Joachim Seelig#


Joachim Seelig studied Chemistry and Physics at the University of Cologne where he received his Diploma (M.A.) in Physical Chemistry. He then worked in the group of Manfred Eigen, Göttingen, together with Gerhard Schwarz on the rate of the helix-coil transition of polypeptides in solution for his PhD. A post-doctoral stay with Harden McConnell at Stanford University introduced him to electron spin resonance and spin labeling methods and to the study of membranes.

After his post-doctoral stay he moved to the University of Basel, Switzerland, first to the Institute of Physical Chemistry and then to the Biozentrum where he is Professor of Structural Biology. He introduced deuterium and phosphorus solid state nuclear magnetic resonance to measure the detailed molecular arrangement of biological membranes. These data, obtained in part together with his wife Anna Seelig and with Georg Büldt (neutron diffraction of deuterated membranes) today form the gold standard against which theoretical models of membrane structure are calibrated.

In the mid-80s he became interested in in vivo magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy. In 1983 an animal MR tomograph was installed at the Biozentrum, and in 1987 a whole body MR facility was inaugurated.

Today, the Seelig group is active in both areas, that is, in vivo magnetic resonance as well as membrane structure-function research. In addition to magnetic resonance, new physical-chemical methods such as high sensitivity isothermal titration calorimetry, circular dichroism spectroscopy, and confocal microscopy have been added to understand the structural, thermodynamic, and kinetic properties of membranes and of lipid-protein interactions.

For his work, J. Seelig has received several prizes: Cloëtta-Prize (1987), Bijvoet-Medal (1991), Heinrich-Wieland Prize (1994), Applied Physical Chemistry Award (2000), Avanti Awards in Lipids (2005), Julian Sturtevant Award for Outstanding Contributions to Experimental Thermodynamics (2008). He was elected to the European Molecular Biology Organization (1983), the Academia Europea (1988) and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (2003). Prof. Seelig has served on the board of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF) and has been the Chairman of the SNF Division of Medicine and Biology. He initiated the Marie-Heim-Vögtlin-program of the SNF which encourages the re-entry of women into academic research. From 1995-1996 he was also Chairman of the Federation of the European Biochemical Society (FEBS), the representative body of 40,000 Biochemists in Europe. He was Chairman of the Biozentrum of the University of Basel in the periods 1997 -1999 and 200-2009. From 2004 to April 2006 he was Chairman of the Council of Scientists of the Human Frontier Science Program. At present, he is Chairman of the Swiss Foundation for Excellence and Talent in Biomedical Research.

Curriculum vitae#


Date of birth: March 29, 1942
Place of birth: Cologne, Germany
Nationality: German
Marital Status: married to Prof. Dr. Anna Seelig-Löffler, three children

Academic training and positions
  • 1961 - 1965 University of Cologne, studies in chemistry and physics
  • 1965 - 1966 Institute of Physical Chemistry (Prof. G. Schmid), University of Cologne, Master thesis on: "Electrical properties of bipolar membranes" Dipl. Chemiker
  • 1966 - 1968 Max-Planck-Institute of Physical Chemistry, Göttingen (Prof. M. Eigen) Ph.D. thesis on: "Dielectric relaxation as a consequence of the helix-coil transition in poly-*-benzylglutamate"; summa cum laude
  • 1968 - 1969 Research associate, Dept. of Chemistry, Stanford University, USA (Prof. H.M. McConnell)
  • 1970 - 1972 Research associate, Institute of Physical Chemistry, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland (Prof. G. Schwarz)
  • 1972 Assistant Professor in Biophysical Chemistry (Habilitation), University of Basel
  • 1972 Group leader, Biozentrum, University of Basel
  • 1974 Associate Professor, Department of Biophysical Chemistry, Biozentrum, University of Basel
  • 1982 Professor of Structural Biology, Biozentrum, University of Basel

Offered academic positions
  • 1972 Group leader, Max-Planck-Institute of Biophysics, Frankfurt, FRG
  • 1973 Full Professor in Experimental Physics, University of Ulm, FRG
  • 1981 Full Professor in Biophysics, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

Professional Societies
  • American Chemical Society
  • German Chemical Society
  • Swiss Chemical Society
  • Society of Biological Chemistry, FRG
  • Swiss Biochemical Society
  • Biophysical Society, USA
  • German Biophysical Society
  • Society of Magnetic Resonance in Medicine
  • Gesellschaft Deutscher Naturforscher und Aerzte

Editorial Boards
  • Hoppe-Seyler's Zeitschrift für Physiologische Chemie (1972-1986)
  • Biophysical Chemistry (1973-)
  • Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (1973-1996)
  • Zeitschrift für Naturforschung C (1978-)
  • Chemistry and Physics of Lipids (1978-)
  • BBA-Reviews on Biomembranes (1980-2002)
  • Biochemical Journal (1981-1985)
  • EMBO Journal (1986-1989)
  • NMR-Basic Principles and Progress (1986-1996), Editor
  • Biochemistry (1989-)
  • NMR in Biomedicine (1989-1997)
  • Magnetic Resonance in Medicine and Biology (1987-1992)
  • European Journal of Laboratory Medicine (1993-1996)
  • Quarterly of Magnetic Resonance in Medicine and Biology (1994-2000), Editor

