Prizes awarded in the 2002 Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Programme

December 20, 2001

The Grants Committee of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) announced the prize-winners in the 2002 Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Programme today. Twelve scientists are awarded Germany's most highly endowed promotional prize. Grants to the tune of three million Deutschmarks (1.55 million euros) are being awarded to researchers requiring a greater amount of apparatus. More theoretically oriented research is being funded with 1.5 million Deutschmarks (775,000 euros) for each project. The funds, which are being provided for a period of five years, can be used flexibly by the researchers according to their requirements.

The aim of this programme, which was set up in 1985, is to improve the working conditions of outstanding scientists and scholars, to extend their opportunities to engage in research, to relieve them of administrative tasks and to make it easier for them to take on specially qualified junior scientists and scholars. Researchers from all areas of science and the humanities can be nominated for the prize provided that their work so far demonstrates excellence. Funding via the Leibniz Programme is only awarded on the basis of a recommendation. All academic higher education institutions, the heads of the DFG review committees, the Max Planck Society and some other selected institutions as well as prize-winners of previous years can hand in proposals.

With its decision, the DFG nominating committee for the Leibniz programme has above all selected those scientists and scholars of whom it expects that additional funding will raise their performance. With today's decision, the total number of scientists and scholars supported by the Leibniz Programme has increased to 197. Out of these, 43 are from the humanities, 54 from the bio-sciences, 72 from the natural sciences and 28 from the engineering sciences.

Out of the 128 proposals submitted for the 2002 programme, the following scientists and scholars have been chosen as Leibniz prize-winners:

PD Dr. Carmen Birchmeier-Kohler (46), cell and molecular biology, Max Delbrück Centre for Molecular Medicine, Berlin (3 million Deutschmarks)

Carmen Birchmeier-Kohler studied and completed her doctorate at the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule in Zurich. Her academic career led her via the Cold Spring Laboratory in the USA and the Cologne Max Plank Institute to Berlin, where she has been working at the Max Delbrück Centre for Molecular Medicine since 1995.

Carmen Birchmeier-Kohler's work focuses on molecular biology issues of embryonal and organ development among mammals, especially interaction mechanisms between cells regulating the growth and development of the organism. With the aid of so-called knock-out mice, animals in which certain genes are switched off to examine their significance for the organism, Birchmeier-Kohler and her research team have made a crucial contribution to the understanding of a number of growth factors and their role in the development of organisms. The processes observed in animal experiments in early embryonal development are of considerable importance for studying human diseases as well. Carmen Birchmeier-Kohler has also earned considerable international recognition for her research into the complex processes involved in the development of organs and the formation of the mammal embryo as well.

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Dahmen (52), applied mathematics, RWTH Aachen (1.5 million Deutschmarks)

Wolfgang Dahmen studied mathematics and physics at RWTH Aachen, where he also finished his doctorate in 1976. Following his qualifying as a university lecturer at Bonn University, he initially joined IBM as a post-doc at Yorktown Heights, USA. After appointments at Bielefeld University and the Free University of Berlin, he returned to RWTH Aachen in 1992, where he is currently Professor of Geometry and Practical Mathematics.

In his scientific work, Wolfgang Dahmen combines theory and application, and over the last three decades, he has worked on a wide range of mathematical topics. The results of his research work are used, for example, in process engineering and computer-aided geometric design. The development of so-called multi-variant splines, which goes back to Dahmen, forms the foundations of computer-aided design and manufacturing processes, for example in the construction of car bodies. For some years, Dahmen has been dealing with issues concerning online and real-time optimising that are important in monitoring and controlling processes in sensitive equipment such as chemical reactors in order to prevent disasters. Dahmen's elaboration of the mathematical theory of so-called wavelets provides the basis for the employment of these methods in practice.

Prof. Dr. Wolf-Christian Dullo (47), palaeo-oceanography/palaeontology, GEOMAR Research Centre, Kiel (3 million Deutschmarks)

Wolf-Christian Dullo completed his doctorate at Friedrich Alexander University in Erlangen in geology and palaeontology and qualified there as a university lecturer in 1988. Following activities in Erlangen and in Heidelberg, he was appointed to the GEOMAR Research Centre at Kiel University. Since 1999, he has headed the research centre as its director.

Wolf-Christian Dullo is interested in palaeoclimatology and palaeo-oceanography, particularly in the examination of reef limestone. He has developed a method of analysis for the examination of quarternary reefs, so-called high-resolution sclerochronology, which for the first time allows accurate conclusions to be drawn regarding fluctuations in sea levels and climatic changes on a world-wide scale. In all, Wolf-Christian Dullo's work represents a crucial contribution to the understanding of the climate-ocean system.

