Lukas K. Tamm, Ph.D.

March 31, 2024 by

Dr. Tamm received his basic training in Molecular Biosciences at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel, Switzerland. After one year at Cornell University, where he studied microtubules by electron crystallography as part of his Master’s thesis (1978), he joined the group of Joachim Seelig at the University of Basel to obtain his Ph.D. degree in Biophysics (1982). He used solid-state NMR techniques were used to characterize lipid-protein interactions in reconstituted cytochrome c oxidase and sarcoplasmic calcium pump membranes.

As a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Harden McConnell at Stanford University (1982-1984), Lukas Tamm originated the development of supported bilayers as a new model membrane system and co-discovered lipid domains in monolayers at the air-water interface.

Dr. Tamm was a junior faculty member at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel from 1984 – 1990, where he also received the venia legendi (Habilitation). The interaction of mitochondrial signal sequences with lipid model membranes and establishing TIRF microscopy as a tool to study protein binding to and lipid-protein interactions in supported membranes were at the center of his research activities.

Dr. Tamm moved to the University of Virginia (Charlottesville) in 1990. He served as Vice-Chair of the Department of Molecular Physiology and Biological Physics from 2010-2018 and as Chair of the same Department from 2018-2023. Currently, Dr. Lukas Tamm is a Harrison Distinguished Professor and directs the University of Virginia’s Center for Membrane and Cell Physiology, which comprises approximately 38 (including 6 resident) tenured and tenure-track faculty who are affiliated with nine Departments in the Schools of Medicine, Arts & Sciences, and Engineering & Applied Science of the University of Virginia.

Current research interests include studies on virus entry into cells by membrane fusion, neurotransmitter release at synapses by exocytosis of synaptic vesicles at nerve termini, insulin secretion from pancreatic β-cells in diabetes, and the study of the structures of bacterial outer membrane transporters by NMR. Methods development has always played a central role in Dr. Tamm’s research. Dr. Tamm’s lab is at the forefront of solving membrane protein structures by NMR, developing single molecule tracking and single vesicle fusion technology in supported membranes, and developing methods to study the composition, dynamics, and signaling in lipid nanodomains or “rafts”.

Dr. Tamm to date trained 23 graduate students and 27 postdoctoral research associates. Many of these currently hold academic positions in the US and abroad. Many others are employed as research scientists or directors of research in pharmaceutical and biotech companies or work in the public sector.

Dr. Tamm received the Humboldt Research Award from the Humboldt Society. He is an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and an elected Fellow of the Biophysical Society.

Dr. Tamm has published more than 190 research and review articles and edited a book on Protein-Lipid Interactions (2005). He also guest-edited several special journal issues, served as an Associate Editor of Biophysical Journal and as a member of the editorial boards of several other biological sciences journals. He (co-)organized multiple scientific conferences in the area of Membrane Biophysics. He served on and chaired multiple US and foreign grant review and advisory panels. He served as Secretary and as President of the Biophysical Society where he oversaw the development of the society’s current 10-year strategic plan. In his role of president of a major scientific society he advocated on Capitol Hill for increased research funding.

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