Chalfie grew up in Chicago. He matriculated at Harverd University in 1965, intending to be a math major, but he switched to biochemistry because it combined his interests in chemistry, math, and biology. He spent the summer after his junior year working in the laboratory of Klaus Weberat Harvard, but "It was so disheartening to completely fail that I decided I shouldn't be in biology." As a result, in his senior year, he completed his major and took courses in law, theater, and Russian literature. He competed on the swim team, named captain for his senior year. At the time, swimming coach Bill Brooks said, "Marty will make an excellent captain because he has the admiration of the entire team." As captain, he won the Harold S. Ulen trophy, awarded "to a senior on the Harvard team who best demonstrates those qualities of leadership, sportsmanship, and team cooperation as exemplified by Harold S. Ulen." Following the Nobel award, his freshman-year roommate observed of Chalfie, “He would always identify himself as a swimmer.” After graduating in 1969, he worked at a variety of temporary jobs, such as selling dresses for his parents' dress manufacturing business in Chicago. In 1970 he taught at Hamden Hall Country Day School in Hamden, Connecticut. In the summer of 1971, his research at the laboratory of Jose Zadunaisky at Yale University resulted in his first publication. With revived confidence, he returned to Harvard for graduate studies under Robert Perlman, and received his Ph.D. in 1977. He conducted his postdoctoral research at theLMB withSidney Brenner andJohn Sulston , and the three published a paper in 1985 on "The Neural Circuit for Touch Sensitivity in C. Elegans ". Chalfie then left the LMB in 1982 to join the faculty ofColimbia University in the department of biological sciences and continued to studyC.Elegnans touch mutants. Chalfie was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2004. He slept through the phone call from the Nobel Prize Committee. When he woke up, he knew the prize would have been announced already, so he said "Okay, who's the schnook that got the Prize this time?" And so he opened up his laptop, got to the Nobel Prize site and found out that he was the schnook! ".