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Press Release No. 19 | 28 April 2006
Research into Salt, Oil, Ice and Fossils

DFG Awards Bernd Rendel Prize to Young Geoscientists

The research fields of the winners of the 2005 Bernd Rendel Prize cover various areas of geoscience. Salt structures, the processes affecting oil deposits, glacial runoff, and the vision of fossil vertebrates - these are the research areas of the four young scientists who were awarded this prize by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) in Tübingen on 28 April 2006, in recognition of the quality and originality of their research work to date and for future scientific potential. The awards, worth 2,000 euros each, are intended to enable young graduates who do not yet hold a doctorate to participate in international congresses and symposia.

The award ceremony was held as part of this year's Crafoord Symposium in Tübingen. The Bernd Rendel Prize has been awarded by the DFG annually since 2002; the prize is named after Bernd Rendel, a geology student who died prematurely and whose family donated the prize money.

The prizewinners are:

Sofie Gradmann, 25, Geophysics, Dalhousie University of Halifax, Canada
As part of her doctoral research at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, Sofie Gradmann is studying the formation of salt structures with the aid of numerical simulation, taking into account complex material properties. Given the numerous parameters and processes that have to be included, her calculations are extremely complex and detailed, since they have to approximate as closely as possible to the real-life physics of her subject. Salt structures play a significant role in oil and gas exploration and in the assessment of underground waste sites. Sofie Gradmann specialised in this area of research while working on her graduate dissertation "Seismic investigations of salt tectonic structures in the Levantine Basin" at the University of Hamburg.

Christian Hallmann, 24, Geology, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Australia
Christian Hallmann specialises in research into mineral oil deposits. In his graduate dissertation he studied the origin and distribution of petroleum in the Gidgealpa Ridge in Australia. In this study he applied geochemical principles at the molecular level. His doctoral research at Curtin University also deals with oil; he is investigating the changes in the composition of mineral oil caused by various processes in the deposits. Among Christian Hallmann's other research interests are the use of so-called polar components of mineral oil as an indicator of oil redistribution, its biological degradation, and molecular biological markers.

Markus Konz, 26, Hydrology, University of Basel, Switzerland
Glaciers and glacial runoff are the areas of specialisation chosen by Markus Konz. In his graduate dissertation he devised a model budgeting runoff in the affected catchment areas; he also constructed various mechanisms to check the plausibility of his results. His method may make a significant contribution to forecasting the behaviour of glacier water and its effects on the water resources of the areas concerned - currently a topic of discussion at the international level. He started working towards his doctorate at the University of Basel in 2006. He plans to use his prize money to supplement this research with a series of experiments in Nepal in conjunction with partners working there under the auspices of the UNESCO IHE programme run by the University of Delft.

Lars Schmitz, 27, Geology, University of California Davis, USA
Lars Schmitz is a geologist and palaeontologist working on reconstructing the vision of fossil vertebrates. To accomplish this, he is studying the demands on vision in various habitats, the resolution needed in each case, and the various activity patterns (e.g. diurnally active or nocturnally active). Bio-optics, biomechanics, and palaeobiology all play important roles. His work will contribute to a better understanding of how certain extinct groups of vertebrates such as the ichthyosaurs and the sauropod dinosaurs lived. Lars Schmitz is particularly interested in the evolution of marine reptiles.

Further Information

Further information about the Bernd Rendel Prize and the 2005 prizewinners is available on the internet at

For further information from the DFG, please contact

  • Dr.Ute Weber,
    Physics, Mathematics and Geosciences Division,
    e-mail Ute.Weber@dfg.de.