DFG announces ten prize winners

December 17, 2004

Brussels, 16 Dec 2004

The 2005 winners of the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz prize, the most prestigious research prize in Germany, have been announced by the German Research Foundation's (DFG) Grants Committee.

DFG revealed on 16 December that the prize money of 1.55 million euro would go to ten scientists and academics - two women and eight men - over a five-year period. This money can be used flexibly according to the specific needs of the prize winners.

'The programme, established in 1985, aims to improve the working conditions of outstanding researchers, to extend their research opportunities, to relieve them of administrative work and make it easier for them to employ especially highly qualified young researchers,' explained the DFG. 'Scientists and academics from all research areas can be nominated for the award. The DFG Nominations Committee [...] selects researchers who, above all, can be expected to particularly advance their scientific achievement with this additional boost in funding,' added DFG.

The award ceremony for the 2005 Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Programme will take place on 2 March at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Science in Berlin.

The biochemist Peter Becker from the University of Munich has been selected for his work on the packaging of DNA, or chromatin dynamics. Professor Becker has been investigating how the packaging of the DNA relates to the control of gene activity. Through his research, he has discovered a new principle of chromatin dynamics. This finding is of huge importance for understanding gene activity relating to the development of cancer and embryo growth.

Immanuel Bloch, a 32 year old professor in experimental physics from the University of Mainz, will be rewarded for this work on Bose-Einstein condensate. Using laser beams, Professor Bloch was able, for the first time, to alter a Bose-Einstein condensate to bring about a phase transition to a state called the Mott isolator. This state of matter has fundamental new properties, which can be utilised for applications such as the development of quantum computers.

One of the two women to receive the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz prize is Stefanie Dimmeler from the University of Frankfurt/Main. Professor Dimmeler's field of research is the biology of the blood vessels. She has contributed significantly to the understanding of arteriosclerosis, the thickening and hardening of the arterial walls and her work has formed the basis for the first clinical studies of stem cell therapy of heart attack patients. Currently, Professor Dimmeler is hoping to create the foundations for new methods of treatment for cardiovascular diseases through improved understanding of the biological and pathological processes in the vessel wall.

Jürgen Gauß from the University of Munich was selected for his contribution to the methodology in the area of theoretical quantum chemistry. Professor Gauß has also put theory into practice in high-performance computer programmes that are already being used by research groups around the world.

Another prize winner is Günther Hasinger, one of the world's leading researchers in the field of x-ray astronomy. Professor Hasinger has been studying the x-ray background at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching and is now studying the cores of active galaxies as well as being involved in the hunt for dark matter. As part of his work he is actively involved in the development of x-ray telescope satellites, which it is hoped will provide answers to various questions on the distribution of matter and the early development of stars and galaxies.

Christian Jung from the University of Kiel has been researching the breeding of agriculturally cultivated crop plants. He successfully determined a resistance gene to protect sugar beet from threadworms and has isolated genes which determine the sexual differentiation of plants. Professor Jung has also made an important scientific contribution to the debate on environmentally friendly genetic engineering.

Using game theory, prize winner Axel Ockenfels, who teaches experimental economics at the University of Cologne, has developed a behavioural model that can be used to both explain and predict apparently contradictory economic decision-making patterns. Dr Ockenfels is currently one of the most frequently cited authors in his field of research.

One of the focal points of Wolfgang Peukert's work is particle properties in the sub-micron size range. The behaviour of and interaction between particles are decisive for the characteristics of a product. Professor Peukert, who teaches mechanical process engineering at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg has shed light on the scientific relationships between particles in the sub-micron and nanometre size range. His research has created the basis for the tailor-made design of product properties, and thus for application.

The second woman to claim a prize is Barbara Stollberg-Rilinger, professor of early modern history at the University of Münster. Professor Stollberg-Rilinger's particular interest lies in the political and cultural movements in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries. Her research currently focuses on the question of how the social order of ranks and classes in the early modern era were constituted through symbolic acts, for instance rituals and ceremonies.

Andreas Tünnermann, from the University of Jena has published groundbreaking research on the development of high power fibre lasers, thus laying the foundations for the production of simple, compact and robust lasers with high beam quality. Professor Tünnermann also accomplished pioneering work on the improvement of the optical properties of optical fibres for light emission and for their usefulness for lasers. His work has opened up new possibilities for the use of modern laser fibres, ranging from basic research and the development of new materials through to biophotonics.

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