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Press Release No. 9 | 13 March 2009
Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prizes 2009: Six Young Researchers Recognised for Outstanding Achievements

Female Prizewinners in the Majority for the First Time

Four women and two men have been chosen to receive this year's Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize, Germany's top research award for young scientists. This is the first time in the history of the prize, which has been awarded annually by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research since 1977, that the majority of the recipients have been young women.

The winners of the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize 2009, named after the former President of the DFG and atomic physicist Professor Heinz Maier-Leibnitz, are:

  • Dr. André Bornemann, geosciences, University of Leipzig
  • Dr. Ina Bornkessel-Schlesewsky, linguistics, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig
  • Dr. Patrik L. Ferrari, mathematics, University of Bonn
  • Dr. Heike Krebber, molecular biology, University of Marburg
  • Prof. Dr. Ing. Gisela Lanza, mechanical engineering, University of Karlsruhe
  • Dr. Angelika Lohwasser, Egyptology, Free University of Berlin

"Promoting young researchers is one of the DFG's top priorities," emphasised the Vice President of the DFG, Professor Luise Schorn-Schütte, chair of the selection committee for the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize, on the occasion of the announcement of this year's prize winners by the funding organisation's Executive Committee. As Professor Schorn-Schütte highlighted, there were also "a very pleasing number of women" amongst this year's proposals and nominations for the prize. The selection committee received 118 nominations, 35 of which were for women. Of the 118 nominees, 56 were short-listed, 22 of whom were women. "The four female prize recipients and their two male counterparts have all done impressive research work and have a proven scientific track record, which they have developed from an early age," said Professor Schorn-Schütte.

The Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize is intended to further promote the recipients' scientific careers. From the DFG's point of view it is both a form of recognition of past achievements and an incentive, and aims to help the prizewinners to continue pursuing their scientific career along the same course. With this objective, this prize is held in high esteem in the scientific community. In a survey conducted by the magazine "bild der wissenschaft", the major German research organisations voted the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize Germany's third most important research prize - behind the DFG's Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize and the German Future Prize - the President's Prize for Technology and Innovation, which is awarded by the German President. Each Heinz Maier-Leibnitz winner receives 16,000 euros in prize money. The award is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

The award ceremony for this year's Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize will be held at 4 p.m. on 4 June in the Arithmeum Bonn, Lennéstraße 2, in Bonn. Media representatives are welcome to attend the ceremony.

The recipients of the 2009 Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize in brief:

Dr. André Bornemann (36), geosciences, University of Leipzig
Through his work on micropalaeontology and palaeooceanography, André Bornemann already developed fundamental new theories in the geosciences, which were widely debated both nationally and internationally, at an early age. These theories concentrate primarily on the late Jurassic and the Cretaceous periods, and his research work addresses areas such as micropalaeontology, the carbonate budget and the conditions for the formation of black shale, through to palaeoclimate research. His theory that glaciation was possible during the Cretaceous, in spite of the high concentrations of greenhouse gases that existed at that time, which he developed in close cooperation with renowned scientists and researchers, was particularly sensational. His unusually broad methodological approach led to the idea that the very warm Cretaceous period could be used as a model for the Earth's future.

Dr. Ina Bornkessel-Schlesewsky (29), linguistics, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig
Ina Bornkessel-Schlesewsky is studying how languages function and how they are processed in the brain. Her work focuses on the interaction between morphosyntactic and semantic factors in the comprehension of sentences, with the main emphasis being on the "argument structure". In addition to factors such as word order and case marking, she is also using neuroscientific processes to analyse semantic properties such as popularity - a factor that can be of entirely different significance in different languages. Through her research work, this young researcher - who already received her doctorate at the age of just 22 and became the leader of a Max Planck junior research group at the age of 26 - has made a substantial contribution to the field of human speech processing, which has also received international recognition.

Dr. Patrik L. Ferrari (31), mathematics, University of Bonn
Patrik L. Ferrari is acclaimed as one of the best young researchers in the world in the field of probability theory and statistical physics. In his studies of anomalous fluctuations of processes in the so-called KPZ universality class, he is working in one of the most active and exciting fields of research at the interface between mathematical stochastics and statistical physics, to which his work to date has made a lasting impact and major contribution. The KPZ class includes very important and interesting growth models such as directed polymers, percolation models and the Eden cluster. The KPZ class is also closely related to the theory of random matrices. Ferrari has also demonstrated the fluctuation behaviour for important processes in the KPZ class and studied the space-time correlation, thus making a significant contribution to confirming an important universality assumption in the field, which is yet to be proven.

Dr. Heike Krebber (42), molecular biology, University of Marburg
Heike Krebber is seen as an exceptionally original scientist in the field of molecular biology. She has made a name for herself, in particular, through her publications on nucleus-cytoplasm transport and mRNP biogenesis. Building on her studies on intracellular transfer of genetic information, done while working as a postdoc at Harvard, she has discovered new factors that are essential for the export of messenger-ribonucleic acid (mRNA) from the cell nucleus. Also, she has, for the first time, been able to demonstrate that nuclear export factors play a decisive role in the translation of mRNA for protein synthesis. Krebber and her research team have identified a factor that is very important for the termination of protein synthesis, and have proposed a new model for the mechanism of translation. This work by Krebber - who has led her own research group at the University of Marburg for the past nine years - has been published in highly respected journals, causing an international sensation.

Prof. Dr. Ing. Gisela Lanza (35), mechanical engineering, University of Karlsruhe
Gisela Lanza is working on new solutions for handling complex relationships at the start-up of industrial production processes. In her work, she is attempting to simulate and evaluate unstable production processes as early as the planning stage and during the start-up phase in order to arrive at effective countermeasures that will ultimately make cheaper and higher quality production possible. The models and simulation methods developed by Lanza are both scientifically relevant and economically significant in industrial practice. Since 2008 she has held a "shared professorship", which has allowed her to combine her teaching and research work with work in corporate management. Since taking up this post, her research has focused, in particular, on the highly topical field of global production, allowing her to benefit from her international scientific cooperation projects and from her keen understanding for topics unrelated to her own subject such as IT or statistics.

Dr. Angelika Lohwasser (41), Egyptology, Free University of Berlin
Angelika Lohwasser is seen, in German-speaking countries, as one of the most outstanding researchers in the field of Sudanese archaeology. Taking a very broad subject-specific and also inter- and transdisciplinary approach, she analyses artefacts from this ancient intercultural region, and in so doing has developed new stimuli and pioneering methods. One of these pioneering methods, for instance, is her markedly sociological methodology, with which she literally brought about a new approach in Egyptology, without losing sight of the field of traditional Egyptology. In terms of the subject matter addressed she has also tackled innovative topics, for example the previously underestimated role of women in the Kingdom of Kush. With this work, Angelika Lohwasser has given her subject a new status in Germany, both in the scientific community as well as amongst the general public. Her many lectures, in Germany and internationally, which gave her the opportunity to prove herself as a successful science communicator, have contributed to this achievement. In addition she has also received numerous distinctions for her teaching work in academia.

Further Information

The next call for nominations for the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize 2010 is expected to be announced in May 2009.

Detailed information on the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize and former prizewinners is available at:

Information on Professor Heinz Maier-Leibnitz, the former president of the DFG, after whom the prize is named, is available at:

Contact at the DFG's Head Office:

  • Dr. Ina Sauer,
    Tel. +49 228 885-2724,