UC Berkeley Professor, 48, Suddenly Dies While Hiking 💉

Chemistry Professor Phillip L. Geissler died while on a hike in Utah’s Canyonlands National Park.

According to his brother, he had been attending a conference in Salt Lake City and had left early to get a hike in before heading back to Berkeley where he lives and teaches.

Phillip “Phill” Geissler was born in Ithaca, New York, in 1974. He received a B.A. in Chemistry from Cornell University in 1996, and his Ph.D. in Chemistry in 2000 under the direction of David Chandler at U.C. Berkeley. He was a postdoctoral scholar at Harvard University in 2001, working with Eugene Shakhnovich, and a Science Fellow at MIT 2002-2003. He returned to UC Berkeley in 2003 to join the chemistry faculty, and in 2012 was promoted to professor with tenure. He is also a faculty scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He received a UC Berkeley Distinguished Teaching Award in 2011 and was known for playing the guitar in class.

Did the professor receive an injection of synthetic mRNA?

The UC system’s current COVID-19 vaccination policy requires faculty, staff and students to obtain a booster shot as soon as they are eligible after the orginal vaccine series.

Students are reminded that compliance with the vaccination policy is a condition of being physically on campus. Faculty and staff are reminded that compliance is a condition of employment.


His research concerned the microscopic behavior of complex biological and material systems. Using the tools and concepts of statistical mechanics, he developed theories and simplified models for chemical phenomena in condensed phases, for biomolecular structure and dynamics, and for the role of fluctuations in nanoscale materials. He also used and devised techniques of modern computer simulation to investigate such systems on molecular length scales. He interacted closely with experimental research groups both to inspire and to be inspired by state-of-the-art studies of real physical systems. Among his interests were the elasticity of disordered networks of semiflexible polymers. Specifically, he was constructing models for the polymeric framework of living cells, which can exhibit dramatic dynamical restructuring. Explaining the microscopic origins of this sensitive response is an essential step in understanding mechanical aspects of cell signaling. A second interest was the dynamics of nanometer-sized solutes in a liquid undergoing phase change. He aimed to determine how nonequilibrium fluctuations in such a system can be exploited to guide the spontaneous formation of useful patterned assemblies.

RIP PLG (1974-2022)