Press Release No. 52 | December 7, 2023

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prizes 2024

Germany’s most important research funding prize goes to three female researchers and seven male researchers / €2.5 million in prize money each / Award ceremony to take place in Berlin on 13 March 2024

The latest recipients of the most prestigious research funding prize in Germany have been announced: the Joint Committee of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) today awarded the 2024 Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize to ten researchers – three women and seven men. They were previously chosen from among 150 nominees by the selection committee responsible. Of the ten prizewinners, two work in the humanities and social sciences, three in the life sciences, four in the natural sciences and one in the engineering sciences. The winners each receive €2.5 million in prize money. They are entitled to use these funds for their research work in any way they wish, without bureaucratic obstacles, for up to seven years. The award ceremony for the Leibniz Prizes will be held in Berlin on 13 March 2024.

The following researchers will receive the 2024 “Funding Prize in the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Programme” awarded by the DFG:

  • Professor Dr. Dmitri Efetov, Experimental Solid State Physics, LMU Munich
  • Professor Dr. Tobias Erb, Synthetic Microbiology, Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology, Marburg, and University of Marburg
  • Professor Dr. Jonas Grethlein, Classical Philology, Heidelberg University
  • Professor Dr. Moritz Helmstaedter, Neurosciences, Max Planck Institute for Brain Research, Frankfurt am Main
  • Professor Dr. Ulrike Herzschuh, Geoecology, Alfred Wegener Institute, Potsdam, and University of Potsdam
  • Professor Dr. Eike Kiltz, Cryptography, University Bochum
  • Professor Dr. Rohini Kuner, Neuropharmacology, Heidelberg University
  • Professor Dr. Jörn Leonhard, Modern and Contemporary History, University of Freiburg
  • Professor Dr. Peter Schreiner, Organic Molecular Chemistry, University Giessen
  • Professor Dr. Eva Viehmann, Mathematics, University of Münster

The Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize has been awarded annually by the DFG since 1986. Up to ten prizes can be awarded per year, each endowed with prize money of €2.5 million. Including the ten prizes in 2024, a total of 418 Leibniz Prizes have been awarded to date. Of these, 133 have gone to the natural sciences, 122 to the life sciences, 99 to the humanities and social sciences and 64 to the engineering sciences. As the prize and prize money can be shared in exceptional cases, there have been more award recipients than there have been prizes. A total of 445 nominees have received the prize to date, including 371 male researchers and 74 female researchers.

Two female and ten male Leibniz prizewinners have gone on to receive the Nobel Prize after being awarded the most important research funding prize in Germany: in 1988 Professor Dr. Hartmut Michel (chemistry), in 1991 Professor Dr. Erwin Neher and Professor Dr. Bert Sakmann (both medicine), in 1995 Professor Dr. Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard (medicine), in 2005 Professor Dr. Theodor W. Hänsch (physics), in 2007 Professor Dr. Gerhard Ertl (chemistry), in 2014 Professor Dr. Stefan W. Hell (chemistry), in 2020 Professor Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier (chemistry) and Professor Dr. Reinhard Genzel (physics), in 2021 Professor Dr. Benjamin List (chemistry), in 2022 Professor Dr. Svante Pääbo (medicine) and in 2023 Professor Dr. Ferenc Krausz (physics). 

A brief portrait of the winners of the 2024 Leibniz Prize:

Professor Dr. Dmitri Efetov, Experimental Solid State Physics, LMU Munich

Dmitri Efetov receives the Leibniz Prize 2024 for his pioneering work on the production of large-area homogeneous “magically” entangled graphene, i.e. thin layers of single carbon atoms. When two such graphene layers are mutually rotated, a so-called moiré pattern is created with periodic potential and a newly formed energy-level band structure. At an angle of exactly 1.1 degrees – which has earned the entangled graphene layers the nickname “magic” – new physical phenomena such as superconducting, magnetic and insulating states occur. Based on this work, Efetov has been able to gain fundamental new insights into various quantum effects. Graphene is primarily a model system that can be used to investigate complex effects and will enable them to be understood in the future. These include high-temperature superconductivity: unlike the copper cables currently used, materials made of entangled graphene can conduct electricity without any resistance, so in future they could replace conventional high-voltage cables.

