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Recognizing outstanding young researchers

This release is available in German.

This years winners of Germanys top research prize for young scientists have been announced. Among the six recipients of the 2008 Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize are two young women. The prizewinners were selected by the Executive Committee of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) in Bonn at its March session, following nomination by the relevant selection committee from among 76 candidates.

The winners of the 2008 Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize, named after the former President of the DFG and atomic physicist Professor Heinz Maier-Leibnitz, are:

  • Dr. Nicole Deitelhoff, political science, Technical University of Darmstadt

  • Dr. Andr Fischer, neurobiology, University of Gttingen

  • Dr. Torsten Granzow, material science, Technical University of Darmstadt

  • Dr. Michael Huber, discrete mathematics, University of Tbingen

  • Dr. Christine Silberhorn, quantum optics, University of Erlangen-Nrnberg

  • Dr. Oliver Trapp, analytical chemistry, Max Planck Institute for Carbon Research, Mlheim/Ruhr

Promoting young researchers is not only one of the tasks set out in the DFGs statutes, but also one that is particularly important to us, the President of the DFG, Professor Matthias Kleiner, emphasised on the occasion of the announcement. The winners of this years prize have, once again, demonstrated how young scientists can build up an impressive independent research profile with excellent research achievements even at a relatively young age.

The Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize has been awarded to young researchers annually since 1977 to promote the further development of such outstanding independent profiles. From the DFGs point of view, the prize is simultaneously a form of recognition of past achievements and an incentive to continue climbing the scientific career ladder. As such, it is held in high regard by the whole scientific community. In a survey conduced by the magazine bild der wissenschaft, the major German research organisations voted the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize Germanys third most important research prize behind the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize awarded by the DFG and the German Future Prize the President's Prize for Technology and Innovation awarded by the German President. Each recipient receives 16,000 euros in prize money. The prize is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

The award ceremony for this years Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize will be held on 2 June, in the Friedrichstrasse auditorium (Quartier 110), Friedrichstrasse 180-183, 10117 Berlin, commencing at 4 p.m. Media representatives are welcome to attend the ceremony.

The winners of the 2008 Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize in brief:

Dr. Nicole Deitelhoff (33), political science, Technical University of Darmstadt

Nicole Deitelhoff is considered one of the most outstanding young German political scientists, whose current work is characterised by an exceptionally original and innovative approach and novel insights. In her PhD thesis berzeugungen in der Politik. Grundzge einer Diskurstheorie internationalen Regierens (Convictions in politics, the main features of a theory of discourse in international governance), which has already won several prizes and awards, she combined fundamental issues of political theory with the challenges of comparative political science and other related areas. Basing her work on Jrgen Habermas and his theory of discourse, she studied the significance that convictions in politics and political analysis have, in general and in particular in international relations. Her findings are relevant to all areas of politics where there is no enforceable law and conflicts therefore need to be solved by softer means of regulation and order. In practice, the policy discourse ethic developed by Deitelhoff could, for example, contribute to arriving at new forms of international relations in global environmental policy that are appropriate to the modern-day situation. Having obtained her doctorate from the Technical University of Darmstadt and already amassed a wealth of international experience, Deitelhoff is now leading two projects at the Foundation for Peace and Conflict Studies in Hesse and has also built herself a considerable reputation as the author, editor and co-publisher of scientific journals and series of books as well as in the German Association for Political Science (Deutsche Vereinigung fr Politikwissenschaft); she is also a principal investigator in the cluster of excellence Formation of Normative Orders, which was approved as part of the Excellence Initiative in October 2007.

Dr. Andr Fischer (33), neurobiology, University of Gttingen

Andr Fischer has already achieved outstanding results on the fundamentals of learning and memory as a postgraduate and postdoctoral student. The young neurobiologist is particularly interested in the mechanisms that lead to brain diseases such as Alzheimers, senile dementia and post-traumatic stress disorder. In his PhD thesis, which he wrote in Gttingen, he identified a number of new genes that are essential to the learning processes in the brain. Fischers research on protein kinase Cdk5 and on the activator protein p25, which continued while working as a postdoc at Harvard Medical School and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), both in Boston, USA, is of particular importance. He was able to demonstrate, for instance, how Cdk5 and p25 are capable of increasing learning ability over a short time period, but can lead to neurodegeneration over a longer period of time. He has also made important new findings in the area of memory recovery. Fischer was awarded the European Young Investigator Award (EUYRI) for his work in 2007; from the prize money he received from that award he set up his own junior research group at the European Neuroscience Institute (ENI) in Gttingen and in so doing opted to pursue an academic career in Germany rather than take up one of the many attractive offers he had received from international pharmaceutical companies and for positions in the USA.

