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Press Release No. 65 | 18. November 2009
Leibniz Prize 2010: Ten Winners Receive Honour, Prize Money and "Idyllic Freedom"

The DFG Honours Ten Researchers for Their Outstanding Achievements in Research / Germany's Most Prestigious Research Prize Has Been Awarded for 25 Years

The winners of the 2010 Leibniz Prize have been officially announced. At its meeting in Bonn today, the Joint Committee of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) named ten researchers, nine men and one woman, as recipients of Germany's most prestigious scientific prize. The winners were chosen by the Nominations Committee from among 170 nominees.

The 2010 Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize has been awarded to:

  • Prof. Dr. Jan Born, Neuroendocrinology/Sleep Research, University of Lübeck
  • Prof. Dr. Peter Fratzl, Biomaterials, Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces, Potsdam
  • Prof. Dr. Roman Inderst, Economics, University of Frankfurt am Main
  • Prof. Dr. Christoph Klein, Paediatrics/Paediatric Oncology, Hannover Medical School
  • Prof. Dr. Ulman Lindenberger, Developmental Psychology, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin
  • Prof. Dr. Frank Neese, Theoretical Chemistry, University of Bonn
  • Prof. Dr. Jürgen Osterhammel, Modern and Contemporary History, University of Konstanz
  • Prof. Dr. Petra Schwille, Biophysics, Dresden University of Technology
  • Prof. Dr. Stefan Treue, Primate Cognitive Neuroscience, German Primate Centre, Göttingen
  • Prof. Dr. Joachim Weickert, Image Processing/Computer Science, Saarland University

The Leibniz Prize award ceremony will be held on 15 March 2010 in Berlin. The DFG and the German scientific community will also be celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Leibniz Programme. The Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize has been awarded by the DFG every year since 1986 for outstanding achievements in research. Since the programme started, 280 Leibniz Prizes have been awarded, including those announced today. Of these prizes, 97 were awarded in the natural sciences, 79 in the life sciences, 61 in the humanities and social sciences and 43 in the engineering sciences. Due to the fact that the Leibniz Prize and the prize money can be shared, the number of prizewinners is higher than the number of prizes: A total of 303 nominees have received the prize to date, including 273 male and 30 female researchers.

"The Leibniz Prize has long been Germany's most distinguished science prize for researchers and also one of world's most prestigious scientific awards," said the DFG President, Professor Matthias Kleiner, on the occasion of the announcement of this year's prizewinners and the upcoming anniversary. Kleiner called to mind the fact that six Leibniz prizewinners have gone on to receive the Nobel Prize: 1988 Professor Hartmut Michel (chemistry), 1991 Professors Erwin Neher and Bert Sakmann (medicine), 1995 Professor Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard (medicine), 2005 Professor Theodor W. Hänsch (physics) and 2007 Professor Gerhard Ertl (chemistry).

According to Kleiner, the Leibniz Prize recipients stand for scientific discoveries and accomplishments of the highest calibre and they have proven: "In science too, everything depends on the person involved. At the end of the day, science and research are advanced by individual personalities, who are motivated by their own thirst for knowledge, their own intellectual curiosity and their own courage to ask new questions and to explore new territory." This courage and the accomplishments it leads to are rewarded in three ways by the Leibniz Prize: "The prize brings its winner worldwide recognition, a substantial award of up to 2.5 million euros and above all the freedom to use this money over the following seven years to pursue their own scientific agenda, without any bureaucratic overhead - truly idyllic freedom," said Kleiner, alluding to the words of former DFG President, Professor Hubert Markl.