Advisory Boards
  • 1973- Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, member of the advisory panel of various "Sonderforschungsbereiche" and "Schwerpunktsprogramme"
  • 1974-1994 Advisory Board, International Conferences on Magnetic Resonance in Biological Systems
  • 1976- Basel Chemical Society, Executive Board
  • 1979-1982 Membre du Comité de Direction du Laboratoire Associé au C.N.R.S., "Laboratoire de Chimie Organique des Substances Naturelles", Strasbourg
  • 1983-1995 Swiss Biochemical Society, Member of the Executive committee
  • 1989-2001 Swiss National Science Foundation, Member of Research Council
  • 1989-1992 Advisory Board, Department of Medical Research, University of Basel
  • 1990-1996 Advisory Board, Research Unit "Hypertonie und Diabetes", Bühlerhöhe, Baden-Baden, FRG
  • 1991- Institute of Biomembranes, University of Utrecht, NL, Member of the Scientific Advisory Board
  • 1994-1997 Swiss National Science Foundation, President of Division III, Medicine & Biology
  • 1995-1996 Chairman of the Federation of the European Biochemical Societies (FEBS)
  • 1995-1998 Member of FEBS Fellowship Committee
  • 1996-2008 Roche Research Foundation (Vice President 2004-2008)
  • 1996-2003 Bijvoet Graduate School, Utrecht University, Member of Advisory Board
  • 1997-1999 Biozentrum, Chairman
  • 1999-2008 HIRO (Heads of International Research Organisations), Member
  • 1998-2001 European Science Foundation, Medical Research Council, Member of Executive Committee
  • 2000-2008 Biozentrum, Chairman
  • 2002-2006 Human Frontier Science Program Organisation, Member of “Council of Scientists”
  • 2004-2006 Human Frontier Science Program Organisation, Chairman of “Council of Scientists”
  • 2006- Human Frontier Science Progam Publishing, Treasurer

Organisation of Courses, Conferences, etc.
  • 1974 7. International Conference on Magnetic Resonance in Biological Systems, Kandersteg, Switzerland, R. Ernst, J. Seelig, K. Wüthrich (chairman)
  • 1975 2. Schweizerische Informationstagung über Kernresonanz Basel, P. Diehl, H. Fritz, J. Seelig (chairman)
  • 1978-1979 President, Basel Chemical Society
  • 1980 EMBO/FEBS/SKMB Course on "Molecular Biology of Membranes" Basel, G. Schatz, J. Seelig
  • 1983 5th Swiss Symposium on NMR Spectroscopy, Basel
  • 1984 Medical Applications of Magnetic Resonance. International Conference on Magnetic Resonance, Imaging and In vivo Spectroscopy. Interlaken, Switzerland, J. Seelig (chairman), W. Aue, P. Jenni
  • 1985 2. Swiss Biophysics Meeting, Basel
  • 1985 3rd Joint Meeting of the Biochemical Societies of France, Germany and Switzerland, Basel, T. Bickle, J. Engel, J. Seelig (chairman), P. Walter
  • 1986 Organisation of the Symposium on "Biomembranes" 17. FEBS-Meeting, Berlin, Germany
  • 1986 12. International Conference on Magnetic Resonance in Biological Systems, Todtmoos, Germany, H. Rüterjans, J. Seelig
  • 1990 Organisation of the Symposium "New Routes of Membrane Transport" of the Joint Meeting of the Biochemical Societies of France, Germany, and Switzerland, Konstanz, FRG
  • 1995 23rd Meeting of the Federation of European Biochemical Societies, Basel, August 13-18, Chairman
  • 1998 Joint Swiss-Japanese Scientific Seminar "Formation of Membranes and Action of Membrane Molecules", Basel, June 16-17
  • 1999 EMBO Course on "In vivo Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Spectroscopy in Basic Research", Basel, October 11-16
  • 2000-2003 Borderline Personality Disorder Research Foundation (BPDRF), "Principal Investigator" for the Basel, Zürich, Freiburg (D) Program
  • 2002 BPDRF Annual Meeting, Basel, July 10-12, Organizer
  • 2004 SystemsX Symposium: Systems Biology Today and Tomorrow, Basel, June 29-30, H. Baltes, W. Gruissem, P. Herrling, R. Imhof, J. Seelig (Chairman)

Other activities
  • 1984-1999 Organization and head of the "MR-Zentrum der Universität Basel". (Clinical whole-body magnetic resonance instrument)
  • 1992 M. Rudin, J. Seelig, editors, In vivo Magnetic Resonance, Volumes I-III, Springer, New York, 1992
  • 2004- Stiftung zur Förderung der biologischen Forschung
  • 2008- Swiss Foundation for Excellence and Talent in Biomedical Research

Honors
  • 1978 Science Distinguished Lecturership of the Simon-Frazer University, Vancouver, Canada
  • 1983 Elected Member of the European Molecular Biology Organization
  • 1987 Cloëtta-Prize, Foundation Prof. M. Cloëtta, Zürich
  • 1988 Elected Member of the Academia Europaea
  • 1991 New Horizon Lecture, 72. Tagung der Deutschen Röntgengesellschaft
  • 1991 Bijvoet-Medal of the University of Utrecht, NL
  • 1992 Festvortrag, Jahreshauptversammlung der Gesellschaft der Aerzte in Wien
  • 1994 Heinrich-Wieland Preis, München
  • 2000 Applied Physical Chemistry Award 2000 of the European Society of Applied Physical Chemistry
  • 2003 Elected Member of the Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen (Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences)
  • 2005 Avanti Award in Lipids of the Biophysical Society (USA)
  • 2007 van Deenen Lecture, 48th International Conference on the Bioscience of Lipids, Turku, Finland
  • 2008 Julian Sturtevant Award for Outstanding Contributions to Experimental Thermodynamics, Applications in BioCalorimetry 6 (abc6) conference

Teaching Experience

Courses taught in: General Physical Chemistry; Optical Spectroscopy; Biophysics; Magnetic Resonance; Fluctuation Phenomena; Membrane Structure and Dynamics

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