Peter Hegemann elected as a member of the National Academy of Science and Engineering

Saturday, 06 December 2014

UniCat Professor Peter Hegemann has been elected as a member of the German National Academy of Science and Engineering

Peter Hegemann is Professor and Head of the Department for Biophysics at the Humboldt University of Berlin and UniCat member since its foundation in 2007 (UniCat Research Fields D4 and E4).

Peter Hegemann studied chemistry in Münster and Munich and earned his PhD 1984 in Munich with an investigation into the structure and function of halorhodopsin, a light-driven chloride pump in Halobacterium halobium. As a postdoc, he worked at Syracuse University (1985 to 1986). In 1986, he started a research group in the Department of Membrane Biochemistry at the Max-Planck-Institute of Biochemistry in Frankfurt, Germany. He became professor at the University of Regensburg and was appointed full professor at the Humboldt-University of Berlin in 2004.

Hegemann is credited with the discovery of channelrhodopsins, a family of directly light-gated ion channels. This discovery has opened the new field of optogenetics, manipulating the activity of neurons and other cells with light. Since the original discovery of channelrhodopsin in the green alga Chlamydomonas, Hegemann and his group have improved its properties by molecular engineering, resulting in a wide variety of designer opsins which are faster, more sensitive, responsive to different colors of light, or conduct different ions than natural channelrhodopsins. These molecular tools have enabled neuroscientists around the world to stimulate genetically defined populations of neurons non-invasively and with great precision.


The National Academy of Science and Engineering represents the German scientific and technology communities, at home and abroad. As a working academy, acatech supports policy-makers and society by providing qualified technical evaluations and forward-looking recommendations.