Brief portraits of the winners of the 2010 Leibniz Prize:

Prof. Dr. Jan Born (51), Neuroendocrinology/Sleep Research, University of Lübeck

Jan Born receives the Leibniz Prize for his pioneering work in the area of sleep research. The primary focus of his research is how memory is formed during sleep. He was able to demonstrate not only the stabilisation of memory during sleep, but also the occurrence of cognitive processes such as problem solving strategies. He was thereby the first researcher to conclusively demonstrate a causal connection between sleep and learning. In his investigations of the individual phases of sleep, Born paid special attention to the Rapid Eye Movement-Phase (REM), about which it was previously supposed that it has a positive effect on the procedural memory. Born managed to refute this assumption in a widely respected experimental study, in which he used medication to suppress the REM phase. Finally, Born examined memory formation through sleep in other organic systems, such as the metabolic system and the immune system. His work has made important contributions to basic research. However, it also takes up important medical questions and is of great interest from the point of view of health policy. It is also highly relevant to research on learning.

After studying experimental psychology and completing his doctoral degree in Tübingen, Jan Born received the habilitation for psychology in Ulm. Since 2002 he has been Director of the Institute for Neuroendocrinology at the University of Lübeck. Born was the spokesperson for the DFG Research Unit "Memory Formation during Sleep", and since 2005 he has been the spokesperson for the Collaborative Research Centre "Plasticity and Sleep".

Prof. Dr. Peter Fratzl (51), Biomaterials, Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces, Potsdam

Peter Fratzl is a leading international representative of modern biomaterials research. Fratzl deals with a variety of questions relating to natural materials, such as bone or plant tissues, and researches their mechanical properties in particular. For instance, he analyses the relationship between the properties and structures of biological materials and develops new biomimetic and bio-inspired materials, which approximate biological structures and processes. His studies in this field are built on his earlier work in metal physics. Often conducted in cooperation with medical researchers and biologists, his work is a great asset to basic research and also yields findings that are significant to the treatment of diseased bone tissue and especially to osteoporosis. Moreover, it lays the foundations for the development of new and improved biomimetic bone replacement materials and for regenerative hard tissue therapies.

Peter Fratzl obtained his engineering diploma in Paris, completed his doctoral degree in physics in Vienna, and subsequently worked in the United Sates, the United Kingdom and in Germany. Fratzl then held a professorship in Loeben and worked as Director of the Erich Schmid Institute for Materials Science, which belongs to the Austrian Academy of Sciences, before switching to the Max Planck Institute for Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam. Fratzl has already received several international awards for his work, and he is an internationally recognised teacher.

Prof. Dr. Roman Inderst (39), Economics, University of Frankfurt am Main

At just 39 years of age, the economist Roman Inderst is the youngest Leibniz prizewinner in 2010, and his work to date already surpasses the life work of many of his renowned colleagues. Inderst works simultaneously in several branches of economics, to each of which he has made significant contributions. In his earlier studies of "pure theory", he addressed the topic of markets in which individual participants have an information advantage. In the area of industrial economics, he investigated, among other things, the consequences that mergers between intermediate product manufacturers have on the entire market. Finally, his work on the interaction between company financing and company management is highly relevant. All of this work shows Inderst to be one of the most creative representatives of his subject on the national and international stage.

Roman Inderst originally studied business, sociology and economics at the Reutlingen University of Applied Sciences, the University of Hagen and the Humboldt University in Berlin. He received his doctoral degree from the Free University of Berlin, and in 2002 he attained the habilitation for economics in Mannheim. Following several positions outside Germany, including professor at the London School of Economics, he has held the Chair for Finance and Economics since 2006, which was created by the Geld und Währung foundation at the University of Frankfurt am Main.

Prof. Dr. Christoph Klein (45), Paediatrics/Paediatric Oncology, Hannover Medical School (MHH)

Christoph Klein combines basic medical research with clinical practice at the highest level, which is still something of rarity in Germany. On the basis of genetic analyses, Klein has identified various genetic defects that trigger severe and often fatal diseases of the immune system. However, Klein does not limit himself to describing these genetic defects and their symptoms, but also tries to decipher the molecular causes. Of particular importance is his discovery that a defect in the glucose 6-phosphatase causes a deficiency or complete absence from birth of neutrophile granulocytes, which belong to the white blood corpuscles. Up to now, the children who suffer from this hereditary disease have had little chance of survival. Klein's work is opening new prospects for therapy, also through somatic gene therapy.

