2014 Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prizes

February 20, 2014

This year's recipients of the most important prize for early career researchers in Germany have been announced. The selection committee, appointed by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), has chosen ten researchers, three women and seven men, to receive the 2014 Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prizes. They will each be presented with the prize of 20,000 euros on 12 May in Berlin.

The 2014 Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize recipients are:

Eric Bodden, Computer Science, Technical University of Darmstadt

Wim Decock, Legal History, Max Planck Institute for European Legal History, Frankfurt

Dorothee Dormann, Biochemistry, University of Munich

Nico Eisenhauer, Biology/Ecology, University of Jena

Bent Gebert, Literary Studies, University of Konstanz

Silvia Gruhn, Neurobiology/Mathematics, University of Cologne

Daniel Meyer, Production Processing, University of Bremen

Laura Na Liu, Nanosciences, Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, Stuttgart

Marc D. Walter, Inorganic Molecular Chemistry, Technical University of Braunschweig

Sönke Zaehle, Biogeochemistry, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena

The Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize has been awarded annually to outstanding early career researchers since 1977 as both recognition and an incentive to continue pursuing a path of academic excellence. The prize is named after the atomic physicist and former DFG President Professor Heinz Maier-Leibnitz, as it was initiated and awarded for the first time during his term of office from 1974 to1979. The award is regarded not just as the most important of its kind for early career researchers in Germany; in a survey conducted by the magazine "bild der wissenschaft", the leading research organisations selected the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize as the third most important research prize in Germany - after the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize awarded by the DFG and the Deutscher Zukunftspreis awarded by the German Federal President.

The DFG and the BMBF took the outstanding reputation of the award into consideration last year by raising the number of prizes and the prize money awarded. Since last year ten prizes can be awarded, compared to six awards in previous years. The prize money made available by the BMBF was also increased from 16,000 euros to 20,000 euros for each prize.

A total of 147 candidates representing all research areas were nominated for this year's prize. From the 53 who were shortlisted, the selection committee then chose the ten prizewinners. "This year we had a very large number of outstanding nominations. We could have awarded even more than ten prizes," said the chair of the selection committee, DFG Vice President Professor Dorothea Wagner, following the decision.

This year's recipients:

Eric Bodden (33), Computer Science, Technical University of Darmstadt

The computer scientist Eric Bodden conducts research in the field of secure software engineering and deals with the question of how software can be engineered with specific security features even during the development process. Bodden's work within the Emmy Noether Group "Provably Secure Program Executions through Declaratively Defined Dynamic Program Analyses", funded since 2012, is also in this area. Bodden is currently working predominantly on the security of mobile apps. His focus in this research is on smartphones with an Android operating system.

Wim Decock (30), Legal History, Max Planck Institute for European Legal History, Frankfurt

The core research area of the Belgian-born legal historian Wim Decock lies in the epoch of the early modern period of the 16th to 17th century. Decock devotes his studies primarily to the theologians and lawyers of the late scholastic period. The importance of the late scholastic period in the development of modern European legal systems has been repeatedly addressed during recent centuries - however Decock has now compiled a comprehensive reference work for the first time. In this work he emphasises the special importance of the Catholic theologians of the era for modern contract law.

Dorothee Dormann (37), Biochemistry, University of Munich

Since her postdoctoral research at the University of Munich, the scientific focus of biochemist Dorothee Dormann has been on investigating the molecular and cellular causes of neurodegenerative diseases. The Emmy Noether independent junior research group, which she has headed since 2013, is looking into the transport processes and pathomechanisms of RNA-binding proteins in neurodegenerative disorders. The results could make a significant contribution to the development of therapy concepts in the long term.

Nico Eisenhauer (33), Biology/Ecology, University of Jena

In his research work Nico Eisenhauer deals with the fundamental question of how global change impacts on biodiversity and the functions of ecosystems. In doing so, he analyses the consequences of rising carbon dioxide concentrations, higher temperatures and nitrogen deposits, more frequent droughts and the establishment of non-native species. In his previous work, Nico Eisenhauer has been able to significantly expand our understanding of the interaction of plants and soil life and the complex interactions in microbial communities of the soil.