Dr. Torsten Granzow (33), material science, Technical University of Darmstadt

Torsten Granzow has already made a name for himself in several areas of solid state physics as a young scientist. Particularly noteworthy is his work on state-of-the-art functional ceramic materials, as well as his work on ferroelectric relaxors. Granzow was the first researcher who managed to prove the presence of nanodomains in these materials and to describe their structure and dynamics. These nanodomains have a major impact on the fatigue behaviour of the materials, seriously restricting the potential applications of ferroelectric relaxors. Granzows findings are of immense significance for the development of new technologies, for example for controlling combustion processes in low emission engines or of high-sensitivity detectors for medical diagnostics. His work on the development of a new optical investigation procedure based on holographic scattering is equally significant and original. Here again, he has combined basic research in natural sciences with technical application, earning him great international respect.

Dr. Michael Huber (35), discrete mathematics, University of Tbingen

Michael Huber is already considered one of the leading international experts in the field of combinatorial design theory, an area of discrete mathematics with a multitude of applications in computer science, the natural sciences, and economics and life sciences. Huber, who in addition to mathematics also studied German, has been able to solve a number of major and very complex mathematical problems to date, some of which had remained unanswered for more than 40 years. While studying the so-called flag-transitive Steiner t-designs, Huber even managed to determine all four unsolved cases although each solution on its own would have marked a milestone in the research of design theory. This work was received just as enthusiastically by the international mathematics community as his habilitation thesis. He is currently investigating complexity problems, combinatorial number theory, and pursuing a geometric understanding of the finite simple groups. Hubers high standing is also evident in the numerous invitations he has received to give lectures at Harvard, MIT and at the Einstein Institute of Mathematics at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Since 2007, Huber has been studying other problems in discrete mathematics with a Heisenberg fellowship granted by the DFG. He currently holds a one-year guest professorship at the Technical University of Berlin.

Dr. Christine Silberhorn (33), quantum optics, University of Erlangen-Nrnberg

Christine Silberhorns research to date is characterised by an extremely broad range of interests and research topics as well as a wide variety of international experience, and she has attained a very good reputation in the field of experimental quantum optics within the period of just a few years. During her studies she was already interested in highly abstract topics relating to topology, before moving on to the entirely different area of quantum cryptography for her PhD thesis. She has been able to establish herself very well in the rapidly progressing and thus highly competitive research field of quantum information processing. Her main area of interest was how to process and transmit quantum information using light, an issue that is of key importance for any quantum computers that may be built in the future. Instead of the discrete variables normally employed, Silberhorn used so-called continuous variables, thus developing a widely accepted alternative. Silberhorn is currently continuing this work as the leader of an independent Max Planck junior research group, in which she, herself still a young scientist, is combining her successful research work with the opportunity to train other young researchers and scientists.

Dr. Oliver Trapp (34), analytical chemistry, Max Planck Institute for Carbon Research, Mlheim/Ruhr

Oliver Trapp has made a name for himself primarily by the way in which he has united various areas of research and approaches. As a chemist, he works in the field of gas chromatography, where he combines chemical analysis and information technology. Trapps goal is to develop a process called high-throughput multiplexing gas chromatography, which can be used to identify entirely new catalysts and obtain precise kinetic data very rapidly. This process could be literally revolutionary for gas chromatography and also be applicable to other methods of chromatography. Trapp has repeatedly demonstrated great skill in organic synthesis and in the construction of apparatus for performing chemical analysis. Since 2005 he has been the leader of an independent junior research group as part of the DFGs Emmy Noether Programme; with lecturing and other teaching obligations, he is also already actively involved in training the next generation of young undergraduate scientists.


Contact: Dr. Eva-Maria Streier
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

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