Ulm, Harvard and Munich are the locations where Christoph Klein acquired his academic training, and where, in addition to medicine, he was also a successful student of philosophy. After Paris and Freiburg, his training as a specialist in paediatrics took him to Harvard Medical School. Klein has been working at the MMH since 2000, initially as a senior doctor, section manager and head of a DFG-funded Clinical Research Unit, and today as the holder of a professorship and as Medical Director of the Clinic for Paediatric Haematology/Oncology.

Prof. Dr. Ulman Lindenberger (48), Developmental Psychology, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin

The developmental psychologist Ulman Lindenberger is one of the world's leading researchers in cognitive gerontology. He has redefined the potential and limits of cognitive aging in an impressive number of studies, in which he successfully combined approaches from neuroscience, gerontology and developmental psychology. Lindenberger was able to prove, for instance, that the mental ability of older people is determined to a large extent by their own behaviour, rather than natural factors such as age, and can therefore be improved. According to his results, perception, thought and memory in old-age are largely dependent on physical, emotional-motivational and social factors. The results of this basic research have been swiftly incorporated into practical programmes and, in view of the current demographic changes, they are of great socio-political importance.

Having completed his degree in Berkeley and Berlin, Ulman Lindenberger received his doctoral degree and habilitation for psychology from the Free University of Berlin. He then held a professorship in Saarbrucken, at the FU Berlin and at the Humboldt University of Berlin, before becoming a director at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development. Thanks to several guest professorships and research visits abroad, Lindenberger also has many international contacts.

Prof. Dr. Frank Neese (41), Theoretical Chemistry, University of Bonn

As one of the world's leading theoretical chemists, Frank Neese is a worthy recipient of the Leibniz Prize. Neese's research mainly combines bioinorganic chemistry and theoretical chemistry and addresses some of the most complex problems in bioinorganic chemistry. In the first place, mention should be made of his description of the electron states of large biologically relevant and extremely complex structured metalloproteins. For this purpose, Neese developed a quantum chemical programme, with which molecular calculations can be carried out 100 times faster than before. The programme also enables an interpretation of spectra, which was until recently considered unthinkable. Neese's programme was quickly taken up around the world, and today has thousands of users in chemistry, biology, pharmacy and materials science.

Frank Neese initially studied biology and received his doctoral degree in Konstanz and he worked in Stanford as a postdoctoral researcher. In 2001, he attained the habilitation for bioinorganic chemistry and theoretical chemistry in Konstanz and later became a group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Bioinorganic Chemistry in Mülheim/Ruhr. In 2006, Neese was appointed Chair of Theoretical Chemistry in Bonn, previously held by the Leibniz prizewinner Sigrid Peyerimhoff. Neese has already received several international awards and is considered an outstanding academic mentor who consistently inspires students with enthusiasm for his subject.

Prof. Dr. Jürgen Osterhammel (57), Modern and Recent History, University of Konstanz

The historian Jürgen Osterhammel has made a decisive contribution to opening the science of history in Germany to world historical topics and problems. With a series of pioneering works on European and world history, Osterhammel is one of the most respected representatives of a new conception of history, which captures contemporary globalisation in all of its political, economic and cultural aspects. Above all, he has highlighted the significance of the relationship between Europe and East Asia for the development of the modern global society. Osterhammel's works succeed brilliantly in linking social, political and structural history with the history of ideas, science and culture - most impressively in his monumental work Die Verwandlung der Welt: Eine Geschichte des 19. Jahrhunderts (The Transformation of the World: A History of the 19th Century), which also met with great interest outside the world of academia.

After studying in Marburg, Hamburg, Kassel and London, Jürgen Osterhammel received his doctoral degree in Kassel and, following a stint at the German Historical Institute in London, he received his habilitation in Freiburg. Having held professorships at the university in Hagen and Geneva, Osterhammel has held the Chair for Modern and Contemporary History in Konstanz since 1999.

