Eric T. Kool was born in Libertyville, Illinois in 1960, and carried out his undergraduate studies at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio on a Valedictorian Fellowship from the Ohio Board of Regents. He received a National Science Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship to pursue graduate studies at Columbia University, receiving his Ph.D. in 1988. Kool continued his training at Caltech as an NIH Postdoctoral Fellow. 1990 he joined the faculty at the University of Rochester, and was promoted to Associate Professor in 1995 and to Professor in 1997. He also held adjunct appointments in the Biochemistry and Biophysics Department and in the Oncology Division in the University of Rochester School of Medicine. In 1999 he moved his laboratory to Stanford, where he is the George and Hilda Daubert Professor of Chemistry.

Kool's research interests lie in the interdisciplinary fields of organic chemistry, chemical biology, and biophysics. His work is aimed at gaining basic understanding of interactions and mechanisms involving nucleic acids, and applying this understanding to the design of new functionally useful molecules. Among his most important contributions include the development of DNA base mimics called "nonpolar nucleoside isosteres"; with these, Kool showed for the first time that Watson and Crick's hydrogen bonds in DNA were not needed for replication of base pairs. This led to the rewriting of biochemistry textbooks. In biotechnology, Kool was one of the inventors of "rolling circle amplification" (RCA) and "rolling circle transcription" (RCT), which are isothermal DNA/RNA amplification methods widely used in the literature. Also important were Kool's early and ongoing developments in DNA-templated chemistry, a field that is now practiced in many labs worldwide; Kool was the first to demonstrate that such chemistry can be used in living cells for imaging RNAs. Very recently his laboratory achieved two important milestones in biomimetic chemistry as well: the first human-designed DNA base that functions in a living cell, and the first new genetic double helix (called "xDNA") in which all base pairs were designed.

Over 220 research publications to date describe Kool's work, and in twenty years he has presented more than 250 invited lectures in the United States and abroad. Kool has received numerous awards in recognition of his research, including the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship, the Young Investigator Award of the Office of Naval Research, the Army Research Office Young Investigator Award, the Beckman Young Investigator Award, and the Dreyfus Foundation Teacher-Scholar Award. More recently, he received the American Chemical Society's Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award, the Pfizer Award, also of the American Chemical Society, and was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Kool has trained more than 100 graduate students and postdoctoral researchers in his laboratory. A popular teacher in sophomore-level organic chemistry at Stanford, he was awarded the Humanities & Sciences Dean's Award for Distinguished Teaching.