Prof. Dr. Frauke Melchior
Member of the Board of Directors for Scientific Division III
Frauke Melchior (born 1962) joined the Board of Directors on 1 April 2021. In 2008, she became a professor for molecular biology at Heidelberg University’s Centre for Molecular Biology (ZMBH).
Melchior studied chemistry at Philipps-Universität Marburg and the University of Bristol, completing her doctorate in Marburg on a plant biochemistry topic. After an initial postdoc at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen, she worked as a postdoc at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla (USA) from 1992, where she investigated protein sorting in human cells and discovered the SUMO protein, which has since become the focus of her scientific work. In 1998, she started her own research group for the first time at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried near Munich. Six years later, she took over as chair of biochemistry in the field of human medicine at the University of Göttingen. In 2008, she made the switch to her professorship at ZMBH.
Melchior’s scientific career was shaped by her discovery of the SUMO protein as a postdoc at the Scripps Research Institute in California (USA), which she first described in 1997. SUMO stands for “small ubiquitin-related modifier”, a “small converter” that is related to the ubiquitin protein in the way it functions. She spent more than 20 years researching the mechanisms and consequences of linking intracellular proteins with SUMO.
In addition to her many years of successful research work in Germany and the USA, Melchior was also the spokesperson for the Göttingen collaborative research centre on “Protein and Membrane Transport between Cellular Compartments” (CRC 523) and deputy spokesperson for the Heidelberg University Cluster of Excellence “CellNetworks”. As a researcher, Melchior was also a member of the DFG Senate Committee on Research Training Groups and a member of the DFG Senate, as well as Vice Dean and Dean at Heidelberg University’s Faculty of Biosciences.
Her most prestigious achievements include receiving the “BioFuture” Young Investigator Award from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (1999), being elected as a member of the renowned European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) (2008), and being elected as a member of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina (2014). In 2018, she also received the FEBS | EMBO Women in Science Award.