Julia Sommer joined the Simons Foundation in 2011 to become a member of the team of scientists that manage SFARI’s grant portfolio and targeted projects. She mainly focuses on grants of cellular and molecular studies in autism, including many projects that make use of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). She also manages SFARI iPSC resources and, together with Brigitta Gundersen, oversees administration of SFARI annual request for Pilot and Research Award applications.
She earned her undergraduate and master’s degree in biology from the University of Heidelberg in Germany and her Ph.D. in cellular physiology and biophysics from Columbia University in New York City. Work for her master’s thesis focused on the role of histone modifications as epigenetic regulators in Drosophila melanogaster. During her graduate work with Peter Scheiffele, she used biochemical, cell biological and genetic tools to study axon guidance and synapse formation in the mouse. Outside of her formal education, she spent time in the lab of Cary Lai at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla and, in 2007, was a fellow of the neurobiology course at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole.