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Press Release No. 54 | 3 December 1999
Prizes in the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Programme 2000

Most valuable promotion prize for fourteen scientists and scholars

The Grants Committee of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) has today selected the prize-winners in its Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Programme for the year 2000. Fourteen scientists and scholars are to be awarded the most highly endowed German promotion prize. Those employing the greatest array of apparatus will receive prize-money to the value of three million marks, and those more concerned with theoretical studies will receive 1.5 million marks. These sums are earmarked for research studies conducted over a period of five years.

The aim of the Leibniz Programme, which was instituted in 1985, is to improve the working conditions of outstanding scientists and scholars, to broaden their opportunities for research, to relieve them of administrative burdens, and to facilitate their employment of especially highly qualified young academics. The prize-winners are permitted the greatest possible freedom in the way they employ this money.

From the multitude of names put forward for the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize the DFG´s Nomination Committee has favoured those with the most promising prospects for achieving the greatest scientific progress as a result of further promotion. The DFG is awarding the Leibniz Prize for the fifteenth time from special grants made by the Federal Government and the Federal States.

The universities, the Max Planck Society and former prizewinners put forward over 100 names, from whom the following were chosen to receive the Leibniz Prize 2000:

Prof. Dr. Klaus Fiedler (48), Cognitive Social Psychology, Heidelberg University (DM 1.5 million)

After gaining his degree in Psychology at Giessen University, Klaus Fiedler joined the staff of the university and was initially concerned with questions relating to computersupported teaching, and subsequently with speech development. From 1980 to 1982, supported by a DFG fellowship, he prepared for his qualification as a university lecturer. He remained true to Giessen University, first as a lecturer, and then as a professor C2, until 1991 when he accepted an appointment as professor of Microsociology and Social Psychology at Mannheim University. Since 1992 has been professor of Social Psychology at Heidelberg University.

His scientific studies are distinguished by their great diversity: in addition to questions pertaining to psychology in general, Klaus Fiedler has also been concerned with sociopsychological topics such as the links between speech and social perception, and with processes of social information processing. In addition to this, he has been investigating how the aims, intentions and attitudes of a speaker can be deduced from his speech characteristics - a topic of research which is of great importance, amongst other things, for the possibilities it presents for exposing liars through the their oral idiosyncracies.

Prof. Dr. Peter Greil (45), Materials Sciences, Erlangen-Nuremberg University (DM 3 million)

After graduating in Mineralogy and Crystal Chemistry, and gaining his Ph.D. in Metallurgy at Stuttgart University, Peter Greil worked at the Max Planck Institute for Metallurgical Research. In 1988 he took up an appointment at the TU HamburgHarburg. In 1993 he was appointed Professor of Glass and Ceramics, and became head of the Institute for Materials Sciences at Erlangen-Nuremberg University.

Peter Greil is concerned with the basic principles of manufacturing ceramics and ceramic-composites. For producing these modern materials he is employing a novel synthetic process, which enables both polymers, and metals and their oxides, to be combined to form new composites. He frequently utilises the construction principles found in living nature as a guideline for new "biomimetic" materials. Greil has recently begun to study corrosion protection coatings, whose future applications will include coatings for the glow plugs of diesel engines.

Prof. Dr. med. Matthias W. Hentze (39), Molecular Biology, European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), Heidelberg (DM 3 million)

On completing his medical studies, Matthias Hentze turned to post-doctoral studies in Molecular Biology in the USA. At the age of only 29, he became a group leader in the European Laboratory for Molecular Biology (EMBL) in Heidelberg and qualified as a university lecturer at the age of 30. For the past year he has been Senior Scientist and Programme Coordinater at the EMBL, and co-organiser of an international graduate programme. Matthias Hentze owns a number of patents and has already received diverse awards.

In the course of his research into the molecular biology of cellular iron metabolism Hentze has discovered important regulatory processes based on controlling the formation of the receptors regulating the uptake and storage of iron. Hentze was the first person to conduct a systematic study of metabolic regulation through control of so-called translation, the formation of proteins on the basis of genetic information. These pioneer studies are of great significance for understanding iron metabolic disorders. He is considered to be one of the few scientists capable of bridging the gap between molecular biology and human medicine.

Prof. Dr. Peter M. Herzig (45), Geochemistry and the Geology of Mineral Deposits, Technical University Bergakademie Freiberg (DM 3 million)

Peter M. Herzig studied Geology and Mineralogy at the RWTH Aachen, where he gained his Ph.D. and - after completing an attachment as a Feodor Lynen Fellow at Toronto University - qualified as a university lecturer. Herzig has twice received the Friedrich Wilhelm Prize of the RWTH for his studies. After a period as Visiting Professor in Canada, he took up an appointment at the TU Bergakademie Freiberg, where he has since held the chair of Mineral Deposits Teaching at the Institute for Mineralogy, and headed the Geosciences, Geotechnology and Mining Faculty.

