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Press Release No. 13 | 15 March 2002
Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize 2002

Recognition for Six Early Career Researchers

The Executive Committee of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation, DFG) has approved the winners of the 2002 Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize. Six young German researchers will receive the prize, each endowed with 16,000 euros, in a ceremony in May in Bonn. The Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize is awarded by the DFG and underwritten by the German Ministry of Education and Research. The idea behind the prize, which has been presented annually since 1977, is to honour outstanding research achievements by researchers who should not be older than 33 years. The prize is named after former DFG President and nuclear physicist Heinz Maier-Leibnitz, who passed away in 2000.

Dr. Rainer Haag (33), Department of Macromolecular Chemistry, University of Freiburg

Chemist Rainer Haag developed with his research group at the University of Freiburg a synthesis for the production of fully branched, treelike macromolecules, so-called glycerol dendrimers. He studies these macromolecules — along with incompletely branched but more accessible polyglycerols, which were developed at the same institute by Rolf Mülhaupt’s and Holger Frey’s groups — for the automation of chemical syntheses. These highly functional carrier polymers offer many docking sites for small molecules, e.g. for agents that can be modified there. This strategy can potentially simplify the manufacture of drugs. In a further processing step, the fully branched macromolecules can take up guest molecules in their treetop and later release them. Such an encapsulation paves the way for the selective application of drugs at the site of action in the body. After receiving his doctorate from the University of Göttingen, Rainer Haag did research at the University of Cambridge in England and Harvard University in the United States. As part of a start-up project at the University of Freiburg, Rainer Haag is currently trying, together with his colleagues Holger Frey and Stefan Mecking, to make fully branched macromolecules commercially viable.
(Contact information at: www.hyperpolymers.com/prodinf.html)

Dr. Guinevere Kauffmann (33), Max Planck Institute of Astrophysics, Garching

Astrophysicist Guinevere Kauffmann develops models to help us better understand key aspects of astronomy: galaxies, black holes, dark matter and quasars. After studying in Cape Town, South Africa, she investigated the formation and evolution of galaxies as part of her doctoral studies at the University of Cambridge, England. Her model made it possible for the first time to compare directly the images of young galaxies as provided by large telescopes with a computer simulation of galaxy evolution. At the Max Planck Institute of Astrophysics she is now developing similar models for black holes, dark matter and quasars. Prior to that, the US-born German-American researched for two years at the University of California. To date she has published 27 articles in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. In 2000 she gave a plenary lecture before the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society.
(Contact information at: www.mpa-garching.mpg.de/HIGHLIGHT/2000/highlight0009_d.html)

Dr. Achim Kramer (33), Department of Medical Immunology, Charité University Medical Centre Berlin

Biochemist Achim Kramer discovered at Harvard Medical School that a certain messenger, called TGF-alpha, is involved in the regulation of the sleep–wake rhythm. TGF-alpha inhibits the activity of mice at the onset of daylight, when it is time for them to sleep. As Achim Kramer reported in the journal Science, mice whose receptor for TGF-alpha is defective act more lively after daybreak than their nocturnal peers. For his doctorate, Achim Kramer worked on an entirely different topic: at Charité University Medical Centre Berlin he created a peptide library to facilitate research into antigen–antibody interactions that cause autoimmune disorders. Parallel to his biochemistry education, Achim Kramer also studied piano at the Academy of the Arts in Berlin and graduated as a state-certified piano teacher.
(Contact information at: www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/294/5551/2511)

Dr. Frank Lyko (31), German Cancer Research Centre, Heidelberg

Beginning with his doctoral research at the University of Heidelberg, biologist Frank Lyko has been investigating the switching off of genes by chemical changes in the genetic makeup (epigenetics). His PhD thesis was published in the journals Nature Genetics and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Then, at the Whitehead Institute in the United States, he discovered what no one had thought possible until then: even the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster switches off its genes due to chemical changes. The switching process in flies and humans is a chemical reaction known as methylation. Now Frank Lyko, together with his team at the German Cancer Research Centre (DKFZ), tries to leverage this discovery in the fight against cancer. Since an excessive methylation of genes may contribute to tumour growth, he tests substances on the fruit fly that inhibit methylation. His work at DKFZ is supported by the DFG’s Emmy Noether Programme.
(Contact information at: www.dkfz.de/epigenetik)

Dr. Robert Schober (30), Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Toronto, Canada

Electrical engineer Robert Schober developed, as part of his doctoral research at the University of Erlangen–Nuremberg, a technique to reduce co-channel interference in mobile telephony. Co-channel interference occurs when a mobile telephone moves to the edge of a network cell and thus between two base stations transmitting at the same frequency, which causes data transmission and voice quality to deteriorate. The technique developed by Robert Schober is based on a so-called incoherent transmission method. Since April 2001 he has researched at the University of British Columbia, Canada, how to further improve mobile communication with this transmission method. Robert Schober has published numerous scientific papers, including eleven contributions to IEEE Transactions on Communications, the journal of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
(Contact information at: www.lnt.de/~schober/publicat.html)

Dr. Volker Zimmermann (33), Institute for the Culture and History of Germans in Eastern Europe, University of Düsseldorf

Historian Volker Zimmermann did his doctoral research at the University of Düsseldorf on the mood and politics of the Sudeten Germans after the annexation of the Czechoslovak border areas to Germany in 1938. He noted that the Sudeten Germans’ initial joy of coming “home to the Reich” would soon be followed by disillusionment. A historical commission appointed by the foreign ministers of Germany and the Czech Republic included his study in its series of publications, so that in 2001 the book was also published in Czech. Zimmermann’s research may thus make a contribution towards reconciliation. Today Volker Zimmermann explores at the University of Düsseldorf the relationship between the German Democratic Republic and Czechoslovakia in the years 1945 to 1969. He previously taught at Charles University in Prague. With two publications on Düsseldorf during the Nazi period, he has also made historical topics accessible the general public.
(Contact information at: www.perlentaucher.de/apages/buch/showbuch.php4?bid=2704)

The Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prizes will be presented by Federal Minister of Education and Research, Edelgard Bulmahn, and DFG President Ernst-Ludwig Winnacker on 2 May 2002, 3:00 pm, at the German Museum in Bonn. Journalists are welcome to attend.