UniversityFrauke Melchior Becomes New Rector of Universität Heidelberg

Press Release No. 26/2023
9 March 2023

Senate and University Council elected the molecular biologist to head Ruperto Carola

Heading Heidelberg University in future will be molecular biologist Prof. Dr Frauke Melchior: the Senate and University Council elected the 60-year-old scientist as Rector of Ruperto Carola. The two bodies met jointly on 9 March 2023 for the election. Frauke Melchior has been a member of the Board of Directors of the research centre Forschungszentrum Jülich since 2021; for that purpose, she was granted leave of absence from her professorship at the Center for Molecular Biology of Heidelberg University (ZMBH). She will take up her new office as of 1 October this year. The appointment for a term of six years will be made by the state premier of Baden-Württemberg.

In response to her election, Prof. Melchior said: “I am thrilled at this election as Heidelberg University has always been a very special place for me. Top-level research and teaching thrive here in a very livable, international environment. Here we have outstanding interaction with many non-university partners and here we are firmly rooted in the city and the region. Above all, however, I am grateful for the great trust that the members of the Senate and the University Council have shown me and I look forward to good cooperation as we continue to develop our alma mater.”

Frauke Melchior studied chemistry at the University of Marburg and the University of Bristol (United Kingdom) and in 1990 earned her doctorate in Marburg on a biochemical topic. As a postdoctoral researcher in the field of molecular cell biology she first worked at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen and from 1992 at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla (USA). There she studied protein sorting in human cells and discovered what is called the SUMO protein denoting a mechanism of post-translational protein modification which became a focus of her scientific work. In 1998 the scientist started the first research group of her own at another Max Planck Institute, the MPI of Biochemistry in Martinsried near Munich. Six years later she accepted a professorship for biochemistry in the field of human medicine at the University of Göttingen.

In 2008 Prof. Melchior was appointed to the Faculty of Biosciences at Heidelberg University in order to continue her research as Professor for Molecular Biology at the ZMBH. As of April 2021 she transferred to Forschungszentrum Jülich, which is one of the research centres in the Helmholtz Association, as a member of the Board of Directors. There Prof. Melchior is responsible for Scientific Division III – Life Sciences. Frauke Melchior has served in various specialist societies and bodies. For instance, she was a member of the Senate of the German Research Foundation from 2012 to 2016 and since 2014 has been a member of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina.

The present incumbent, Prof. Dr Bernhard Eitel, congratulated his successor designate, wishing her good luck in handling the upcoming responsibilities and many enthusiastic team-members. Prof. Eitel: “It will certainly be a special challenge to develop the future priorities in the excellence strategy in cooperation with your colleagues and to establish them widely in the university.” The geographer has been Rector of Ruperto Carola since October 2007. After being re-elected twice, Prof. Eitel announced in May last year that he would end his third term of office prematurely, on 30 September 2023.

The future Rector of Heidelberg University, Prof. Dr Frauke Melchior, with the present incumbent Prof. Dr Bernhard Eitel (right) and Prof. Dr Hanns-Peter Knaebel, Chairman of the University Council.