Elaine Fuchs is a cell biologist, famous for her work on the biology and molecular mechanisms of mammalian skin and skin diseases, and has led the modernization of dermatology. Fuchs also pioneered reverse genetics approaches, which assess protein function first and then assesses its role in development and disease. In particular, Fuchs researches skin stem cells, and their production of hair and skin. She is currently the Rebecca C. Lancefield Professor of Mammalian Cell Biology and Development at Rockefeller University.
Fuchs grew up outside Chicago, in a family of scientistsâ€”her father, aunt, and sister were also scientists, and her family encouraged her to pursue higher education.
Fuchs earned a B.S. in chemistry in 1972 from the University of Illinois, graduating with highest distinction in the Chemical Sciences. She began as one of only three women in an undergraduate physics class of 200. Fuchs was politically active during college, protesting the Vietnam War and applying to the Peace Corps. However, when she was assigned to Uganda, then under the dictatorship of Idi Amin, she elected to go directly to graduate school instead.
Fuchs earned her Ph.D. in biochemistry from Princeton University, working with Charles Gilvarg. For her doctoral work, Fuchs studied changes in bacterial cell walls -- the biosynthesis and assembly of the cell wall of bacillus megaterium.
Fuchs began her career-defining work on skin biology during her postdoctoral work with Howard Green at MIT. In Green's lab she studied the mechanisms underlying growth and differentiation in epidermal keratinocytes.
Fuchs accepted a faculty position at the University of Chicago in 1980, as the first woman in the biochemistry department. She was mentored and befriended by Janet Rowley and Susan Lindquist, and eventually they all joined the reorganized Department of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology, in which Fuchs was eventually appointed the Amgen Professor of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology.
In 2002, Fuchs accepted a position at Rockefeller University, where she is currently the Rebecca C. Lancefield Professor of Mammalian Cell Biology and Development.
Fuchs is known for her support of women in science, and has stated that
Fuchs has also continued her concern for social and ethical issues, remarking at 2000 commencement address at the University of Chicago:
Fuchs is married to a fellow academic, David Hansen. She currently sits on the board of the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation.
Elaine Fuchs is known for revolutionizing the study of skin, identifying the molecular mechanisms underlying skin disease, developing the field of skin stem cells, and pioneering reverse genetics.
Her Dickson Prize nominator said of Fuchs that "Her innovative reverse genetic approach and landmark discoveries in our understanding of the underlying bases for inherited human disorders and cancers places her in the top cadre of the most creative scientists worldwide." She is listed as one of the ISI's most highly cited researchers.
Fuchs uses the mouse and mammalian epithelial stem cell culture as model systems.