Leibniz Prize Winners 1999 - Most Highly Endowed German Promotional Prize For Ten Scientists

December 18, 1998

Today, the Grants Committee of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) designated the 1999 winners of the prizes awarded under the DFG's Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Programme. Ten scientists will receive this prestigious German promotional prize which usually is endowed with DM 3 million. Scientists doing more theoretical work and who are therefore less in need of costly equipment will receive DM 1.5 million. The funds will be provided for research work conducted over a period of five years.

The aim of the Leibniz Programme which was launched in 1985 is to improve the working conditions of outstanding scientists, to increase their research opportunities, to reduce their administrative workload and to enable them to recruit exceptionally well qualified young scientific researchers. The prize winners enjoy the greatest possible freedom in applying these funds.

Among the numerous proposals for the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize the nominating committee of the DFG selected especially those candidates whose scientific performance could be expected to be enhanced significantly through additional financial support. This is the 14th time that the DFG has awarded the Leibniz Prize which is financed by special funds provided by the Federal and state governments.

About 180 proposals had been submitted by scientific higher education institutions, the Max Planck Society and previous Leibniz Prize winners. The scientists selected as Leibniz Prize winners 1999 are:

Professor Dr. Ekkard Brinksmeier (46), Production Engineering, University of Bremen (DM 3 million)

Ekkard Brinksmeier obtained his doctorate in mechanical engineering from the Institute for Production Engineering and Machine Tools in Hanover; from 1982 to 1992 he worked as a senior engineer and head of the production processes research centre associated with the chair of Professor Tönshoff in Hanover. He qualified for a professorship in 1991 and in 1992 was offered the chair for production processes in Bremen which he accepted. The scientific approach taken by Ekkard Brinksmeier is characterised by the simultaneous consideration of materials and production processes and hence logically by partnership and co-operation with materials engineers, physicists, process engineers and control engineers. In Bremen Ekkard Brinksmeier set up a working group on high-precision engineering with extraordinary success and, in co-operation with chemists, fluid and process engineers, also established a research and demonstration centre for ecological production processes, the ECO Centre. With his work he bridges the gap between knowledge-oriented basic research and industrial application.

Professor Dr. Bernd Bukau (44), Cell Biology, University of Freiburg (DM 3 million)

Bernd Bukau studied biology in Besan?on, Santa Cruz and Constance; he worked as a school teacher before he obtained a doctorate in microbiology from the University of Constance. After doing postdoctoral research in the USA he became head of a project group at the Centre for Molecular Biology in Heidelberg and in 1997 accepted the chair for biochemistry at the University of Freiburg.

In recent years his work has centred on molecular mechanisms of protein folding within the cell, one of the basic issues of molecular biology. His interest is focused on the function and regulation of so-called chaperons which assist and control protein folding. The role of chaperons is particularly important under stress conditions such as thermal shock which leads to faulty protein folding in the cell. Professor Bukau's most recent studies concentrate on the question to what extent and through what mechanisms different chaperon systems co-operate in such cellular folding processes as parts of a functional network.

Professor Dr. Joachim Cuntz (50), Mathematics, University of Münster (DM 1.5 million)

Joachim Cuntz studied mathematics and physics in Heidelberg and Paris and was only 27 when he obtained his doctorate from the University of Bielefeld. At 29 he qualified for a professorship at the Technical University of Berlin and went to work in Canada, Marseilles and at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. In 1986 he was appointed Director of the Laboratoire de Mathématique associé au CNRS in Marseilles. In 1988 he was offered and accepted a C4 professorship at the University of Heidelberg. Since 1997 Joachim Cuntz has been teaching in Münster.

His work focuses on functional analysis and in particular on the C* algebras of operators which are highly important structures in both mathematics and physics. Noncommutative geometry is a recent, rapidly developing discipline with a great potential for the future. Joachim Cuntz is one of the leading minds in this field and the unchallenged leader in Germany. During his impressive international career he has published a large number of important studies, some of them in journals of mathematical physics.