Prof. Dr. Bruno Eckhardt (41), non-linear dynamics, Marburg University (1.5 million Deutschmarks)

Bruno Eckhardt studied physics, mathematics and computer science at Kaiserslautern and in the USA, and he completed his PhD in 1986. After qualifying as a university lecturer in the field of theoretical physics, he first went to the University of Oldenburg and was appointed to Marburg University in 1996, where he has been a Professor of Theoretical Physics since then.

Bruno Eckhardt's field of work is non-linear dynamics. Phenomena of this kind occur on the microscopic leval, for example among atoms or molecules. But they can also be found in macroscopic systems, such as in turbulence in currents, a field of research that Bruno Eckhardt has been increasingly concentrating on recently. He has developed numerical methods of simulating flow patterns, and with his work, he has made a significant contribution to the understanding of variety in currents in the transitional area going over to turbulence. The results of his research on the dynamics of non-linear systems has opened up new avenues in the physics of fluid dynamics.

Prof. Dr. Michael Famulok (41), biochemistry, University of Bonn (3 million Deutschmarks)

Michael Famulok studied chemistry in Marburg, where he finished his PhD in 1989. As a post-doc, he went to the USA, where he was involved in research work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Department of Genetics. From 1992 to 1996, he carried out his activities to qualify as a university lecturer at the Institute of Biochemistry at Ludwig Maximilians University, Munich. Since 1999, he has been a Professor of Bio-Organic Chemistry at the University of Bonn.

Michael Famulok works in the borderline area between organic chemistry and biochemistry/molecular biology. He has developed a completely new method for the artificial production of nucleic acids, so-called aptameres, which can bind other molecules in a highly selective way. This method, which is called in-vitro selection, allows for a specific ability to bind for various substrates, and it shows that nucleic acids can behave in a way similar to antibodies. Famulok, who is opening up new ways to understand protein functions and functional genome research with his team, has received the Otto Klung Chemistry Prize as well as the Karl Ziegler Foundation Promotion Prize and other awards in recognition of his work.

Prof. Dr. Christian Haass (41), biochemistry/pathobiochemistry, Ludwig Maximilians University, Munich (3 million Deutschmarks)

Christian Haass studied biology at the University of Heidelberg and finished his PhD there in 1989. In 1990, supported by the DFG, he visited Harvard Medical School, where he was appointed Assistant Professor of Neurology in 1993. Following his return, he first of all became a Professor of Molecular Biology at the University of Heidelberg. At the age of 38, he was appointed to Munich, where he has been a Professor of Biochemistry at the Adolf Butenandt Institute since then.

It is thanks to the molecular and cell-biology research of Christian Haass that Germany has attained a leading position world-wide in the scientific field of neuro-degeneration. His work on the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's Disease represents an important basis for what have, in the meantime, become realistic therapeutic approaches in the treatment of this illness. In addition, he also belongs to the group of top researchers at international level who are dealing with the frequently occurring neuro-degenerative diseases of old age, Morbus Alzheimer and Morbus Parkinson.

Prof. Dr. Franz-Ulrich Hartl (44), biochemistry, Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, Martinsried (3 million Deutschmarks)

Franz-Ulrich Hartl studied medicine in Heidelberg. Having completed his doctorate in 1985, he first went to Munich and then, in 1991, accepted an appointment as Associate Professor of Cell Biology and Genetics at Cornell University in the USA. After just two years he became Full Professor. Since 1997, he has been a Director at the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry in Martinsried.

Franz-Ulrich Hartl already gained pioneering insights in the field of protein folding when he had finished his doctorate. He was able to demonstrate that successful folding of proteins does not occur spontaneously, as had hitherto been assumed, but that it depends on the participation of folding aids such as the heat shock protein Hsp60, a molecular chaperon. Recently, Franz-Ulrich Hartl's research has also concentrated on the analysis of neuro-degenerative diseases that feature mal-folding and lumping of specific proteins.

Prof. Dr. Thomas Hengartner (41), folklore studies, University of Hamburg (1.5 million Deutschmarks)

Thomas Hengartner studied folklore studies and dialectology, modern German literature and Swiss history, and he completed his doctorate at the University of Bern in 1989. In 1996, he qualified as a university lecturer at the university's Department of Philosophy and History and currently works as a Professor of Folklore Studies at Hamburg University.

Thomas Hengartner has opted for an approach of his own in a subject that has made several attempts to newly position itself over the last few years. On the one hand, he is applying a new method to examine traditional research topics of his discipline. For example, he conducts dialect research using standards of modern linguistics, enabling intensive collaboration between scholars of folklore and linguists. But he has also entered entirely new research terrain, including urbanity research, technology research and examinations on the culture and history of semi-luxury foods and tobacco. Not only is Thomas Hengartner's work consistently interdisciplinary, but he also makes an effort to present the results of his research to a non-academic audience with exhibitions, radio programmes and publications.

