Prof. Susan M. Gasser studied biophysics at the University of Chicago and biochemistry at the University of Basel, with a thesis on mitochondrial protein import. As a postdoc at the University of Geneva, she examined human metaphase chromosome structure and loop organization. Establishing her own laboratory in 1986 at the Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research in Epalinges she focused on chromatin organization in gene silencing and examined the mechanisms of replication checkpoint activation in yeast. Her laboratory combined genetics, microscopy and biochemical approaches to address such questions. She was then professor in the Department of Molecular Biology in Geneva where she applied high resolution time-lapse microscopy to study nuclear organization and telomere and double-strand break dynamics. From 2004 ? 2019, Susan was the Director of the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research in Basel. In parallel she was a professor at the University of Basel and pursued an active research program on epigenetic gene repression in C. elegans. Since mid-2021, she is professor invité at the University of Lausanne and Director of the ISREC Foundation, where she helps shape the new AGORA institute of translational cancer research. Susan was Chairman of EMBO, member of Academies in France, Germany and Switzerland.

Research Interests

The Gasser laboratory examined the functional impact of the spatial packaging of chromatin in the interphase nucleus with respect to genome stability and epigenetic regulation. Expanding live imaging techniques that they developed in yeast, the lab pioneered the analysis of chromatin organization in C. elegans, showing that the methylation of histone H3 lysine 9 can position repeats and tissue-specific genes at the nuclear envelope through development. She combined high-throughput molecular analyses with cell biology to determine structure-function relationships in chromatin. In yeast, her laboratory showed that silent loci and telomeres form distinct clusters at the nuclear envelope, sequestering factors that repress genes. She contributed to understanding the mechanisms of how SIR-mediated silencing spreads along de-acetylated nucleosomes. She focused especially on the use of time-lapse imaging in yeast, to explore how chromatin structure responds to DNA damage and how changes in chromatin structure promotes repair, largely mediated by nucleosome remodelers and histone modifications. Her laboratory showed that the increase mobility of loci harboring a double-strand break is due to the checkpoint controlled degradation of core histones. Loss of histones was shown to enhance the rate of repair. She has also actively promoted the careers of women scientists in Europe and Japan.

Membership Type

International Member

Election Year


Primary Section

Section 26: Genetics

Secondary Section

Section 22: Cellular and Developmental Biology