Dirk Trauner


Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor of Chemistry & Pharmacology


4001 IAST


Dirk Trauner was born and raised in Linz, Austria, studied biology and chemistry at the University of Vienna, and received his undergraduate degree in chemistry from the Free University, Berlin. He then pursued graduate studies in chemistry under the direction of Prof. Johann Mulzer, with whom he moved to the University of Frankfurt and then back to Vienna where he obtained his Ph.D. Following a glorious stint in the Austrian Army, he became a postdoctoral fellow with Prof. Samuel J. Danishefsky at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. After two great years in New York City, Dr. Trauner joined the Department of Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, where he rose through the ranks to become an Associate Professor of chemistry (with tenure) and a member of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. In 2008, he moved to the University of Munich as a Prfesser of Chemistry and Chemical Genetics. In the Spring of 2017 he returned to the United States as the Janice Cutler Chair in Chemistry at New York University (Department of Chemistry). He is also an Adjunct Professor of Neuroscience at the NYU Langone School of Medicine, a member of the Neuroscience Institute and of the Perlmutter Cancer Center.

The broad objective of Prof. Trauner’s research is to demonstrate the awesome power of chemical synthesis with challenging target molecules and to use it toward the establishment of synthetic biological pathways. He is well known for his pioneering contributions to Optogenetics and Photopharmacology, using synthetic photoswitches to confer light-sensitivity to a broad range of targets. The chemical tools he developed are particularly useful in neuroscience and cell biology but also hold promise as precision therapeutics. Despite his extensive forays into biology and physiology Dr. Trauner remains an organic chemist at heart, as evidenced by the synthesis (and anticipation) of more than one hundred twenty natural products.

Dirk Trauner has been awarded a 2021 ACS Cope Scholar Award, the 2016 Emil Fischer Medal, and the 2016 Otto Bayer Award. He is a Member of the German National Academy of Sciences, Leopoldina, a Corresponding Member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry. Dirk is also the recipient of the Kitasato Medal, the Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship, an ERC Advanced Grant, and the Austrian Chemical Society Award for the best thesis in 1997. He sits on the editorial board of Organic Sytheses, the editorial advisory board of ACS Central ScienceACS Chemical NeuroscienceCell Chemical Biology, and Chem. His students have taken positions at many leading pharmaceutical companies and universities.

In his spare time, Dirk laments the fact that he did not become a great architect.


June 1998 - June 2000 Postdoctoral Research Fellow with Prof. S.J. Danishefsky, Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research, New York City.

October 1997 Ph.D. (“Summa Cum Laude”). University of Vienna, Austria.

October 1996 - September 1997 Graduate research with Prof. J. Mulzer at the University of Vienna, Austria. Employment as Universitätsassistent.

October 1995 - September 1996 Graduate research with Prof. J. Mulzer at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe Universität, Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Employment as “Universitätsassistent”.

February 1995 Diplom (“Mit Auszeichnung”), Free University Berlin, Germany.

January 1994 - September 1995 Undergraduate research ("Diplomarbeit") and graduate research in Prof. Mulzer's group at the Free University Berlin, Germany. Employment as “Universitätsassistent”.

January 1992 - September 1995 Studied chemistry at the Free University Berlin, Germany.

October 1988 - October 1991 Studied biochemistry at the University of Vienna, Austria.

October 1986 - October 1988 Studied biology at the University of Vienna, Austria.


Department of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania