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Press Release No. 12 | 2 May 2013
DFG Announces Recipients of 2013 Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize

Wide Range of Disciplines / Number of Prizes and Prize Money Increased

This year's recipients of the most important prize for early career researchers in Germany have been announced. The selection committee appointed by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) have chosen nine researchers, four women and five men, to receive the 2013 Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize. This year the BMBF has increased the prize money from €16,000 to €20,000 per prize. The number of recipients also increased, with only six prizes having been awarded in previous years. The awards ceremony for the 2013 Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prizes will be held on 3 June in Berlin.

The higher number of awards and the increased prize money reflect the excellent reputation of the prize, which has been awarded annually since 1977. In a survey carried out by bild der wissenschaft magazine, the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize was voted the third most important research prize in Germany by the leading research institutions – after the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize, presented by the DFG, and the Deutscher Zukunftspreis, awarded by the German Federal President. The DFG sees the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize as both recognition and an incentive to early career researchers to continue pursuing a path in research.

This year's recipients are:

  • Christine Hentschel, Sociology, Humboldt University of Berlin

  • Lena Maier-Hein, Medical Informatics, German Cancer Research Centre, Heidelberg

  • Nuno Maulide, Organic Chemistry, Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung, Mülheim

  • Nicole Megow, Discrete Mathematics/Computer Science, Technical University of Berlin

  • Thomas Pfeifer, Physics, Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics, Heidelberg

  • Holger Johannes Pletsch, Astrophysics, Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics, Hannover

  • Volker Presser, Materials Science, Saarland University and Leibniz Institute for New Materials, Saarbrücken

  • Daniel Stein, American Studies, University of Göttingen

  • Clarissa Vierke, African Studies, University of Bayreuth

A total of 123 candidates representing all fields of research were nominated for this year's prize. Of the nominated researchers, 45 were shortlisted and the selection committee then chose the nine prizewinners.

The chair of the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize selection committee, DFG Vice President Prof. Dorothea Wagner, emphasised the wide range of disciplines represented by the winners: “Over the years the prize has demonstrated an elegant balance and has reflected the diversity of the German research system. This year I'm especially pleased to see prizewinners from the so-called ‘smaller’ disciplines, and to be able to recognise the excellent work being done in these fields.”

The patron, Prof. Heinz Maier-Leibnitz, was a physicist and the President of the DFG between 1974 and 1979. The prize that bears his name was set up and first awarded during his time in office.

This year's recipients:

Christine Hentschel (33), Sociology, Humboldt University of Berlin
Political scientist Christine Hentschel, who joined the staff of the Humboldt University of Berlin in 2012, studies urban structures and urban sociology. She seeks to apply research perspectives from an African and Asian context to European cities, for example to the rapidly changing district of Neukölln in Berlin. To study urban infrastructures she combines approaches from urban geography, sociology, anthropology, architecture and history.

Lena Maier-Hein (32), Medical Informatics, German Cancer Research Centre, Heidelberg
Medical informatics specialist Lena Maier-Hein leads the Computer-Assisted Interventions working group at the German Cancer Research Centre, working on image processing and computer assistance systems for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Among her achievements, she improved an established algorithm for capturing and registering three-dimensional surfaces. In her research she is constantly aware of the application of these systems in clinical practice and their evaluation.

Nuno Maulide (32), Organic Chemistry, Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung, Mülheim
Portuguese-born chemist Nuno Maulide studied at the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris, wrote his doctorate in Belgium and worked in the USA before becoming head of a research group at the Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung in 2009. In 2011 he received an ERC Starting Grant. He and his team are interested in the interface between “classic” organic chemistry, asymmetric catalysis and chemical biology. His particular area of interest is unconventional reaction profiles of organic compounds.

Nicole Megow (36), Discrete Mathematics/Computer Science, Technical University of Berlin
Business mathematician Nicole Megow is concerned with questions of optimisation motivated by problems in industrial practice. Since completing her doctorate, her work has focused on optimisation under uncertainty and thus the frontier between basic and applied research. She has led a DFG-funded Emmy Noether independent junior research group since 2012, as part of which she develops algorithms and methods that produce good or demonstrably optimum solutions in spite of uncertain data.

Thomas Pfeifer (36), Physics, Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics, Heidelberg
Physicist Thomas Pfeifer studies ultra-fast electronically correlated processes and fundamental electron bonds in atoms and molecules at the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics. To do this he has built a unique time- and energy-resolved attosecond spectroscopy laboratory. He is also interested in the physics of free-electron lasers, studying the production of light and the interaction of intense soft X-rays with atoms and molecules.

Holger Johannes Pletsch (30), Astrophysics, Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics, Hannover
Over a century after Albert Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves, astrophysicists are still looking for proof. New detectors are studying fast-spinning neutron stars as possible sources of gravitational waves. Holger Pletsch has developed a method for optimally filtering huge quantities of data in spite of limited computer resources. The method is also suitable for other celestial phenomena and has led to the discovery of new and interesting pulsars.

Volker Presser (30), Materials Science, Saarland University and Leibniz Institute for New Materials, Saarbrücken
Volker Presser, who won the DFG's Bernd Rendel Prize in 2008, carries out research on new fast-charging and high-efficiency energy storage solutions made from eco-friendly and low-cost materials. He studies electrochemical energy storage and develops double-layer capacitors and pseudocapacitors made of carbons and hybrid materials: for example more efficient, mechanically flexible electrodes made of carbon nanofibres or two-/three-dimensional carbides and carbonitrides.

Daniel Stein (37), American Studies, University of Göttingen
Daniel Stein is an expert in North American popular culture and a member of the DFG Research Unit “Popular Seriality – Aesthetics and Practice”. His specialist fields are Afro-American music, such as jazz and blues, and comics as a popular medium which scholars of literature are only gradually beginning to study. His dissertation on “Louis Armstrong's Jazz Autobiographics” methodologically considered both literature and music. He also focuses on central questions in literature and cultural studies.

Clarissa Vierke (32), African Studies, University of Bayreuth
Clarissa Vierke combines methods in linguistics, literature studies, cultural studies, philology and anthropology to study culturally specific forms of text and knowledge organisation in Africa. She studies poetics, the history of science, language contact and popular culture in various manuscript cultures and describes developments in language and text. Through this interdisciplinary approach she has expanded the range of available tools and methods. She attaches great importance to the perspective of actors in situ, including in large-scale field studies.

Further Information

Media representatives are invited to attend the awards ceremony, which will be held at 2 pm on 3 June 2013 at the Magnus-Haus, Am Kupfergraben 7, 10117 Berlin, Germany. Please register in advance with the DFG Press and Public Relations Office: Tel. +49 228 885-2443, Jutta.Hoehn@dfg.de

Contact person at the DFG Head Office:

DFG Office North America