Prof. Dr. Cornelia Ulrich


Cancer researcher

DAAD Doctoral Scholarship 1993–1995

Prof. Dr. Cornelia Ulrich DAAD

Cornelia Ulrich likes to tackle several challenges all at once. Since November 2014 she has engaged in research as senior director for population sciences at the Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Since July 2015 she has also been the division chief for cancer population sciences at the university’s Department for Population Health Sciences. Until May 2015 she was chair of the Scientific Council of the International Agency for Research on Cancer. She is also a member of the European Academy of Cancer Sciences.

Ulrich was very busy in Germany too. From 2009 to 2014 she was director of Preventive Oncology at the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) in Heidelberg. Born close to Stuttgart, Cornelia Ulrich was responsible for the newly-established Department of Preventive Oncology at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ). She also held an excellence professorship. At the same time, she worked at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, USA, where she previously conducted 10 years of intensive research.

A family of four is also part of her life plan. "It's easier and normal for scientists in the United States to combine their career and family. I also wanted to bring this with me to Germany," says Cornelia Ulrich. After spending 17 years in the United States, the highly acknowledged academic returned to Germany to establish the young research field of cancer prevention in Heidelberg – before returning to America after the job was done.

It's easier and normal for scientists in the United States to combine their career and family. I also wanted to bring this with me to Germany.
Cornelia Ulrich

This double research home is linked to her DAAD scholarship. "The DAAD-funded stay at the University of Washington was absolutely decisive for my career," explains Cornelia Ulrich. The grant enabled her to complete a doctorate in epidemiology and facilitated her early scientific independence as an assistant professor at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. This was something that was not yet possible in Germany at the time. Her doctoral thesis on the interrelationship between genes, nutrition and bowel cancer continues to be the basis for her research work today. Cornelia Ulrich is acknowledged worldwide as an expert on the role of folic acid in tumour development. She also began her research on sport and immune functions while in the United States – at the same time as she worked on her PhD thesis. Today, she is in charge of the sport and cancer unit in Heidelberg.

What can patients do for themselves after having been diagnosed with cancer? Her wide-ranging scientific inquisitiveness is driven by this question: "The close ties with the hospital at the NCT in Heidelberg formed an outstanding basis for advancing this research.” For example, well-founded answers are to be provided by the ColeCare study, an internationally funded, collaborative research venture that aims to improve the prognosis for bowel cancer patients and facilitate individually tailored therapies. Cornelia Ulrich still keeps her eye on this work: she is developing a German branch of the study with the Preventive Oncology Department in Heidelberg. The HCI is involved in the USA.