skip to content


Structural biologist does research on proteins and the immune system

Jijie Chai comes to Cologne as Humboldt-Professor

Professor Jijie Chai was appointed Alexander von Humboldt-Professor at the University of Cologne today. 

The structural biologist from Tsinghua University in Peking, China, was nominated by the University of Cologne and the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research. Humboldt-Professors receive up to 5 million euros from the Humboldt Foundation during the first five years of their research in Germany.

Jijie Chai is a leading researcher who investigates the structure of proteins and special receptors. By describing the complex structures of the proteins he produces important basic knowledge for the fight against plant disease and the development of drugs to combat inflammatory disease. In his research, Chai uses a sophisticated new microscopic method: cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM). The advent of this method has made it possible to see and analyse the structure and receptors of such proteins for the first time. So far, it is only employed at very few research locations. With Jijie Chai’s research, and technologies like cryo-EM, the University of Cologne and the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research want to draw their research in medicine, biochemistry and botany closer together.

Born in China in 1966, Jijie Chai has been a full professor in the School of Life Sciences at Tsinghua University in Beijing since 2012. Chai initially studied chemistry at various institutes in China and completed his doctorate at Peking Union Medical College. In 1999, he became a postdoc in the Department of Molecular Biology at Princeton University in the USA before returning to Beijing in 2004. Here he was initially an assistant investigator at the National Institute of Biological Sciences and, from 2010, an associate investigator. In 2011, Jijie Chai became a tenure-track professor and subsequently a full professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

Humboldt Professors receive up to 5 million euros during their first five years in Germany. Candidates must be established as researchers in another country and come to Germany from that country. The aim of the programme is to establish top-notch research centres at German universities. It is financed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, giving German universities the opportunity to compete for world-class researchers and sharpen their research profile in the international academic landscape.