Karin Moelling on Women in Science
  Karin Moelling     Biography    
Recorded: 06 Jun 2006

Well, I don’t know how I managed because I had not really no connections. I was at the Max Planck Institute in Berlin for twenty years, the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics, which I liked a lot and I had a pretty good position and I liked it, but when Max Planck turns over the director to retire, so they called me one day and said, ‘You know you’ll probably be able to find outside of the Institute another job, we won’t, we will help you to find it’ and well, I didn’t want to hear that twice. So I sent out my CV and I got several offers and then came the German reunification and that was so difficult. No one knew which way to go, so finally the only thing immediately materializing was the University of Zurich and that is a virology institute, my predecessor was Jean Lindemann, he discovered the interferon, he was a very good scientist and the building has all of the old virology. You have an animal house, you have electron microscopy, we have all of the safety conditions, so that was very attractive to me and that’s why I went there. I think it’s not easy. I think it becomes more easy now. When I went to Zurich, I still am the first full-member of the faculty, female member of the faculty, that’s the medical faculty. So, about a hundred-eighty males around me and they told me keep my mouth shut, we don’t want you speak. So, I keep my mouth shut, maybe it’s also because I speak German and you can notice immediately I’m half German origin. Which is not so highly liked in Switzerland, which I didn’t know. I’m not an MD, so being part of a medical faculty may have been part of my problem.


Karin Moelling currently retired professor, still affiliated with the University of Zurich and the Max-Planck-Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin. She studied molecular biology at the University of Berkely, Califonia. She received her PhD at the Max-Planck-Institute for Virology at Tübingen in Germany. She did two post-doctoral research at the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin (1973-1975), and at the Institute of Virology, University Giessen. In 1977 she received her Habilitation at the University of Giessen in Biophysics on "Replication of retroviruses".

From 1976 till 1981 she was the Head of Independent Research Group at Max-Planck-Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin, Germany, on oncogenes, proto-oncogenes, cancer and HIV. In 1993 she became the Director of Institute of Medical Virology (IMV) and Full Professor at University of Zurich in Switzerland, she held this position till 2008. Between 2008-2009 she was Fellow of Institute of Advanced Study in Berlin and between 2008-2011 she became a Group Leader, Viruses and Cancer at University of Zurich.

Her research focus on retroviruses and cancer from molecular mechanisms to drug design. She is a Member of the European Molecular Biology Organization. She received several awards e.g. SwissAward in 2007, 4 prices: Czerny Price, Richtzenhain Price, Meyenburg Price and Ansman Price. She was Selected as Heisenberg Fellow in German Science Foundation.