After studying physics at ETH Zurich up until 2007, Dmitri Efetov obtained his doctorate at Columbia University (USA) in 2014. During his subsequent three-year postdoc phase at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), he was able to realise the first ever graphene-based single-photon detector. He then spent five years as an assistant professor at the Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO) in Barcelona, where he and his group became the third research team in the world to demonstrate superconductivity in magic-angle graphene. He has been a W3 Professor of Experimental Physics at LMU Munich since 2021. Efetov has received numerous distinctions and was also awarded an ERC Starting Grant in 2020.

Professor Dr. Tobias Erb, Synthetic Microbiology, Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology, Marburg, and University of Marburg

Tobias Erb is awarded the Leibniz Prize in recognition of his outstanding work in synthetic biology, in which he analyses natural metabolic processes and draws on these to generate novel enzyme functions. His particular focus is carbon dioxide fixation – an issue of great social relevance. Through photosynthetic CO2 fixation in plants, the so-called Calvin cycle, almost 70 gigatonnes of carbon are bound per year, thereby removing it from the atmosphere. In addition to plants, algae and numerous bacteria also utilise the Calvin cycle. Although this and other naturally occurring metabolic pathways bind significant amounts of CO2, they could theoretically work even more efficiently. For this reason, Erb is looking for new CO2-binding enzymes so as to be able to use them for the purpose of carbon fixation. In this way, he and his working group hope to design artificial fixation pathways that are superior to natural pathways. For example, Erb already succeeded in introducing certain enzymes into plants to produce a CO2 concentration mechanism that has resulted in a significant increase in photosynthesis.

After completing his doctorate at the University of Freiburg and Ohio State University (USA), Erb initially went to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (USA) on a DFG fellowship. He then moved to ETH Zurich, where he was initially a Fellow and later an Independent Junior Research Group leader. In 2014, he became group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology in Marburg, which he has headed as Managing Director since 2017. He has also been a professor at the University of Marburg since 2018. His groundbreaking work has been recognised on multiple occasions, with awards including the Merck KGaA Future Insight Prize in 2022 and the DFG’s Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize in 2016.

Professor Dr. Jonas Grethlein, Classical Philology, Heidelberg University

With his work on the narratology of ancient narrative forms, ancient aesthetics and the relationship between historical image and experience in ancient narrative and historiographical texts, Jonas Grethlein has significantly influenced the development not just of classical philology but also of literary, cultural and historical studies in general. It is for these achievements that he receives the Leibniz Prize 2024. The starting point and core of all work done by Grethlein, who is one of the world’s leading Greek scholars, is the in-depth interpretation of texts from almost all genres of ancient Greek literature. He often accesses the ancient texts in a completely new way by drawing on modern literary and cultural theoretical approaches. For example, Grethlein’s interpretation of Greek tragedies in his dissertation (2003) was based on the question of what role asylum in Athens played in the construction of cultural identity. His academic oeuvre already comprises a total of eleven monographs – the most recent being Ancient Greek Texts and Modern Narrative Theory. Towards a Critical Dialogue, published in May 2023. As is the case with all his publications, this monograph makes antiquity appear up-to-date and close to our own times because it engages in critical dialogue with the present.

Jonas Grethlein completed his doctorate in Latin philology, Greek philology and ancient history in Freiburg im Breisgau in 2002 and obtained his post-doctoral lecturing qualification at the same university in 2005. From 2003 to 2009 he was an Independent Junior Research Group leader under the DFG’s Emmy Noether Programme. From 2007 he was an assistant professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara before being appointed to the Chair of Greek Literature at the University of Heidelberg in 2008. Grethlein received the DFG’s Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize in 2006 and was awarded an ERC Starting Grant in 2013 on the topic of “Experience and Teleology in Ancient Narrative”. Calls from the University of St Andrews (Scotland, 2012) and Cambridge University (England, 2021) demonstrate how Grethlein’s academic reputation extends far beyond Germany; he has remained loyal to Heidelberg, however.