Prof. Dr. Reinhold Kliegl (48), cognitive psychology, University of Potsdam (1.5 million Deutschmarks)

Reinhold Kliegl studied psychology at the University of Regensburg and the University of Colorado at Boulder, USA. He was awarded his PhD by the University of Colorado in 1982 and qualified as a university lecturer at Berlin's Free University in 1992. Following appointments at the Max Planck Institute for Educational Research in Berlin and the School of Technology at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Reinhold Kliegl has been a Professor of Psychology at Potsdam University since 1994. He is a member of the Directorate of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Cognitive Studies in Potsdam and is among the editors of two internationally renowned specialist journals.

Reinhold Kliegl is interested in cognitive ageing, and his research addresses the issue of how ageing processes can be explained and to what degree changes owing to ageing can be countered by training cognitive performance. With the aid of a differentiated methodology, he has succeeded in demonstrating that ageing effects cannot be explained with a single global mechanism, such as the general slowing down of thinking, but that they proceed specifically in various areas of cognitive sub-activities. With a method that achieved fame as "Testing the Limits", for example, he succeeded in demonstrating the training resistance of healthy older people for the memory of faces. Reinhold Kliegl's work features a combination of experimental analyses of cognitive changes in old age, formal formation of models oriented on pure research and an innovative survey and analysis methodology. On several occasions, he has developed new research methods enabling differentiated descriptions of phenomena that had previously been regarded as clarified.

Prof. Dr. (engineering) Wolfgang Kowalsky (43), opto-electronics/organic semiconductors, Brunswick Technical University (3 million Deutschmarks)

As a grant-holder of the German National Scholarship Foundation, Wolfgang Kowalsky studied electrical engineering at Brunswick Technical University, where he completed his PhD in 1985. From 1986 on, he was a scientific assistant at the Institute of High-Frequency Technology in Brunswick, and he qualified as a university lecturer in 1989. In 1990, Wolfgang Kowalsky accepted an appointment as a C3 Professor of Opto-Electronics at the University of Ulm. In 1994, he returned to the University of Brunswick and has since been heading the Institute of High-Frequency Technology there.

Wolfgang Kowalsky deals with the research field of organic semiconductors. He has made pioneering achievements by demonstrating the use of organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) in flat screens. The results and the economic potential of his years of research in this area have met with considerable interest on the part of industry. Kowalsky's interdisciplinary activities range from physical foundations through chemistry to the complex building components required for application.

Prof. Dr. Karl Leo (41), solid state physics, Dresden Technical University (3 million Deutschmarks)

Karl Leo studied physics at Freiburg University, and he wrote his thesis there at the Institute for Solar Energy Systems. Having completed his PhD at the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Physics in Stuttgart, he initially went to AT&T Bell Laboratories in the USA and then joined the Institute of Semiconductor Engineering at RWTH Aachen. He qualified as a university lecturer there in 1993, and in the same year, he accepted an appointment as a Professor of Opto-Electronics at the Institute of Applied Photo-Physics at Dresden Technical University.

Karl Leo's research focuses on semiconductor optics and the physics of thin organic layers. His earlier work on the generation and detection of coherent oscillations in semiconductors has opened up new possibilities for ultra-short-time spectroscopy. In addition, he has successfully realised new concepts for construction components on the basis of the controlled formation of organic solid state bodies. This includes the manufacture of organic light-emitting diodes with the lowest operating currents world-wide. In recognition of his scientific achievements, Karl Leo has been awarded the Max Planck Society's Otto Hahn Medal as well as the Benningsen Promotion Prize of the Land of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Prof. Dr. (engineering) Frank Vollertsen (43), production engineering/laser technology, University of Paderborn (3 million Deutschmarks)

Frank Vollertsen studied materials science at Erlangen-Nuremberg University, where he finished his PhD in 1990. After qualifying as a university lecturer, he was appointed Professor of Metal Forming Technology at Paderborn University, where he is now spokesman for the Institute of Process and Materials Technology.

Frank Vollertsen's interdisciplinary research combines materials science, laser technology and production engineering. He earned a reputation in the field of laser beam remodelling at an early stage in his career, and within just a few years, he succeeded in establishing an internationally renowned research team. His more recent work includes the research project "Remodelling structured circuit boards with multiple membranes", which is to enable new insights in remodelling engineering in the context of a DFG priority programme.

The award ceremony for the prizes of the 2002 Leibniz Programme, to be awarded by DFG President Prof. Dr. Ernst-Ludwig Winnacker, will take place at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences in Berlin on the 6th March.

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

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