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Press Release No. 11 | 16 March 2007
30th Anniversary of the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize

DFG Honours Six Young Researchers for Outstanding Achievements

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize this year. The ceremony on 5 June will also honour the six prizewinners for 2007. One woman and five men will receive awards of 16,000 euros each. Choosing from a candidate pool of 80 young researchers, including 28 women, the selection committee was most impressed by an astrophysicist, a fluid mechanics engineer, a clinical pharmacologist, an experimental physicist, a computer scientist, and a microbiologist. The prize is named after former DFG president and nuclear physicist Heinz Maier-Leibnitz. Funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, it is awarded annually to six young researchers.

The 2007 prizewinners are:

Dr. Eric Bell (31), astrophysics, Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, Heidelberg

Eric Bell works in the field of observational cosmology. He investigates one of the key questions in his discipline: How did galaxies develop after the Big Bang? To directly observe and analyse the history of the universe, he examines distant galaxy populations. Bell was able to develop a standard method for estimating the masses of far distant galaxies and thus solved a long-standing astronomical problem. He also discovered that the majority of the most massive galaxies have formed almost no new stars for seven billion years. This finding is at odds with theoretical expectations and has led to a number of new approaches in research. After working in the UK and the US for many years, Eric Bell now heads a DFG-funded Emmy Noether independent junior research group and represents his institute at the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), an international project that measures celestial objects.

Dr. Michael Dumbser (29), fluid mechanics, University of Stuttgart

Numerical simulation of flow is a basic method for many applications that require high-precision calculation of wave propagation. Examples are seismic waves or noise propagation caused by aeroplanes. Michael Dumbser's doctoral thesis broke new ground here by constructing a high-precision numerical solution method for temporal and spatial values. He created a computational concept that clearly improved on the status quo and has garnered international attention. Dumbser has worked in France and Italy and is a member of a German-French research group funded jointly by the CNRS and the DFG.

Dr. Veit Hornung (30), clinical pharmacology, Ludwig-Maximilians University, Munich

The key agent for the production of proteins is ribonucleic acid (RNA): it copies the blueprint for a protein in the cell nucleus and serves as a template for the assembly of the individual parts of the target protein in the cytoplasm. Things become dangerous when, for instance, viruses hijack this mechanism with fake instructions to build their own proteins. Since his doctoral thesis, Veit Hornung has been focusing on the immune system's detection mechanisms for viral and synthetic RNA. He discovered a new mechanism which the immune system uses to detect nucleic acids, such as those found in viruses, and fend them off. Hornung's work thus provided insights that are groundbreaking for areas such as tumour and infectious disease treatment. Veit Hornung is a research assistant and head of the "Therapeutic Oligonucleotides" working group.

Dr. Stefan Linden (34), experimental physics, University of Karlsruhe (TH)

Stefan Linden's core research specialty is the young field of optical metamaterials. They are artificially produced materials characterised by the fact that they refract incoming light to the left. All natural materials, such as glass, refract light rays to the right. Linden was the first to succeed in developing left-handed metamaterials for the short wavelengths of the close-infrared and visible spectrum. These revolutionary basic-research findings may have a promising future in lithography, semiconductor technology, and telecommunications. For their achievements, Stefan Linden and his colleagues were awarded the 2005 René Descartes Prize for excellence in collaborative scientific research by the European Union. Linden is the head of the Helmholtz junior research group "Metamaterials for Photonics".

Prof. Dr. Nicole Schweikardt (33), computer science, Humboldt University, Berlin

As a theoretical computer scientist, Nicole Schweikardt is interested in the efficient processing of extremely large amounts of data. Huge data sets occur in many application areas, for example in collections of research results, as sensor data, or in stock tickers. However, these data are often available only in a semistructured form rather than as a usable database. Thanks to her mathematical training, Schweikardt has been able to score important successes in query optimisation and looking at complexity theory in huge data set processing. Nicole Schweikardt is a junior professor and head of an Emmy Noether independent junior research group. In addition, she is a member of the Young Academy at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities.

Dr. Christian Wild (32), microbiology and ecology, Ludwig-Maximilians University, Munich

Christian Wild works at the interface between many scientific disciplines. A biologist by training, he collaborates closely with geobiologists, biologists, ecologists, palaeontologists and geochemists on his projects. His core research topic, the role of organic coral exudates for the functioning of reef ecosystems, used to be largely uncharted territory. For his initial work on this topic he received the Max Planck Society's Otto Hahn Medal in 2005. Christian Wild explores processes whose influence on ecosystems was previously underestimated, and which are crucial for understanding fossil coral reefs and for understanding and protecting modern coral reefs. The socio-political significance of the projects pursued by Christian Wild and his Emmy Noether independent junior research group, regarding material cycles in warm and cold water coral reefs, is also evident in Wild's role as a UNESCO consultant for coral reef issues.

The 30-year anniversary of the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize, and the presentation of this year's awards by DFG President Professor Matthias Kleiner and Federal Minister of Research Dr. Annette Schavan, will be celebrated on 5 June in a ceremony at the Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn. Journalists are cordially invited to attend the event.