As a Harvard undergraduate, David Eisenberg studied with Professor John T. Edsall, one of the pioneers of protein chemistry, who oriented his life’s work. As a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, Eisenberg earned a DPhil in theoretical chemistry for study with Professor Charles Coulson on hydrogen bonding in ice. Returning to the United States, Eisenberg worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton with Professor Walter Kauzmann, the discoverer of the hydrophobic interaction. Together they wrote a monograph, The Structure and Properties of Water, still in print after 51 years. In a second postdoctoral fellowship at the California Institute of Technology, Eisenberg learned X-ray crystallography from Professor Richard Dickerson (who later joined the UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry faculty in 1981). Since 1969, Eisenberg has been on the faculty of UCLA, now as the Paul D. Boyer Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and as Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Beginning in 1999, Eisenberg concentrated on studies of prions and proteins in the amyloid state.
Eisenberg is a member of several scholarly societies, including the US National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, and the American Philosophical Society. He has received the Harvard Westheimer Medal, the UCLA Seaborg Medal, the Harvey International Prize in Human Health, the Bert and Natalie Vallee Award in Biomedical Science, the 2020 Passano Award and is an honorary fellow of Queen’s College, Oxford.