science?

Because science is the coolest thing.

Why did you come to Madison? When?

I’m somehow drawn to liberal towns in Dairy states. I arrived in 2000.

What do you like most about being a professor?

Teaching and seeing an RNA or RNP structure that no one has ever seen before.

What is the focus of your research?

Structural biology of RNA and RNPs that regulate gene expression.

What do you consider your major accomplishments?

Elucidating the structures of the U6 snRNP, Lsm RNA binding proteins, HIV frameshift site RNA, and others. Being on the leadership team for NMRFAM. I feel privileged to interact with a lot of great people.

What advice would you provide to a new assistant professor who is just starting his/her career?

Interact as much as you can with people who share similar interests and have complementary expertise. For me, it’s been Dave Brow, Marv Wickens, Aaron Hoskins, the NMRFAM team, and many others.

When you are not working, what do you like to do? What is your favorite place in Madison?

Bicycling. My favorite places in Madison are the bicycle paths.

If I Weren’t A Professor…

I would be a gardener.

Favorite Books

It changes every couple of weeks, but currently it is the “The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World” by the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, because I wanted something positive right now.

Nobody Knows I…

Rode a bicycle across Alaska.