Professor Dr. Moritz Helmstaedter, Neurosciences, Max Planck Institute for Brain Research, Frankfurt am Main

Moritz Helmstaedter is awarded the Leibniz Prize for his pioneering work in the field of neuroscience, which has led to a fundamentally new understanding of the three-dimensional organisation and function of circuits in the mammalian brain. Helmstaedter has been able to develop instruments and technologies that allow systematic and at the same time high-resolution access to the densely packed neuronal networks that are found in the brain. As such, he is one of the founders of the field of connectomics, which seeks to shed light on the basic principles of brain organisation based on the reconstruction of thousands of neurons and their synaptic connections. His analyses of a dense local connectome of more than 200,000 synapses disproved decades-old assumptions about how neuronal connectivity works; as a result of his work, the research community  now assumes that the individual synapses are connected with a high degree of precision. In order to achieve this, Helmstaedter had to solve a number of methodological problems, not least that of how to prepare large tissue samples, including entire brains, in order to precisely record the neuron population contained within them. In this way he was also able to answer questions about the fundamental differences between the human brain and the brains of other mammalian species. 

Moritz Helmstaedter has been Director at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research in Frankfurt am Main since 2014. Since 2016 he has also held the position of Associate Professor for Neuronal Networks at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands. He previously declined calls to Janelia Research Campus in Virginia (USA) and ETH Zurich. Having originally gained a degree in physics and qualifying as a medical doctor, Helmstaedter completed his doctorate at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg. He was awarded the Max Planck Society’s Otto Hahn Medal in 2009 and in 2013 gave the Bernhard Katz Lecture, which promotes relations between Israel and German in the field of the neurosciences.

Professor Dr. Ulrike Herzschuh, Geoecology, Alfred Wegener Institute, Potsdam, and University of Potsdam

Ulrike Herzschuh is awarded the Leibniz Prize for her outstanding work in the field of geoecology, through which she has made numerous contributions to understanding the influence of climate fluctuations on biodiversity in recent geological history and the functioning of polar regions. Herzschuh’s research at the interface between geoecology and palaeoclimate is currently particularly relevant because information about the Earth’s recent history allows important conclusions to be drawn about present-day climate developments. Her working group has applied and developed numerous innovative research methods to investigate the key question of the long-term effects and consequences of climate fluctuations. For example, her group has played a leading role in establishing methods for analysing fossil DNA in lake and marine sediments as an indicator of changes in biodiversity. Herzschuh has also been instrumental in developing new vegetation models based on the characteristics of individual plants. In the course of extensive excursions to some of the most remote places on earth, she has also been able to collect data sets that reveal the links between climate change and biodiversity distribution in the Earth’s history. 

Ulrike Herzschuh completed her doctorate at FU Berlin in 2004 before going on to work at the University of Bergen in Norway. She became a junior professor at the University of Potsdam in 2005. Since 2012 she has headed the Polar Terrestrial Environmental Systems Section at the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI), Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, and is also a professor at the University of Potsdam. Herzschuh was elected the German representative on the international expert committees “International Arctic Science Committee” and “Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna”. She received an ERC Consolidator Grant in 2018. 

Professor Dr. Eike Kiltz, Cryptography, University Bochum

Eike Kiltz receives the Leibniz Prize 2024 for his fundamental and pioneering work in the field of public key cryptography, which has had a lasting impact on theory and practice. Public key cryptography allows information to be securely encrypted and communicated via public channels, enabling secure connections to be established and documents to be digitally signed. The encryption technique is based on the prime factorisation of large numbers, a task which cannot easily be performed by conventional computers. The security of public key methods can only be guaranteed if the underlying mathematical problems cannot be efficiently calculated. As quantum computers advance in the future, computing power will increase and there will be a greater risk that the keys used can be calculated. This is why researchers are engaged in an intense search for new cryptographic methods that would be secure even if quantum computers were to be used. Kiltz’s work lays the foundations for these new methods. A proof designed by him has become established as the basis for verifying the security of new methods. Working with two teams led by him, Kiltz has developed proposals for lattice-based cryptographic methods that have been selected by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology as future standards for post-quantum cryptography. 

