Melitta Schachner

Melitta Schachner, Ph.D.
Distinguished Professor
New Jersey Professor of Spinal Cord Research
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Nervous system diseases, cellular adhesion molecules, L1

Dr. Melitta Schachner, New Jersey Professor of Spinal Cord Research and a research teaching professor at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, is a world-renowned pioneer in molecular and cellular neurobiology. Dr. Schachner received her Bachelor and Masters degrees from the University of Tuebingen, and a Doctorate in molecular biology from the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry, Munich, Germany after having support of a Fulbright stipend for her undergraduate studies in the US, and a summer student at the Institut de Biologie Physicochimique in Paris, France, with Francois Gros, and then the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, USA, with Max Delbrueck. She was awarded a post-doctoral fellowship by the German Research Foundation for work at Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.

During this period she was invited to become part of a leading research team at Sloan Kettering Institute in New York. She was an instructor and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and then became the first chair of neurobiology in Germany at the University of Heidelberg. She established a new department of neurobiology at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, Switzerland, and became its first chair. She then became chair of the Institute for Biosynthesis of Neural Structures at the Centre of Molecular Neurobiology at the University of Hamburg, Germany. In 2004, Dr. Schachner became the first recipient of a named chair awarded by the New Jersey Commission on Spinal Cord Research. In 2015 the University of Heidelberg in Germany awarded an Honorary Degree to Dr. Schachner. This was the first such honor presented in fifty years. Dr. Schachner is ranked third most prominent in life and chemistry scientists by Wiley China.

Dr. Schachner discovered several seminal adhesion molecules important in the development of the nervous system, such as L1, CHL1 and the tenascins. She was among the first to recognize the importance of the functions of carbohydrates in cell recognition, being able to fine tune cell interactions in the nervous system. One of many outstanding achievements was the discovery of signal transduction mechanisms mediated by recognition molecules at the cell surface. Another important achievement was the finding that recognition molecules are important not only for nervous system development, but also are instrumental in regeneration after nervous system lesions and in shaping the activity of synapses. She was first to generate a knockout mutant for a neural recognition molecule, the P0 immunoglobulin-superfamily member involved in myelination in the peripheral nervous system. This study was seminal for the investigation of nervous system diseases.

A prolific researcher and writer, Dr. Schachner has published more than 700 articles in highly regarded journals. She has served on many academic and research boards. She is regarded internationally as one of the most successful women in neuroscience and is among the hundred most cited neuroscientists in the world. Her Hirsch-factor in August 2014 was 104.

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