Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Awards 2003

April 16, 2003

Six outstanding junior scientists and scholars are to receive the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Award of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) in 2003. This was decided by the DFG Executive Committee at its meeting on the 20th March. The award, endowed with 16,000 Euros for each of the scientists, is to be jointly presented to them by DFG President Professor Ernst-Ludwig Winnacker und State Secretary Dr. Uwe Thomas of the Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) in Bonn on the 15th May. Named after former DFG President and nuclear physicist Heinz Maier-Leibnitz, the award is funded by the BMBF in recognition of the excellent research achievements of young scientists under the age of 33. The award winners were selected in a multistage selection process out of a total of 74 proposed candidates.

Dr. Marc Alexa (29), Computer Science Department, Darmstadt Technical University

Computer scientist Marc Alexa's research deals with graphic data processing, particularly with geometric modelling and animation. He already dealt intensively with the morphing procedure while he was working on his PhD. Morphing refers to the step-by-step, virtually unnoticeable transformation of an object, body or face into one that the computer has worked out. The target object does not need to have the same topology as the initial object. Keeping track of such changes requires the development of special modelling methods that scan the objects geometrically with the aid of triangulation or point clouds and can hence reveal information on the form of the target object. Thus morphing is among the most important research fields in computer animation and bears a considerable potential for applications.

Further focal areas of his research are the point-based representation of graphic objects and processing of geometries on nets.

Marc Alexa studied computer science and physics at Darmstadt Technical University, where he also received his doctorate. As a doctoral candidate, he was a guest scientist at the University of Tel Aviv, was appointed guest lecturer by Rhode Island School of Design, and promoted to head of the study group "3D Graphics Computing" at Darmstadt Technical University in January 2001. (www.igd.fhg.de/~alexa; www.gris.informatik.tu-darmstadt.de/staff/alexa.html)

Dr. Martin Beyer (33), Institute for Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, Munich Technical University

Physical chemist Martin Beyer is dealing with the chemistry of solvated ions in water clusters, i.e. in droplets consisting of less than 50 water molecules. His scientific work has demonstrated that aqueous chemistry as we know it in the test-tube also occurs in these nano-droplets. Not only do the methods he has developed enable an examination of chemical reactions at molecular level, they also afford a better understanding of the nature of chemical compounds. As far as methods are concerned, Martin Bayer has already gained a reputation as an expert in the field of mass spectrometry.

Martin Beyer graduated in physics at Munich Technical University. He received his doctorate at the same university's Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, dealing with the topic of the "Structure and Reactivity of Solvated Ions". After finishing his doctorate, he visited the University of California in Berkeley as a post-doc for one year, where he was involved in the development of new mass spectrometry methods for biochemical research.

In 2000, Martin Beyer returned to Munich Technical University to continue his work on the stability, reactivity and structure of clusters at sub-nanometre level in the framework of a "Habilitation", the German qualification for a university lectureship. (http://verona.phys.chemie.tu-muenchen.de/coworker.html)

Dr. Tim Clausen (34), Research Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP), Vienna

Biochemist Tim Clausen graduated in biology from the University of Constance. He went on to do his doctorate at Munich Technical University and returned to Constance to work on his "Habilitation". His research focuses on structural-functional relationships in the active centre of pyridoxal (PLP) dependent enzymes and flavoproteins. Thanks to its considerable importance in metabolic processes and its wide variety of reaction mechanisms, this highly diversified group of proteins has attracted the attention of scientists for several years. This is why Tim Clausen has focused on a less known sub-class of these enzymes which are also involved in the metabolisms of amino acids containing sulphur or in the regulation of gene expression in prokaryotes. He has displayed unusual skills in combining molecular biology and biochemical expertise with a sound knowledge of high-dissolution X-ray structural analysis.

In 1994, he started working as head of a study group at the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry in Martinsried. Owing to his excellent research achievements, Tim Clausen was appointed group head for structural biology at the Research Institute for Molecular Pathology (IMP) in Vienna in November 2002. (http://www.imp.univie.ac.at)

Dr. Dirk Kerzel (32), General Psychology Department, University of Gießen

Dirk Kerzel's research focuses on basic research in experimental psychology. His examinations concentrate on human perception, particularly on the structures and processes of the visual system, but also touch on central issues of mental processing of events and circumstances. With the aid of a series of experiments specially designed to address these issues, he succeeded in refuting common assumptions about how dynamic processes in our environment are represented at a cognition psychology level. He found out that, unlike our environment, our mental world is not subjected to fixed physical principles. For example, the contents of the visual memory are determined far more by the motor properties of the visual system. This calls into question the traditional separation of memory and motor activity.

Dirk Kerzel studied psychology and linguistics at Bielefeld University and received his doctorate at Munich University, where he also acquired his "Habilitation". After working for the Max Planck Institute for Psychological Research in Munich, he took up a position as a scientific assistant at the Department of General Psychology at Gießen University in 2002 and was admitted to the DFG's Heisenberg Programme in the same year. (http://www.allpsych.uni-giessen.de/dk/home.htm)

Dr. Daniel Schwemer (33), Institute for Oriental Philology, University of Würzburg

Daniel Schwemer, a scholar of Ancient Oriental Studies, examined the world of the gods in his doctoral thesis, specialising in the thunderstorm and weather gods of Mesopotamia and Northern Syria. Approaching this complex world of myths, theology and cult required a comprehensive literary and iconographical survey of a wide variety of sources from a cultural history covering more than three thousand years. Daniel Schwemer not only translated cuneiform script records from the Assyrian and Babylonian languages, but he also worked with Sumerian, Hittite, Aramaic and Hebrew sources. In contrast with past representations of gods in ancient Oriental studies, Daniel Schwemer oriented his work on religious history. He thus succeeded in reconstructing entire cult concepts in connection with the weather gods without losing touch with the religious history developments and influences that were involved when concepts were adopted by one geographical region from another.

Daniel Schwemer studied Catholic theology, Assyriology and the philology of Asia Minor in Würzburg and Tübingen. For his doctorate, he returned to Würzburg. On its completion, he temporarily took up deputising the Chair for Babylonian Literature at the renowned School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. Since November 2000, Daniel Schwemer has been working as an academic assistant at the Institute for Oriental Philology at the University of Würzburg. (http://www.uni-wuerzburg.de/altorientalistik)

Dr. Ralf Wehrspohn (32), Max Planck Institute for Microstructure Physics, Halle/Saale

Physicist Ralf Wehrspohn graduated in the framework of a bi-national degree programme run by the University of Oldenburg and the École Polytechnique in Palaiseau, France. He already started to concentrate on porous, amorphous silicon while he was writing his graduate thesis. He also retained this focus in his European PhD thesis. He was especially interested in the electro-chemical properties of amorphous and crystalline silicon, which he examined both with spectroscopic methods and electric transport measurements.

As a postdoc, Ralf Wehrspohn spent a short period of time at the École Polytechnique, before taking up a position with Philips Research Laboratories in Redhill, England, for two years. Since 1999, he has been group head at the Max Planck Institute for Microstructure Physics, where he specialises in research on porous materials and photonic crystals. One of the achievements of Ralf Wehrsporn and his team has been to fill porous aluminium oxide with ferromagnetic materials. Nanostructures of this kind bear a high potential for application since they can be developed as magnetic data storage media. (http://www.mpi-halle.mpg.de/~wehrspoh)

The Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Awards are going to be awarded at the Deutsches Museum at 3 p.m. on the 15th May. Journalists are welcome to attend the event.

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

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