Suzanne R. Pfeffer was born in Los Angeles, Calif., and received her Bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1978, during which time she did undergraduate research on bacterial RNA polymerase with Michael Chamberlin. She then attended the University of California, San Francisco, for her graduate studies, where she began working on the biochemistry of clathrin-coated vesicles under the tutelage of Regis Kelly. After receiving her Ph.D. in biochemistry and biophysics, she conducted some postdoctoral research at UCSF before moving on to Stanford University in 1984 for another postdoctoral appointment with James Rothman, studying protein sorting and transport in the Golgi. She subsequently joined the Stanford biochemistry department in 1986, and has remained a faculty member at the university ever since; she also served as department chair from 1998-2008.
Pfeffer’s research currently focuses on the molecular basis of membrane trafficking, with an emphasis on the Golgi complex, which serves as a processing station for secreted proteins. Her group is interested in how a variety of proteins converge to help drive specific transport of proteins to and from the Golgi network, particularly the Rab GTPases which are key coordinators of vesicle traffic between organelles. This basic research has important implications for a number of diseases, such as understanding growth control in cancer, receptor trafficking errors in heart disease, regulation of insulin secretion in diabetes and synaptic vesicle biogenesis and transport in neurological disorders.
Pfeffer, who has been a member of ASBMB since 1990, has received many awards and honors for her work, including a Helen Hay Whitney Fellowship (1984-85), the Merck Development Award (1987), a National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator award (1988-1993), an American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellowship (1992) and a National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders Merit Award (1998-09).