Bent Gebert (33), Literary Studies, University of Konstanz

The work of literary scholar Bent Gebert is dedicated to the research of myths - and thus at the same time to the topic of the cultures of knowledge and overall research of knowledge that extends into the most diverse traditions of discourse. Bent Gebert has significantly advanced research on medieval myths with his research into myths as a form of knowledge. Using subtle text observations, he shows that the growing knowledge claims of late-medieval narrative have poetological, that is poetic consequences. Gebert is currently involved with the reconstruction of the "cultural logic" of competition within medieval literature.

Silvia Gruhn (34), Neurobiology/Mathematics, University of Cologne

Silvia Gruhn creates a link between applied mathematics and experimental biology. She is working both on modelling the haemodynamic - the blood flow in blood vessels - within the human brain, as well as on the control of complex behaviour, namely the running movements of insects. She has been investigating the latter since 2009, as the head of an independent junior research group within the Emmy Noether Programme. Silvia Gruhn makes use of all the relevant parameters of the biological organism in her simulations, including the cellular properties of neurons and even the biomechanical properties of muscles and their different compositions.

Daniel Meyer (34), Production Processing, University of Bremen

Studies of the effects of production processes on surface properties can help to produce higher-performance components and improve production processes used to date. Daniel Meyer's research is precisely within this area between natural scientific mechanisms and engineering science-based issues. The biologist's multidisciplinary approach combined with complex experimental verification has created new ways of changing the properties of materials while preserving resources. The "kryogene Walzen" he published for the first time is just one of the possible implementations of his theoretical principles.

Laura Na Liu (34), Nanosciences, Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, Stuttgart

Laura Na Liu is undertaking research in the rapidly developing field of nanophotonics, within which scientists are attempting to control and make use of light beyond the laws of diffraction. In particular her work on plasmonic sensor designs and plasmonic nanolines is of lasting importance, as is her ongoing development in the preparation techniques of nanostructures. Currently the nanoscientist's core research area is in DNA nanotechnology and biomolecular applications. Once again here she demonstrates her skills in developing innovative production approaches for nano-optic applications.

Marc D. Walter (36), Inorganic Molecular Chemistry, Technical University of Braunschweig

The chemist Marc D. Walter is working with the whole range of metallic elements, from alkaline-earth metals to actinides. His focus is on experimental, theoretical and spectroscopic work to characterise dia- and paramagnetic organometallic compounds. Walter has been studying the synthesis and characterisation of semi-sandwich complexes of iron in Braunschweig since 2010 within an Emmy Noether Group. The findings gained here are of great importance for the expansion of the systematics and for the deeper understanding of classical organometallic chemistry.

Sönke Zaehle (36), Biogeochemistry, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena

In his research, biogeochemist Sönke Zaehle integrates nitrogen dynamics into global vegetation models. These models represent an important basis for initial estimates about the limiting effect of nitrogen on the growth of the land biomass and its impact on the carbon cycle. They can also be used to better understand changes influenced by climate change. Zaehle's research work is also important with regard to safeguarding food and the role of nitrogen in agricultural systems, which form the globally largest form of land use in terms of area.
Further Information

The 2014 Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize award ceremony will be held on 12 May at 2:00 pm in the Kaiserin-Friedrich-Haus, Robert-Koch-Platz 7, 10115 Berlin.

Representatives from the media are cordially invited to attend the award ceremony. Please register in advance with the DFG Press and Public Relations Office: Tel. +49 228 885-2443, Jutta.Hoehn@dfg.de

More information about the prize and previous winners is available at: http://www.dfg.de/en/funded_projects/prizewinners/maier_leibnitz_prize/index.html

DFG Programme Contact:

Annette Lessenich, Quality Assurance and Programme Development Division, Tel. +49 228 885-2835, Annette.Lessenich@dfg.de

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
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