Zachary Knight

Assistant Professor, Department of Physiology

PhD, Chemistry & Chemical Biology, UCSF
BA, Chemistry, Princeton University

Zack is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physiology and a member of the Kavli Institute for Fundamental Neuroscience at UCSF. His laboratory investigates the neurobiology of homeostasis, especially the neural mechanisms that govern hunger, thirst, and thermoregulation.



Zachary Knight received his BA in Chemistry from Princeton University in 1999. As an undergraduate, he developed novel chemical approaches for mapping protein phosphorylation dynamics. He then continued his chemistry training at the University of California, San Francisco, where he received a PhD in Chemistry and Chemical Biology in 2006. As a graduate student in the laboratory of Kevan Shokat, Zachary discovered some of the first selective small molecule inhibitors of PI3-kinase and mTOR, two signaling enzymes critical for metabolism and cancer. In 2007, Zachary co-founded Intellikine in order to develop these compounds as drugs for the treatment of cancer, and several compounds from this effort are currently being evaluated in clinical trials.

After receiving his PhD, Zachary decided to switch fields from chemistry to physiology and pursued postdoctoral research in the laboratory of Jeffrey Friedman at the Rockefeller University. As a postdoctoral fellow, Zachary developed new technologies for the molecular identification of neurons in the mouse brain that have specific activity patterns or connectivity. He then used these tools to identify new populations of neurons involved in feeding and other aspects of physiologic homeostasis.

In 2012, Zachary returned to UCSF to start his independent lab in the Department of Physiology. His work has been recognized by a number of awards, including being named a Robertson Investigator of the New York Stem Cell Foundation; a Rita Allen Scholar; a Pathway Awardee of the American Diabetes Association; and a fellow of the Klingenstein, McKnight, Sloan, and Brain and Behavior Research Foundations. He has received the Pathway to Independence and New Innovator Awards from the National Institutes of Health, and, most recently, was recognized with the 2016 Helmholtz Young Investigator in Diabetes Award.