Andrew Chess received a B.S. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he studied biology and conducted research in Richard Mulligan’s lab. He then went to the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons for his M.D. degree. During medical school, he also did research in Richard Axel’s lab and continued there for his postdoctoral work. Chess’ first faculty position was at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and the MIT Department of Biology. He then moved to Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. In 2010 he moved with his wife, psychiatrist and neuroscientist Pamela Sklar, to Mount Sinai.
During his postdoctoral work, and continuing in his own lab, Chess made a number of discoveries in the olfactory systems of catfish, mice and Drosophila. His lab’s work has been central in revealing that autosomal random monoallelic expression extends well beyond the allelic exclusion of T cell receptor and immunoglobulin genes, and is in fact a phenomenon that may influence up to 10 percent of the genome and may be an important determinant of adult phenotypes.
The Chess lab has studied DNA methylation, a crucial mode of epigenetic regulation important for normal development and tissue. For example, the lab was the first to demonstrate that gene-body methylation plays a role in gene regulation in animals. They also showed that genetic polymorphisms influence DNA methylation in cis, a potential mechanism for connecting genotypic diversity to phenotypic diversity. Studying alternative splicing of DSCAM in individual Drosophila neurons, they were the first to propose and provide evidence for the idea that alternative splicing can provide neurons with unique molecular identities.