Peter Herzig has dedicated himself to marine research orientated towards raw materials. He has already participated in 15 research expeditions on board research vessels and diving boats. His special field is the hydrothermal systems known as "Black Smokers", which are found in and around oceanic rift basins; his work on these systems has made a vital contribution to our understanding of ore formation processes on the ocean floor today. The results are thus relevant for the search for economically important ore deposits formed in the oceans in former times. In 1990, Herzig discovered ore deposits of unusally high gold content in the south-west Pacific, and was able to identify pure gold in oceanic floor sulphides for the first time.

Prof. Dr. Reinhard Jahn (48), Cell Biology, Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen (DM 3 million)

Reinhard Jahn studied Biology and Chemistry as a fellow of the Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes in Freiburg and Göttingen, and qualified as a grammar school teacher. After gaining his Ph.D. in Göttingen in 1981, and completing a post-doctoral attachment in the USA, he was appointed Assistant Professor at Rockefeller University. Further posts at the Max Planck Institute for Psychiatry in Martinried and at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Yale University followed. In 1997 he returned to Göttingen as Director of Neurobiology at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry.

Through his studies, Jahn has made an essential contribution to our understanding of the processes of membrane fusion, which are vital for innumerable life processes. He has devoted special effort to studying the process of onward signal transmission between nerve cells. Although the signals within cells are transmitted onwards electrically, at the synapses this is accomplished through the medium of so-called neurotransmitters. Jahn´s study group is investigating the molecular processes at the nerve ends which occur when neurotransmitters are set free. This is of particular importance not only for basic research, but also for medical applications.

Prof. Dr. Aditi Lahiri (47), General Linguistics, Constance University (DM 1.5 million)

Aditi Lahiri studied Comparative Philology and Linguistics at Calcutta University and Brown University in America. She has also worked at the University of California in Los Angeles, the University of California in Santa Cruz and the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen. In 1992 she was appointed Professor of General Linguistics at Constance University.

Aditi Lahiri is working in the field of phonology, a subdiscipline of linguistics concerned with the function of sounds in a language system. She has studied and further developed theories of changes in language. In the field of phonetics she has worked on acoustic characteristics for phonological characteristics and on ways of using phonological characteristics in automatic language recognition. Since 1997 Mrs. Lahiri has completed numerous studies within Collaborative Research Centre 471 "Variation and Evolution in the Lexicon". Her work is of central importance for the latest developments in historical linguistics.

Prof. Dr. Gertrude Lübbe-Wolff (46), Public Law, Bielefeld University (DM 1.5 million)

Gertrude Lübbe-Wolff studied Law in Bielefeld and Freiburg, and at Harvard Law School. After gaining her Ph.D. and qualifying as a university lecturer she at first turned her back on university life and became director of the Office for Water Protection in Bielefeld. It was here that she gained experience in environmental law, in which she later specialised. Today she is a professor of Public Law and Director of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Bielefeld.

Prof. Lübbe-Wolfe has conducted detailed studies of the linkage between law and morals in environmental protection, and has revealed just how much the debate on the protection of the natural bases of our existence are dominated by moral arguments. Here contributions to the academic discussion have centred on the practical implementation of law from standard order, i.e. "research into the effects of law". Jurisprudence has developed a series of novel instruments and principles in this field designed to master the institutionally and economically complex world of environmental protection; Gertrude Lübbe-Wolff occupies a leading position in this field.

Prof. Dr. Dieter Lüst (43), Theoretical Physics, Humboldt University, Berlin (DM 1.5 million)

Dieter Lüst studied Physics at the TU Munich and gained his Ph.D. at Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich. After qualifying as a university lecturer in Munich he was employed at the CERN in Geneva as a Heisenberg Fellow, and in 1993 took up an appointment as professor C4 at Humboldt University in Berlin. He is the spokesman for a DFG-sponsored post-graduate research group concerned with particle physics, and since 1998 an external member of the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Potsdam-Golm.

Dieter Lüst´s chosen fields are string and supersymmetrical field theories. His research is directed at the basic questions of combining quantum and gravitational physics in order to gain a uniform understanding of all physical forces, from potent nuclear power to electroweak forces and the force of gravity, and to achieve a uniform description of the numerous elementary particles constituting matter.

Prof. Dr. Stefan Müller (37), Mathematics, Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Natural Sciences, Leipzig (DM 1.5 million)

Stefan Müller studied Mathematics in Bonn, Edinburgh and Paris, and gained his Ph.D. in Edinburgh. Prior to qualifying as a university lecturer in Bonn in 1994 he served as an assistant professor at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh. After professorships in Freiburg and Zurich, he went as a director to the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Natural Sciences in Leipzig. He has received the Max Planck Research Prize, and is deputy director of the highly regarded mathematical research institute in Oberwolfach.

