Robert L. Judson-Torres, PhD


Lab Website


  • English

Academic Information

  • Departments: Dermatology - Assistant Professor, Oncological Sciences - Adjunct Assistant Professor

Academic Bio

Academic Bio: Dr. Robert Judson-Torres received his Ph.D. from the University of California, San Francisco in Biomedical Sciences in 2012 for his discovery and mechanistic dissection of microRNAs that mediate somatic cell reprogramming. He was subsequently awarded the NIH Director’s Early Independence Award. He initiated an independent research program as a Sandler Fellow in the UCSF Program for Breakthrough Biomedical Research.

From 2014-2019, Dr. Judson-Torres headed his research group at the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center. He pioneered the use of CRISPR/Cas9 engineering in primary human melanocytes as a model system for melanoma initiation and focused on identifying the transcriptional programs that precede tumorigenesis. In 2019, he joined the faculty of the Department of Dermatology and the Huntsman Cancer Institute of the University of Utah.

Research: Dr. Judson-Torres’ research program seeks to understand the dynamic transcriptional programs regulating human melanocytes and how disruptions to these programs permit or drive the early stages of melanoma development. Melanoma is a skin cancer that is curable if detected early, but usually fatal if left unchecked. Melanomas are derived from melanocytes that have acquired specific genetic mutations. However, the majority of melanocytes that acquire these exact mutations do not progress to melanoma. Both the intrinsic transcriptional and epigenetic programs as well as the external environmental and chemical factors that govern the probability of transformation are poorly understood. His laboratory studies diverse populations of primary human melanocytes and melanoma cell lines using single cell sequencing, live digital holographic imaging, and CRISPR/Cas9-based precision engineering. Translational aspects of his work include the identification of transcriptional programs as potential biomarkers for early melanoma diagnosis and the discovery of administered compounds that alter the probability of transformation.

Teaching: Dr. Judson-Torres serves as a mentor for students at all levels of education, from high school through post-doctoral and clinical fellows. In addition to training students in molecular, cell and translational research, he is also particularly interested in career development for graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. Dr. Judson-Torres is an avid believer that well-trained scientists should be professionally serving our communities in all aspects of organization, government, planning and education, in addition to academic and industrial research. As a student, he co-founded the still-thriving UCSF Student Science Policy group. As a Sandler Fellow, he served as a mentor in career planning for UCSF post-docs and graduate students through committees, panels, podcasts, and one-on-one mentorship. He hopes to bring a similar focus on career development to his new position as a University of Utah professor.

Service: Dr. Judson-Torres has served as co-founder and organizer of the UCSF Student Science Policy group. He was a member and instructor for the UCSF Career Development and Enrichment Programs, and a board member for the UCSF Graduate Division Alumni Association. He has organized two international symposia focused on expanding and standardizing practices in digital holographic cytometry.

Education History

Type School Degree
Fellowship University of California, San Francisco
Early Independence Fellow
Doctoral Training University of California, San Francisco
Biomedical Sciences
Fellowship National Institutes of Health
Postbaccalaureate Research Fellow
Undergraduate Wesleyan University
Molecular Biology and Biochemistry

Selected Publications

Journal Article

  1. Belote RL, Le D, Maynard A, Lang UE, Sinclair A, Lohman BK, Planells-Palop V, Baskin L, Tward AD, Darmanis S, Judson-Torres RL (2021). Human melanocyte development and melanoma dedifferentiation at single-cell resolution. (Epub ahead of print) Nat Cell Biol.
  2. Ma Y, Xia R, Ma X, Judson-Torres RL, Zeng H (2021). Mucosal Melanoma: Pathological Evolution, Pathway Dependency and Targeted Therapy. Front Oncol, 11, 702287.
  3. Deacon DC, Smith EA, Judson-Torres RL (2021). Molecular Biomarkers for Melanoma Screening, Diagnosis and Prognosis: Current State and Future Prospects. Front Med (Lausanne), 8, 642380.
  4. Tang J, Fewings E, Chang D, Zeng H, Liu S, Jorapur A, Belote RL, McNeal AS, Tan TM, Yeh I, Arron ST, Judson-Torres RL, Bastian BC, Shain AH (2020). The genomic landscapes of individual melanocytes from human skin. Nature, 586(7830), 600-605.
  5. Grossman D, Okwundu N, Bartlett EK, Marchetti MA, Othus M, Coit DG, Hartman RI, Leachman SA, Berry EG, Korde L, Lee SJ, Bar-Eli M, Berwick M, Bowles T, Buchbinder EI, Burton EM, Chu EY, Curiel-Lewandrowski C, Curtis JA, Daud A, Deacon DC, Ferris LK, Gershenwald JE, Grossmann KF, Hu-Lieskovan S, Hyngstrom J, Jeter JM, Judson-Torres RL, Kendra KL, Kim CC, Kirkwood JM, Lawson DH, Leming PD, Long GV, Marghoob AA, Mehnert JM, Ming ME, Nelson KC, Polsky D, Scolyer RA, Smith EA, Sondak VK, Stark MS, Stein JA, Thompson JA, Thompson JF, Venna SS, Wei ML, Swetter SM (2020). Prognostic Gene Expression Profiling in Cutaneous Melanoma: Identifying the Knowledge Gaps and Assessing the Clinical Benefit. JAMA Dermatol, 156(9), 1004-1011.
  6. Lang UE, Torres R, Cheung C, Vladar EK, McCalmont TH, Kim J, Judson-Torres RL (2020). Ciliation Index Is a Useful Diagnostic Tool in Challenging Spitzoid Melanocytic Neoplasms. J Invest Dermatol, 140(7), 1401-1409.e2.
  7. Zeng H, Judson-Torres RL, Shain AH (2019). The Evolution of Melanoma - Moving beyond Binary Models of Genetic Progression. J Invest Dermatol, 140(2), 291-297.
  8. Torres R, Lang UE, Hejna M, Shelton SJ, Joseph NM, Shain AH, Yeh I, Wei ML, Oldham MC, Bastian BC, Judson-Torres RL (2019). MicroRNA Ratios Distinguish Melanomas from Nevi. J Invest Dermatol, 140(1), 164-173.e7.
  9. Torres R, Judson-Torres RL (2019). Research Techniques Made Simple: Feature Selection for Biomarker Discovery. J Invest Dermatol, 139(10), 2068-2074.e1.
  10. Zhang Y, Judson RL (2018). Evaluation of holographic imaging cytometer holomonitor M4® motility applications. Cytometry A, 93(11), 1125-1131.


  1. Tang J, Fewings E, Chang D, Zeng H, Liu S, Jorapur A, Belote RL, McNeal AS, Tan TM, Yeh I, Arron ST, Judson-Torres RL, Bastian BC, Shain AH (2021). Publisher Correction: The genomic landscapes of individual melanocytes from human skin. Nature (590(7844), pp. E20). England.