Thomas Sommer studied biology at the Freie Universität Berlin. He received his doctorate from the same university with a dissertation at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Genetics in 1988. Between 1989 and 1993 he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Friedrich Miescher Laboratory of the Max Planck Society in Tübingen. Since 1993, Professor Sommer has been a research group leader at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine, where he investigates the mechanisms of protein quality control. He received an honorary professorship at the Charité in 2006 and a professorship for Cellular Biochemistry at the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin in 2009. In 2003, he was elected a member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) and in 2012, he received the Science Prize of the German Technion Society.
Professor Sommer was a member in the Senate Committee for Collaborative Research Centers of the German Research Foundation (DFG) from 2008 to 2014, after having been a member in the Committee for DFG-Graduate Programs from 2006 to 2008. Since 2014 he has been a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Center for Biotechnology of the University of Duisburg-Essen.