Müller´s chief interests lie in applied analysis and the characteristics and solution of partial differential equations. Differential equations play a major role in many fields of the natural and engineering sciences as they facilitate the description of sometimes extremely complex processes in nature and engineering. Stefan Müller´s special achievement has been to apply analysis to a multitude of practical problems in mechanics and the material sciences, and to have gained deepseated, and sometimes surprising, results. In this manner, with pure mathematics and incursions into physics and mechanics as his starting point, he has created an overall work which might be entitled "mathematical material science".

Prof. Dr. Manfred Pinkal (50), Computer Linguistics, University of the Saar (DM 1.5 million)

Manfred Pinkal studied Linguistics, German, Philosophy and Information Technology in Bochum and Stuttgart. After gaining his Ph.D. in Stuttgart in 1976 and qualifying as a university lecturer in Düsseldorf in 1984 he became a visiting professor at the University of Texas at Austin. He was a Heisenberg Fellow of the DFG and in 1987 received his first appointment as professor C3 of Information Technology at Hamburg University. Since 1990 he has been professor C4 of Computer Linguistics at the University of the Saar in Saarbrücken, where he is also involved in a post-doctoral study group and in Collaborative Research Centre 378.

Manfred Pinkal has made an essential contribution to the dialogue between Linguistics and Information Technology, and to establishing Computer Linguistics as a subject in Germany. The outstanding scientific importance of his work is that he has succeeded in building a bridge between a methodically rigid language theory and the actuality of the unsystematic, vague, incoherent human languages. He has devised a theory which permits precise acquisition of vague and other undetermined expressions, and has developed a process which enables phonetically incomplete statements to be acquired and processed.

Prof. Dr. Ilme Schlichting (39), Biophysics, Max Planck Institute for Molecular Physiology, Dortmund (DM 3 million)

Ilme Schlichting studied Biology and Physics in Heidelberg, and gained her Ph.D. there in 1990. She attended Brandeis University in the USA as a Feodor Lynen Fellow. Since 1994 she has been head of an independent study group at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Physiology in Dortmund.

Through her work in the field of protein crystallography, Schlichting has furnished fresh insights into the structure and functioning of biomolecules. She has succeeded in carefully triggering intra-crystal reactions with such molecules, and in stabilising the intermediate products long enough to gather relevant data. She has used the very latest equipment and methods for these studies.

Prof. Dr. Friedrich Temps (44), Physical Chemistry, Kiel University conjointly with Prof. Dr. Hans-Joachim Werner (49), Theoretical Chemistry, Stuttgart University (DM 3 million)

Friedrich Temps studied Chemistry at Göttingen University, where he gained his Ph.D. in 1983. After a post-doctoral attachment to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, USA, he joined the staff of the Max Planck Institute for Flow Research in Göttingen, where he qualified as a university lecturer in 1994. In 1995 he took up an appointment at Kiel University. Hans-Joachim Werner wrote his doctoral thesis at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen, and attained his Ph.D. in 1977. After qualifying as a university lecturer in Frankfurt in 1982, this Heisenberg Fellow held appointments in Kaiserslautern, Los Alamos, USA, and Cambridge, England. In 1987 he took up an appointment at Bielefeld University. Since 1994 he has headed the Institute for Theoretical Chemistry at Stuttgart University.

Both scientists have produced outstanding achievements in understanding the course of elementary chemical reactions; one with basic experiments, the other with detailed theoretical studies. Friedrich Temps has concerned himself primarily with the reactions of decomposing molecules, including the decay reactions of so-called radicals, which are of significance for the chemistry of the atmosphere. Hans-Joachim Werner has made a name for himself at the international level by developing methods and computer applications in Theoretical Chemistry, and especially in Quantum Chemistry.

Prof. Dr. Martin Wegener (37), Solid State Physics, Karlsruhe University (DM 3 million)

Martin Wegener studied Physics in Frankfurt-am-Main, where he also gained his Ph.D. After two years in the Bell Laboratories in the USA, at the age of 28 he was appointed professor C3 for Experimental Solid State Physics at Dortmund University, and at the age of 34 was appointed professor C4 at the Institute for Applied Physics at Karlsruhe University.

Prof. Wegener works in the field of short-time spectroscopy, on semi-conductors; the structural elements of semi-conductors have assumed great importance in microelectronics. Wegener is interested in both basic and practically orientated physical questions. He recently succeeded in producing the shortest - approximately 10 femtoseconds (1 second = 1015 femtoseconds) - laser pulse ever created in the blue range of the spectrum. This technique is now enabling collisions between electrons inside semi-conductors to be examined in much greater detail than hitherto as these collisions occur at extremely short intervals of time, and can thus only be rendered visible with light pulses of very short duration.

DFG President Prof. Ernst-Ludwig Winnacker will be presenting the prizes for the Leibniz Programme for 2000 at a ceremony which is due to take place on 10 February 2000 in the Wissenschaftszentrum, Ahrstrasse 45, Bonn.

Further Information

Notice for editorial boards:

Further documents relating to the prize-winners 2000, their curricula vitae and the description of their main fields of research will be available on request from the DFG´s Pressereferat from 17 January 2000 onwards.