Dirk Trauner has been named a Penn Integrates Knowledge University Professor, effective July 1. The announcement was made today by University of Pennsylvania Interim President Wendell Pritchett and Interim Provost Beth Winkelstein.
Trauner, one of the world’s most innovative interdisciplinary chemists, will be the George A. Weiss University Professor, with joint appointments in the Department of Chemistry in the School of Arts & Sciences and the Department of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics in the Perelman School of Medicine.
“Dirk Trauner’s cutting-edge work in chemistry, physiology, and neuroscience epitomizes our Penn Integrates Knowledge initiative, which fosters collaboration and pathbreaking scholarship across schools and disciplines,” Pritchett said. “Dr. Trauner’s highly interdisciplinary research in chemical synthesis and its application to the fields of neuroscience and cell biology has yielded not only novel discoveries but holds promise for life-changing medical applications as well. We could not be more pleased to have him join our distinguished faculty.”
Trauner, currently the Janice Cutler Professor of Chemistry and adjunct professor of neuroscience and physiology at New York University, is a global leader in synthetic chemistry and physiology. His pioneering research in photopharmacology focuses on the use of light to control biological pathways, including the possibilities of restoring vision to the blind, targeting the delivery of drug therapies, and developing new directions in precision medicine. This work brings together synthetic chemistry with biology and neuroscience to innovate not only new scientific methods but also new therapies that can tangibly improve people’s lives around the world. Along similar lines, his lab employs advanced techniques of chemical synthesis to learn more about the origin, structure, and biological meaning of natural products.
Born in Austria, Trauner began his career in the United States as a postdoctoral fellow at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and taught at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Munich before joining NYU in 2017. He was elected a member of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina in 2017 and has received the Otto Bayer Award, the Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award of the American Chemical Society, the Emil Fischer Medal of the German Chemical Society, the Kitasato Microbial Chemistry Medal, and a National Science Foundation Career Award, among numerous other honors. He has been a visiting professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Chicago, and University of Zurich and delivered honorary lectures at Beijing University, Nankai University, the Israel Institute of Technology, Imperial College London, and the University of Oxford. He earned a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Vienna and an undergraduate degree in chemistry from the Free University of Berlin.
“Dirk Trauner will be a tremendous role model across our campus,” said Winkelstein. “His deeply cross-disciplinary work exemplifies the creativity and innovation of the most dynamic contemporary research. At the same time, it demonstrates Penn’s strong commitment to bring research innovations directly to practical applications, which continue to transform global health and medicine.”
The Penn Integrates Knowledge program was launched by former President Amy Gutmann in 2005 as a Universitywide initiative to recruit exceptional faculty members whose research and teaching exemplify the integration of knowledge across disciplines and who are appointed in at least two schools at Penn.
The George A. Weiss University Professorship is a gift of George A. Weiss, a 1965 graduate of the Wharton School. Weiss is an emeritus University trustee and an emeritus member of the Penn Medicine Board and the Athletics Board of Advisors. He is chief executive officer of Weiss Multi-Strategy Advisers LLC, a global asset management firm with a more than 40-year history.