A developmental geneticist and cell biologist, Ruth Lehmann studies the biology of the reproductive cells. Her research has illuminated how germ cells, the precursors of egg and sperm, control reproduction from generation to generation. Studying the germ cell lifecycle, she elucidated mechanisms of extra-chromosomal inheritance by focusing on how RNA and mitochondria in the egg cytoplasm are transmitted from the egg to the next generation and determined how germ cells attain their unique fate, how they differentiate into functional gametes and how they retain totipotency to protect the continuity of the species. Lehmann’s recent work proposed a mechanism through which harmful mutations in mitochondrial DNA are eliminated during oogenesis, which has implications for better understanding the transmission of human mitochondrial disorders.
Dr. Lehmann received her Ph.D. with Nobel Laureate Dr. Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard at the Max Plank Institute in Tübingen, Germany. After postdoctoral training at Medical Research Council in Cambridge, UK, she joined the Whitehead Institute of Biomedical Research and the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), before she was recruited to the then newly founded Skirball Institute for Biomolecular Medicine at NYU Langone Health. Prior to moving back to the Whitehead Institute and MIT in 2020, she was Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Professor and Chair of the department of Cell Biology at NYU Langone Medical Center, where she directed the Skirball Institute for Biomolecular Medicine. She was also an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute from 1990-1996 and from 1997-2020. Last summer, Dr. Lehmann re-joined the Whitehead Institute as its fifth the president and director and is also a professor in the Department of Biology at MIT.
Dr. Lehmann is a member of the American Academy of Arts Sciences (1998) and the National Academy of Sciences (2005), Associate (foreign) Member of EMBO (2012). She was awarded the Conklin Medal of the Society of Developmental Biology, was the inaugural recipient of the Klaus Sander Prize of the German Society for Developmental, received the Keith Porter Award from the American Society of Cell Biology and most recently the Vilcek Award, which recognizes immigrants with a legacy of outstanding achievements in the biomedical sciences, and the Amory Award from the American Academy of Sciences. Dr. Lehmann has been the President of the Society for Developmental Biology and serves as President of the American Society for Cell Biology in 2021. She is a tireless advocate for basic research and strives to empower scientists to pursue their experimental dreams in a fair, safe and inspiring environment