Privatdozent (associate professor) Dr. Alois Fürstner (36), Organometallic Chemistry, Max Planck Institute of Coal Research, Mülheim/Ruhr (DM 3 million)

Alois Fürstner was born in Austria and studied chemistry at the Technical University of Graz where he also obtained his Ph.D. and in 1992 qualified for a professorship with a thesis on metal-graphite compounds. In 1993 he joined the Max Planck Institute of Coal Research in Mülheim/Ruhr and since that time has held teaching assignments at the University of Dortmund; since 1991 he has been a lecturer at the Technical University of Graz. Alois Fürstner works in the borderline area between organic and organometallic chemistry. He focuses on developing efficient and selective organic synthesis procedures using metals, organometallic compounds and catalysts. Right from the beginning his efforts concentrated on the application profile in the chemistry of natural products which was consistently improved. The scientific work of Alois Fürstner is not only characterised by a high degree of innovation and originality, it also offers a still incalculable application potential for the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. Dr. Fürstner has already received four offers of chairs in his discipline from German and foreign universities.

Professor Dr. Friedrich Wilhelm Graf (50), Protestant Theology, University of Augsburg (DM 1.5 million)

Friedrich Wilhelm Graf read theology and history in Wuppertal, Tübingen and Munich; after having obtained his Ph.D. he was a Heisenberg Fellow and a Fiebiger Professor. He held a C4 professorship in Hamburg and since 1996 has been teaching Protestant theology at the University of Augsburg, focusing on systematic theology and current theological issues. Being an expert in systematic theology and a historian of theology, Friedrich Wilhelm Graf is one of the most productive representatives of his discipline in his generation.

As his work combines theological subjects with perspectives of social and political history, it overcomes the narrowing down of church history to the history of thought that has prevailed so far, thus contributing to a changed understanding of theology in the modern context. The central figure in the thinking and research of Friedrich Wilhelm Graf is the theologian and cultural philosopher Ernst Troeltsch; by publishing a complete edition of Troeltsch's work he has taken a fresh approach to his ideas and concepts. Friedrich Wilhelm Graf is the first theologian to receive the Leibniz Prize.

Professor Dr. Ulrich Herbert (47), Modern and Contemporary History, University of Freiburg (DM 1.5 million)

Ulrich Herbert read history, German language and literature as well as ethnology and taught at a grammar school before he obtained his Ph.D. in Essen in 1985 and seven years later qualified for a professorship. From 1992 to 1995 he was the director of the Forschungsstelle für die Geschichte des Nationalsozialismus (Research Centre for the History of National Socialism) in Hamburg and then became a professor for modern and contemporary history at the University of Freiburg.

Ulrich Herbert's discipline is contemporary history. In his doctoral thesis on "foreign workers" in the wartime economy of the Third Reich he not only looked into the economic and deployment of labour policies of the German authorities in the Reich and in the occupied territories, but also highlighted the specific ideology-based interlinkage of social policy and racism. Widely known in scholarly circles is his monograph on Werner Best entitled "Biographische Studien über Radikalismus, Weltanschauung und Vernunft" which takes a contextual view of ideological convictions and their rational implementation by the ruling system of National Socialism. This work is considered a landmark study of the problem of continuity before and after 1945 as well as of the efforts of suppression made by political and social elites in the early years of the Federal Republic. In Ulrich Herbert the nominating committee honours a young historian who has an important contribution to make to the current discussion about the recent German past.

Professor Dr. Martin Johannes Lohse (42), Pharmacology, University of Würzburg (DM 3 million)

Martin Johannes Lohse studied medicine and philosophy at the Universities of Göttingen, London and Paris holding scholarships of the Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes and the Gouvernement Fran?ais and obtained his doctorate in 1981. He received his scientific training at the pharmacological institutes in Bonn and Heidelberg and at Duke University in Durham, USA. In 1988 he qualified for a professorship in Heidelberg and in 1990 - as a Heisenberg Fellow - joined the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried where he became head of a working group. In 1993 he accepted a C4 professorship for pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Würzburg.

