Press Release No. 24 | 3 July 2013
Wolfgang Ertmer and Michael Famulok Elected DFG Vice Presidents
Experimental physicist from Hannover succeeds Konrad Samwer and the Bonn-based biochemist takes over office from Elisabeth Knust / Peter Funke, Ferdi Schüth and Dorothea Wagner re-elected
The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) has two new vice presidents: the experimental physicist Professor Wolfgang Ertmer from Hannover and Bonn-based biochemist Professor Michael Famulok were elected to the Executive Committee of Germany's central self-governing organisation for research by its General Assembly on 3 July 2013 in Berlin. Professor Ertmer succeeds the Göttingen-based experimental physicist Professor Konrad Samwer and Professor Famulok succeeds developmental biologist Professor Elisabeth Knust who works in Dresden.
Wolfgang Ertmer, who was born in 1949, has held a professorship for experimental physics at the University of Hannover since 1994. He was previously a professor at the University of Bonn where he also studied physics and completed his doctorate and his habilitation; he has frequently undertaken research visits to the USA, several times as a DFG fellow. Professor Ertmer's core research areas are atomic physics, quantum optics and laser cooling. In recognition of his work, he received the DFG's Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize, Germany's most prestigious award for research, in 1997 and the Science Prize awarded by the federal state of Lower Saxony in 2009. Since 2007, he has been the coordinator of QUEST (Centre for Quantum Engineering and Space-Time Research), a cluster of excellence funded under the Excellence Initiative. One of his previous roles was as spokesperson for the DFG-funded Collaborative Research Centre "Quantum-limited Measuring Processes with Atoms, Molecules and Photons". Professor Ertmer has been involved in many different aspects of academic self-governance and research organisations for many years; for example, he was vice president for research at the University of Hannover from 2002 to 2005, has been a member of the DFG Senate since 2007 and has contributed to countless national and international committees and specialist associations.
Michael Famulok has been a professor of biochemistry and chemical biology at the Life and Medical Sciences Institute (LIMES) at the University of Bonn since 1999. Born in 1960, he studied and completed his doctorate in Marburg before going to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University as a postdoctoral researcher. He completed his habilitation at the University of Munich. Professor Famulok's research straddles the boundary between biochemistry and organic chemistry. He concentrates primarily on the directed evolution of combinatorial nucleic acid libraries (SELEX technology), small guanine nucleotide exchange factors and DNA nanotechnology. In 2002, Professor Famulok was also awarded the DFG's Leibniz Prize and he received an Advanced Grant from the European Research Council (ERC) in 2010. Since 2012, he has been a Max Planck Fellow at the center of advanced european studies and research (caesar) in Bonn. Professor Famulok has been the DFG Liaison Officer at the University of Bonn and a member of the nominating committee for the Leibniz Prize; he is also engaged in numerous national academies, such as the Leopoldina, and specialist associations in Germany and in other countries.
After the two new vice presidents had been elected, the General Assembly expressed their gratitude to their predecessors with a round of applause. Konrad Samwer had been a member of the Executive Committee since 2007 and during this time worked primarily on the internationalisation of German research; he was particularly interested in the various formats for funding in Europe. In 2009, the Leibniz Prize recipient gave the DFG's first "Leibniz Lecture" in Hanoi, launching a series of lectures from representatives of the German research community which have frequently resulted in collaborative research ventures. As the chair of the working group responsible, Konrad Samwer made a substantial contribution to restructuring the DFG Senate Commissions; most recently, he was chair of the selection committee for the election of the DFG President in 2012.
Elisabeth Knust, a vice president since 2009, was particularly interested in promoting biodiversity and was instrumental in setting up the DFG Research Centre for Biodiversity. As the chair of the DFG Senate Commission on Genetic Research, she encouraged scientific debate on politically and publicly controversial subjects such as green genetic engineering, patenting in the life sciences, and therapeutic cloning. Another recipient of the Leibniz prize, she also actively encouraged originality and creativity in individual researchers and the balance between individual and collaborative funding.
In addition to the election of the two new vice presidents, the meeting in Berlin also saw the re-election of three members of the Executive Committee: Professor Peter Funke (ancient history), who has played a committed part in the debate about the future of the humanities and social sciences and their greater presence in basic research; Professor Ferdi Schüth (chemistry), who headed the working group on formulating and implementing the DFG’s Research-Oriented Standards on Gender Equality; and Professor Dorothea Wagner (IT), whose special interests are early career researchers and knowledge transfer.
Other vice presidents on the Executive Committee working alongside DFG President Professor Peter Strohschneider, who took office in January 2013, the two new vice presidents Ertmer and Famulok and the re-elected vice presidents Funke, Schüth and Wagner are Professor Frank Allgöwer (engineering), Professor Leena Kaarina Bruckner-Tuderman (medicine), and Professor Christine Windbichler (law).
The President of the Donors’ Association for the Promotion of Sciences and Humanities in Germany sits on the Executive Committee in an advisory capacity. Here, too, a change has occurred: following his election to the Committee in June, the new President of the Donors' Association, Professor Andreas Barner has taken over the office from Dr Arend Oetker. A doctor and mathematician, Professor Barner now chairs the management board of the pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim and has held close ties to the research system and to research organisations for many years. He has been a member of the German Council of Science and Humanities since January 2013. His predecessor, Dr Oetker, had been at the head of the Donors' Association since 1998.
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