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Press Release No. 11 | 20 March 2000
Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize 2000

Recognition and Incentive for Six Young Researchers

Six young researchers will receive this year’s Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize, awarded jointly by the German Minister of Education and Research and the President of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation). The award, which is named after a former DFG President, recognises outstanding research achievements by junior researchers. The prizes are endowed with 30,000 deutschmarks each.

The winners are:

Dr.-Ing. Leif Kobbelt (33), Max Planck Institute of Computer Science, Saarbrücken

Leif Kobbelt studied computer science in Karlsruhe and completed his doctorate in 1994. After a year of research at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA, he was employed until 1999 as an assistant professor at the Department of Mathematical Machines and Data Processing, University of Erlangen–Nuremberg. There he earned his habilitation in practical computer science in early 1999. Since April 1999, Leif Kobbelt has headed a research group on geometric modelling at the Max Planck Institute of Computer Science in Saarbrücken. His research objective is the efficient handling of large 3D data sets. For this purpose he develops algorithms which enable the efficient storage, transmission and display of very large triangle meshes with arbitrary connectivity, and which for the first time allow the interactive manipulation of such data sets on standardised graphics hardware in real time. The results are of great importance for applications such as imaging in medicine.

Dr. Christian Kubisch (33), Department of Human Genetics, University of Bonn

Christian Kubisch studied medicine in Bonn, where he earned his doctorate in molecular biology by investigating gene activities in cardiomyocytes. He then conducted molecular genetic research at the Center for Molecular Neurobiology Hamburg. Since July 1999, Christian Kubisch has been assistant professor at the Department of Human Genetics, University of Bonn. In his work he combines methods and insights from molecular genetics, clinical genetics and bioinformatics. His main focus is on the molecular biological analysis of ion channels and the effects of genetic defects on human health. The outstanding finding of his research is the identification of a previously unknown potassium channel that plays an important role in hereditary deafness.

Dr. Thomas Mayer (32), Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA

After studying biology, Thomas Mayer did his doctorate in 1998 at the Center for Molecular Biology, University of Heidelberg. For a short stay he researched at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology in Dresden. Since then, Thomas Mayer has been working in chemical genetics at Harvard Medical School on a DFG fellowship. Half a year ago, he was one of the first outstanding early career researchers to be accepted into the DFG’s Emmy Noether Programme. After a short time at his new institution, he was able to identify, with the help of a search system he developed, new chemical substances that penetrate cell membranes and can inhibit cell division. One of these substances, called monastrol, blocks a specific motor protein and could be important in future cancer therapy.

Dr. Barbara Mittler (32), Department of Chinese Studies, University of Heidelberg

Barbara Mittler studied sinology at the University of Oxford and received her doctorate in early 1995, not even 26 years old, from the Department of Chinese Studies at the University of Heidelberg. In December 1998, before her 30th birthday, Barbara Seals earned her habilitation with a thesis on early Chinese press history. In her doctoral dissertation, which was without a model in regard to procurement of materials and methodology, she managed to capture in language the non-verbal medium of music in a way that made possible an integrated analysis of modern Chinese music in connection with a purely musicological consideration. Since October 1999 she has been an instructor at the Department of Chinese Studies in Heidelberg.

Dr. Christian Remling (32), Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, University of Osnabrück

After studying physics in Frankfurt, Christian Remling earned his doctorate and habilitation in mathematics at the University of Osnabrück. Beginning with a research visit at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, he focused on the qualitative study of the spectrum of one-dimensional Schrödinger operators. Then he began to extend his research to higher-order differential operators. Christian Remling’s mathematical insights are of great importance for theoretical physics.

Dr. Matthias Rief (33), Department of Biochemistry, Stanford University, USA

Matthias Rief studied and earned his doctorate at the Department of Applied Physics at the University of Technology as well as Ludwig Maximilian University, both in Munich. His most important scientific achievement is the discovery of the modular unfolding of titin using a method he developed, known as single-molecule force spectroscopy. This molecule is responsible for the basic tension of muscles. The method developed by Matthias Rief is also used for the characterisation of various polymers and opens up new possibilities, for example, to utilise DNA as a programmable self-organising structural elements in nanotechnology. Currently, Matthias Rief works as a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University, with grant support from the DFG, on the implementation of optical tweezers to measure molecular interactions.