Prof. Dr. Petra Schwille (41), Biophysics, Dresden University of Technology

Petra Schwille's work has considerably advanced both the development of fluorescence spectroscopy and its application to the solution of questions in cellular biology. Ever since she received her doctoral degree, Schwille has been occupied with the development of fluorescence spectroscopic methods, with which the function of individual protein molecules can be characterised. Most significantly, she contributed to the development and optimisation of fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS), one of the most elegant, non-invasive methods of recording molecular processes in biological systems. Through a combination of FCS and two-photon excitation, Petra Schwille achieved spectacular insights into cellular mechanisms. In her more recent work, she has tried to establish the FCS method in developmental biology and has already managed to use it in living model organisms such as the zebrafish and the roundworm. Petra Schwille also uses the FCS method to research the interactions between proteins and lipids, for which she has achieved international recognition.

After studying physics and philosophy, Petra Schwille worked with the Nobel Prize recipient Manfred Eigen in Göttingen and received her doctoral degree in Braunschweig. As a postdoctoral researcher she went to Göttingen and to Cornell University. She then returned to Göttingen to the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, where she set up her own independent junior research group. In 2002 she was called to chair Biophysics at the Dresden University of Technology.

Prof. Dr. Stefan Treue (45), Primate Cognitive Neuroscience, German Primate Centre, Göttingen

Stefan Treue is being honoured for his work in the field of attention research. The main focus of Treue's research is on the principles of attention control, which are among the basic features of the higher brain functions. In studies which have received worldwide acclaim, he has demonstrated the influence of attention on motion processing and on the perception and processing of sensory stimulants, and shown the extent of this influence. The results of his work have a great influence on many areas of brain research. It was also due to Treue's work that it is now clear that neuronal activities on various levels of the visual system are influenced by attention. He showed that attention phenomena already play an important role during the processing of information in areas of the brain, which it had previously been assumed could not be reached by cognitive processes. Above and beyond neuroscience, these findings are of great interest to neurology, psychiatry and psychology. And in view of the rise in psychogenic attention disorders and other disease-related attention disorders, Treue's work also has considerable relevance beyond basic research in the world of clinical practice.

Stefan Treue studied biology in Frankfurt am Main and Heidelberg before receiving his doctoral degree in the United States at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology. When he returned to Germany he received his habilitation for physiology in Tübingen. Since 2001, Treue has been the Managing Director of the German Primate Centre at the University of Göttingen.

Prof. Dr. Joachim Weickert (44), Image Processing/Computer Science, Saarland University

Joachim Weickert is one of the world's leading researchers in the field of image analysis and its applications. He is concerned with the development of mathematics-based image analysis processes, which can be realised effectively and efficiently on today's computer systems. The main goal of these is to improve incomplete or noisy image data, so as to reconstruct the original image. For the purpose of denoising badly distorted image data by means of diffusion filtering, Weickert was the first to develop a practice-relevant theory. This has become the basis for numerous techniques now being used in medical imaging, in geoscientific image processing and in computer-supported quality control in industry. Weickert worked well beyond the borders of computer science and mathematics, in close cooperation with engineers and medical researchers. He was thus able to produce highly innovative solutions for information processing problems that affected other fields.

Joachim Weickert received his doctoral degree in mathematics and his habilitation for computer science. After completing postdoctoral research visits to the Netherlands and Denmark, he first worked in Mannheim before accepting the Chair of Mathematics and Computer Science at the University of Saarland.

 

Further Information

The award ceremony for the 2010 Leibniz Prize will take place at 3 p.m. on 15 March 2010, at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Berlin.

From early 2010, more information on this year's prizewinners can be requested from the DFG's Press and Public Relations Office or downloaded from www.dfg.de.

The DFG's contact person for the Leibniz Programme is

  • Ursula Rogmans-Beucher, Tel. +49 (0) 228 885-2726, ursula.rogmans-beucher@dfg.de.

Additional Information

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