Eike Kiltz obtained his doctorate in mathematics from the Ruhr University Bochum in 2004, after which he spent a year as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, San Diego. He then moved to the Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica in Amsterdam as a research assistant, before returning to the University Bochum in 2010. He now holds the Chair of Cryptography there and is one of the spokespersons for the Cluster of Excellence “Cyber Security in the Age of Large-Scale Adversaries (CASA)”. Sources of funding for his research include an ERC Consolidator Grant (2013) and an ERC Advanced Grant (2021).

Professor Dr. Rohini Kuner, Neuropharmacology, Heidelberg University

Rohini Kuner receives the Leibniz Prize in recognition of her pioneering work on the mechanisms underlying chronic pain. Kuner turned her attention to the topic of pain research while doing her doctorate in the USA, and she continues to carry out research into the question of how to identify the causes of chronic pain and tackle them pharmacologically. Her contributions to the mechanisms of pain signalling and pain transmission to the central nervous system form an important foundation here. While the majority of pain research worldwide focuses on individual molecules, Kuner pursues more comprehensive systemic approaches, focussing in particular on neuroplasticity underlying chronic pain, i.e. the changeability of neuronal connections in the nervous system. Using experimental approaches such as neurogenetic and optogenetic techniques along with methods such as in vivo imaging and three-dimensional electron microscopy, she has been able to determine central neural pathways of pain transmission. Most recently, Kuner has focussed on the mechanisms involved in neuropathic pain that occurs after the severing of nerves, also known as “phantom pain”. 

Rohini Kuner studied pharmaceutical biotechnology at the University of Mumbai (India), obtaining her doctorate at the University of Iowa (USA) in 1994. She was then a postdoctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg up until 1998, before going on to work for BASF-Lynx (Axaron AG) in Heidelberg for two years. From 2002 she headed a DFG-funded Emmy Noether Group at the Institute of Pharmacy at the Heidelberg University, where she also gained her post-doctoral lecturing qualification in 2005. She became Professor of Pharmacy and Toxicology at the same university in 2006. Kuner has received a number of important research prizes, including an ERC Advanced Grant in 2011.   

Professor Dr. Jörn Leonhard, Modern and Contemporary History, University of Freiburg

Jörn Leonhard receives the Leibniz Prize for his work in the field of the European and transatlantic cultural and political history of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Working on the linguistic and conceptual history of European liberalism, the relationship between empire and the nation state, and the history and post-history of the First World War, his contributions have opened up new avenues for historical scholarship and are read worldwide. In his award-winning doctoral dissertation on liberalism in 19th century Europe, he already succeeded in identifying the influences that emanate from this pattern of thought on our world today. In his post-doctoral lecturing qualification thesis on the connection between the interpretation of war and the definition of the nation state in Europe and the United States between 1750 and 1914, he was again able to meaningfully combine aspects of conceptual, cultural and political history. In his subsequent monographs Die Büchse der Pandora.Geschichte des Ersten Weltkriegs and Der überforderte Frieden. Versailles und die Welt 1918-1923, Leonhard placed international research on the war and post-war period between 1914 and 1924 on a new footing. His approach is primarily based on conceptual precision, empirical density and a methodological openness which draws on multiple perspectives. 