Being a molecular pharmacologist, Martin Johannes Lohse focuses on exploring the structure and function of proteins involved in signal transmission by neurotransmitters and hormones where he studies the regulation processes of G-protein-coupled receptors. His investigations are of great general biological relevance as they provide an understanding of many processes such as vision, other sensory processes and numerous hormonal effects. In honour of the significance of his work Martin Johannes Lohse received numerous awards; he is the project director of various European working programmes and also a reviewer for the most renowned learned journals such as NATURE, SCIENCE and the EMBO JOURNAL.

Professor Dr. Volker Mosbrugger (45), Paleontology, University of Tübingen (DM 1.5 million)

It was only after he had graduated in biology and biochemistry from the universities of Freiburg and Montpellier that Volker Mosbrugger turned to paleobotanic issues. In his habilitation thesis (research work prerequisite to obtaining a professorship) submitted to the University of Bonn he looked into the geological development of stable trunks with a high flexural strength. In 1990 he accepted a call from Tübingen where paleobotany can look back on a long tradition.

Volker Mosbrugger could contribute his expertise to the work conducted at a collaborative research centre at the University of Tübingen, while his concepts of constructional morphology were developed further at a collaborative research centre set up at the universities of Tübingen and Stuttgart and dedicated to studying "Natural constructions - light-weight structures in architecture and nature". Combining careful field observations with theoretical modelling plays an important role in Volker Mosbrugger's scientific approach. This sub-discipline of the geosciences contributes significantly to understanding the characteristics of the global environment and its changeability over time.

Professor Dr. Hans-Christian Pape (42), Neurophysiology, University of Magdeburg (DM 3 million)

Hans-Christian Pape graduated in biology from the University of Bochum, obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Essen and then worked as a scientific assistant to Professor Eysel in the department of neurophysiology. After a longer research period in the USA he qualified for a professorship in physiology at the University of Bochum in 1992. In 1993 he won a DFG Heisenberg fellowship and since 1994 has held a C4 professorship and been the director of the Institute for Physiology at the medical school of the University of Magdeburg.

The work of Hans-Christian Pape is dedicated to investigating the plasticity of the visual system, analysing the intrinsic properties of neurons in the cortex, the thalamus and the amygdala and their exposure to the effects of neuromodulators as well as studying the mechanisms of rhythmogenesis in the nervous system and the development of certain types of epilepsy. His work has contributed to understanding the cellular basis of the function of the thalamus as the organ controlling the diurnal rhythm. Hans-Christian Pape's work is characterised by the fact that it covers the various organisational levels of the brain in both conceptual and methodological terms. In the person of Hans-Christian Pape a neurophysiologist is awarded the Leibniz Prize whose scientific conception - in the view of the nominating committee - can lead to major physiological and pathophysiological findings that may also contribute to understanding psychiatric diseases.

Professor Dr. Joachim Ullrich (42), Experimental Physics, University of Freiburg (DM 3 million)

Joachim Ullrich studied experimental physics at the University of Frankfurt am Main where he received his doctorate from the Institute for Nuclear Physics in 1987 and qualified for a professorship in 1994. In 1997 he was offered the chair he is now holding at the University of Freiburg. In the meantime he had worked as a kind of scientific globetrotter at various institutes in different countries, almost always focusing on the momentum and energy analysis of atom fragments resulting from the collision of elementary particles. To measure the momentum and energy of several fragments simultaneously Joachim Ullrich developed recoil-ion momentum spectroscopy. The applications of such measuring methods range from atomic decay processes to momentum distribution measurements of electrons during solid-state and surface analyses.

The 1999 Leibniz Prizes will be awarded by the President of the DFG, Professor Ernst-Ludwig Winnacker, during a ceremony to be held in the presence of the Federal President in the Aula of the University of Bonn on 8 February 1999 at 3.00 p.m.

Information for editors:
Further information on the 1999 Leibniz Prize winners, their c.v.s and descriptions of their fields of research can be obtained from the DFG press section as per 15 January 1999.
-end-


Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

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