Ruth Ley Bio

Ruth Ley is currently the Managing Director of Max Planck Institute for Biology, Tübingen, where she is the Director of the Department of Microbiome Science. She is also acting as co-Speaker for the Cluster of Excellence “Controlling Microbiomes to Fight Infection” with the University of Tübingen, Germany.

Ley received a BA in Integrative Biology from the University of California at Berkeley in 1992, a PhD from the University of Colorado, Boulder in 2001. She received a NRC-NASA Fellowship for post-doctoral work with Dr. Norman Pace at CU Boulder. In 2004 she moved to Washington University School of Medicine to work with Dr. Jeffrey Gordon on the human microbiome. She was named an Instructor in 2005 and a Research Assistant Professor at Washington University School of Medicine in 2007. In July 2008, Ley joined the Department of Microbiology at Cornell University as an Assistant Professor, and in 2013 became an Associate Professor with tenure in the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics.

Ley’s awards include a Fellowship in Science and Engineering from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, a Beckman Young Investigator Award, the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, the ISME Young Investigator Award, and the Ernst Jung Prize for Medicine. She is a member of EMBO, of the European Academy of Microbiology, and of the American Academy of Microbiology. In 2020 she was elected to the Leopoldina German National Academy of Sciences. She is the recipient of the 2020 Otto Bayer award.

Ruth Ley’s early contributions to microbiome research:

In 2005-2006, three key publications for the first time showed that the gut microbiome can drive disease (at that time, microbiome diversity studies conducted in humans did not include a disease context). First, Ruth Ley, Jeffrey Gordon and colleagues observed that the gut microbiome of genetically obese mice differed in composition from that of wildtype littermates (Ley et al., PNAS 2005). Ley made this discovery with techniques she brought to the laboratory of Gordon: this includes the first pubication of the UniFrac tool developed by Cathy Lozupone and Rob Knight at CU Boulder. Subsequently, Peter Turnbaugh made the discovery that the microbiome of obese mice was sufficient to confer a metabolically disordered phenotype to germfree mouse recipients (Turnbaugh et al,, Nature 2006). Concurrently, Ley made the discovery that the same disordered microbiome was associated with obesity in humans (Ley et al., Nature 2006), thus making the mouse findings relevant in humans. These three early cornerstone publications launched the study of the microbiome in the context of disease on a large scale and across biomedical disciplines.

Ley et al. PNAS USA 31: 11070 (2005)

Turnbaugh et al. Nature 444: 1027 (2006)

Ley et al. Nature 444: 1022 (2006)

2004 - 

2005

Postdoctoral Researcher, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis MO, USA (Advisor: Jeffrey I. Gordon)

2001 - 

2004

Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Colorado at Boulder, USA (Advisor: Norman R. Pace)

2001

Ph.D., Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado at Boulder, USA (Advisor: Steven K. Schmidt)

1992

B.A., Integrative Biology, University of California at Berkeley, USA

2004 - 

2005

Postdoctoral Researcher, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis MO, USA (Advisor: Jeffrey I. Gordon)

2001 - 

2004

Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Colorado at Boulder, USA (Advisor: Norman R. Pace)

2001

Ph.D., Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado at Boulder, USA (Advisor: Steven K. Schmidt)

1992

B.A., Integrative Biology, University of California at Berkeley, USA

2004 - 

2005

Postdoctoral Researcher, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis MO, USA (Advisor: Jeffrey I. Gordon)

2001 - 

2004

Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Colorado at Boulder, USA (Advisor: Norman R. Pace)

2001

Ph.D., Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado at Boulder, USA (Advisor: Steven K. Schmidt)

1992

B.A., Integrative Biology, University of California at Berkeley, USA

2020 - 

Managing Director, Max Planck Institute for Biology, Tübingen, Germany

2016 - 

Director, Department of Microbiome Science, Max Planck Institute for Biology, Tübingen, Germany

2016 - 

Honorary Professor, Faculty of Medicine, Eberhard Karls University, Tübingen, Germany

2014 - 

2018

Associate Professor, Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Cornell University, Ithaca NY, USA

2013 - 

2018

Associate Professor, Department of Microbiology, Cornell University, Ithaca, USA

2008 - 

2013

Assistant Professor, Department of Microbiology, Cornell University, Ithaca NY, USA

2007 - 

2008

Research Assistant Professor, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis MO, USA

2005 - 

2007

Instructor, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis MO, USA

2020 - 

Managing Director, Max Planck Institute for Biology, Tübingen, Germany

2016 - 

Director, Department of Microbiome Science, Max Planck Institute for Biology, Tübingen, Germany

2016 - 

Honorary Professor, Faculty of Medicine, Eberhard Karls University, Tübingen, Germany

2014 - 

2018

Associate Professor, Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Cornell University, Ithaca NY, USA

2013 - 

2018

Associate Professor, Department of Microbiology, Cornell University, Ithaca, USA

2008 - 

2013

Assistant Professor, Department of Microbiology, Cornell University, Ithaca NY, USA

2007 - 

2008

Research Assistant Professor, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis MO, USA

2005 - 

2007

Instructor, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis MO, USA

2020 - 

Managing Director, Max Planck Institute for Biology, Tübingen, Germany

2016 - 

Director, Department of Microbiome Science, Max Planck Institute for Biology, Tübingen, Germany

2016 - 

Honorary Professor, Faculty of Medicine, Eberhard Karls University, Tübingen, Germany

2014 - 

2018

Associate Professor, Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Cornell University, Ithaca NY, USA

2013 - 

2018

Associate Professor, Department of Microbiology, Cornell University, Ithaca, USA

2008 - 

2013

Assistant Professor, Department of Microbiology, Cornell University, Ithaca NY, USA

2007 - 

2008

Research Assistant Professor, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis MO, USA

2005 - 

2007

Instructor, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis MO, USA

2023

Charles Donovan Microbiome Award

2021

Member, Scientific Advisory Board, Jung Foundation

2020

Otto Bayer Award

2020

German National Academy of Sciences, Leopoldina, Elected Member

2019

Deputy Speaker – CMFI Cluster of Excellence, University of Tübingen

2019

EMBO, Elected Member

2019

American Academy of Microbiology, Elected Fellow

2018

Ernst Jung Prize for Medicine

2018

European Academy of Microbiology, Elected Member

2017

 - 2023

Thompson ISI Highly Cited Researcher

2016

Max Planck Society, Elected Scientific Member

2014

Young Investigator’s Award, International Society for Microbial Ecology (ISME)

2011

Research and Extension Award for Outstanding Accomplishments in Early Achievement, Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

2010

Fellowship in Science and Engineering, David and Lucile Packard Foundation

2010

NIH Director’s New Innovator Award

2009

Hartwell Investigator, The Hartwell Foundation

2009

Beckman Young Investigator, Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation

2009

Pew Biomedical Scholar (declined)

2007

Kavli Fellow, US National Academy of Sciences

2001

NASA Astrobiology Research Associateship, National Research Council (USA)