Virginia Cornish graduated summa cum laude from Columbia University with a B.A. in Biochemistry in 1991, where she did undergraduate research with Professor Ronald Breslow in the Chemistry Department. She then moved west to do research with Professor Peter Schultz in the Chemistry Department at the University of California at Berkeley as an NSF Predoctoral Fellow. In Professor Schultz’s laboratory she helped develop a new methodology for incorporating synthetic amino acids into proteins using the protein biosynthetic machinery. In 1996, she became an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow in the Biology Department at M.I.T. under the guidance of Professor Robert Sauer. At M.I.T. she initiated an independent project that formed the basis for research in her own laboratory at Columbia. Virginia joined the faculty of the Chemistry Department at Columbia in 1999, where she carries out research at the interface of chemistry and biology, and was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in 2004 and then Professor in 2007. Her laboratory brings together modern methods in synthetic chemistry and DNA technology to co-opt complex, living systems to carry out new functions, understanding the function of these complex biological systems by challenging their specificity at the molecular level. The three main research areas in her laboratory are (1) unnatural oligomer synthesis via the translational machinery; (2) chemical surrogates to GFP for live cell imaging; and (3) “chemical complementation” for the directed evolution of enzymes with new functions using the evolutionary power of the cell. Her research has been recognized by numerous awards including the Paul Dowd Lectureship, a Sloan Foundation Fellowship, a Beckman Young Investigator Award, and a NSF Career Award. In addition to her research and teaching, Virginia enjoys spending time with her husband and their two young children.