After studying history, political science and German philology in Heidelberg and Oxford, Jörn Leonhard completed his doctorate at the Heidelberg University in 1998. Having obtained his post-doctoral lecturing qualification in modern history, also in Heidelberg, he spent a short time at the University of Jena before going on to accept an appointment to the Chair of Modern and Contemporary History of Western Europe at the University of Freiburg in 2006. Despite many calls, he has remained loyal to the University of Freiburg to this day, where he was also the founding director of the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS) from 2007 to 2012. He has received numerous awards for his research, including the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation’s Werner Heisenberg Medal. 

Professor Dr. Peter Schreiner, Organic Molecular Chemistry, University Giessen

Peter Schreiner receives the Leibniz Prize 2024 for his outstanding work in physical organic chemistry, through which he has made pioneering contributions to reaction control. Schreiner’s research has had a lasting impact on the overlapping fields of organic, physical and theoretical chemistry. Through his publications, he has succeeded in establishing the mechanism of “tunnel control” of chemical reactions. This is a previously undiscovered driving force that can be used to steer chemical reactions in a way that would not have been predicted either by the established principle of kinetic control (favouring the reaction with the lowest barrier) or by that of thermodynamic control (favouring the most energetically favourable reaction). Using synthesised compounds and accompanying theoretical calculations, Schreiner and his research group were also able to prove that chemical reactions – including very fundamental ones – are significantly influenced by the so-called dispersion interaction. Textbooks previously described this interaction as “weak” in terms of its relevance to chemical processes. These findings have far-reaching implications, such as in the synthesis of new materials.

Peter Schreiner has held a chair at the Institute of Organic Chemistry at the University Giessen since 2002. He was previously Associate Professor at the University of Georgia (USA) for two years. He completed his doctorate in organic chemistry at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in 1994, before going on to additionally obtain a PhD in computational chemistry a year later, also in Georgia. He spent his postdoctoral period from 1996 to 2000 at the University of Göttingen. He has received many distinctions and funding awards for his research work, including the German Chemical Society’s Adolf von Baeyer Medal (2017) and an ERC Advanced Grant (2022). 

Professor Dr. Eva Viehmann, Mathematics, University of Münster

Eva Viehmann, an outstanding mathematician, receives the Leibniz Prize for her influential work on arithmetic algebraic geometry in connection with the Langlands programme. Established by Robert Langlands in 1967, this programme consists of a series of far-reaching conjectures linking number theory and representation theory. The programme is one of the most fascinating in theoretical mathematics and is still far from being fully researched. It involves seemingly mysterious connections between prime numbers, integer solutions of polynomial equations and “arithmetic” on the one hand and the harmonic analysis of oscillations and spectra on the other. Viehmann is significantly advancing this field of research through her work. In doing so, she has developed a rich geometric understanding of the parameter spaces that occur, such as an appropriate breakdown of their dimensions (“stratification”). In addition, Viehmann is the originator of the theory in the case of bodies with the same characteristics; here, too, she has deciphered stratification. One of her strengths is the elaboration of group-theoretic formulations behind various structures, phenomena and constructions.

After obtaining her doctorate at the University of Bonn in 2005, Eva Viehmann completed her post-doctoral lecturing qualification in Bonn (2010), following research stays in Orsay near Paris and Chicago. She spent a brief period as a Fellow under the DFG’s Heisenberg Programme before taking up a professorship at the Technical University of Munich in 2012. Since 2022, she has held a chair in Arithmetic Geometry and Representation Theory at the University of Münster, where she conducts research in the Cluster of Excellence “Mathematics Münster: Dynamics – Geometry – Structure”. In 2012 she received the DFG’s von Kaven Award as well as being awarded an ERC Starting Grant (2011) and an ERC Consolidator Grant (2018).

Further information

Appointment notice:

The Leibniz Prizes will be presented on 13 March 2024 at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Berlin. Media representatives will receive a separate invitation. 

For further information on the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Programme and, from the beginning of the new year, on the 2024 prizewinners, see:

Contact at DFG Head Office

Dr. Christina Elger
Telephone: +49 (228) 885-3117

Media contact

DFG Press and Public Relations
Telephone: +49 228 885-2109