Jump to main navigation Skip to Content

DFG Logo: back to Homepage Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

Press Release No. 50 | 8 December 2022
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prizes 2023

Germany’s most important research prize goes to four female researchers and six male researchers / €2.5 million in prize money each / Award ceremony to take place in Berlin on 15 March 2023

The latest recipients of the most prestigious research funding prize in Germany have been announced: the Joint Committee of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) today awarded the 2023 Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize to four female and six male researchers. They were previously chosen from among 131 nominees by the selection committee responsible. Of the ten prizewinners, there are two each from the humanities and social sciences, the natural sciences and the engineering sciences, and four from the life sciences. The winners each receive €2.5 million in prize money. They are entitled to use these funds for their research work in any way they wish, without bureaucratic obstacles, for up to seven years. The award ceremony for the Leibniz Prizes will be held in Berlin on 15 March 2023.

The following researchers will receive the 2023 “Funding Prize in the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Programme” awarded by the DFG:

  • Professor Dr. Largus Angenent, Bioengineering, University of Tübingen
  • Professor Dr. Claudia Höbartner, Biological Chemistry, University of Würzburg
  • Professor Achim Menges, Architecture, University of Stuttgart
  • Professor Dr. Sarah Ellen O’Connor, Natural Product Biosynthesis, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Jena
  • Professor Dr. Stefan Pfister, Paediatric Oncology, German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and Heidelberg University
  • Professor Dr. Hartmut Rosa, Sociology, University of Jena and University of Erfurt
  • Professor Dr. Georg Schett, Rheumatology, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg
  • Professor Dr. Catharina Stroppel, Pure Mathematics, University of Bonn
  • Professor Dr. Fabian Theis, Bio- and Medical Informatics, Helmholtz Munich and TU Munich
  • Professor Dr. Anita Traninger, Romance Literary Studies, Freie Universität Berlin

The Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize has been awarded annually by the DFG since 1986. Up to ten prizes can be awarded per year, each endowed with prize money of €2.5 million. Including the ten prizes in 2023, a total of 408 Leibniz Prizes have been awarded to date. Of these, 129 have gone to the natural sciences, 119 to the life sciences, 97 to the humanities and social sciences and 63 to the engineering sciences. As the prize and prize money can be shared in exceptional cases, there have been more award recipients than there have prizes. A total of 435 nominees have received the prize to date, including 364 male researchers and 71 female researchers.

Two female and nine male Leibniz Prize laureates have gone on to receive the Nobel Prize after being awarded the most important research funding prize in Germany: 1988 Professor Dr. Hartmut Michel (Chemistry), 1991 Professor Dr. Erwin Neher and Professor Dr. Bert Sakmann (both Medicine), 1995 Professor Dr. Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard (Medicine), 2005 Professor Dr. Theodor W. Hänsch (Physics), 2007 Professor Dr. Gerhard Ertl (Chemistry), 2014 Professor Dr. Stefan W. Hell (Chemistry), 2020 Professor Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier (Chemistry) and Professor Dr. Reinhard Genzel (Physics), 2021 Professor Dr. Benjamin List (Chemistry) and 2022 Dr. Svante Pääbo (Medicine).

A brief portrait of the 2023 Leibniz prize winners:

Professor Dr. Largus Angenent, Bioengineering, University of Tübingen

The Leibniz Prize is awarded to Largus Angenent for his outstanding work in the field of environmental biotechnology through which he has made key contributions to microbial electrochemistry. Angenent is one of the worldwide founders of this field of research and co-founder of the International Society for Microbial Electrochemistry and Technology, established in 2011, which he also chaired as president. His work is highly topical in view of climate change and the resulting need for a sustainable food, chemical and energy economy. For example, Angenent uses the combination of microbial fermentation processes with electrochemistry and synthetic biology to convert organic waste and industrial waste gases into valuable organic products. Angenent has also successfully put his academic accomplishments into practical application through two start-up companies.

Largus Angenent studied environmental science at Wageningen University, the Netherlands, before obtaining his doctorate in environmental engineering at Iowa State University, USA, in 1998. After postdoctoral stays in Illinois and Colorado, he was appointed assistant professor at Washington University in St. Louis in 2002. in 2008, Angenent moved to Cornell University, first as an associate professor, and from 2015 as Professor of Biological and Environmental Engineering. The University of Tübingen brought him to Germany as a Humboldt Professor in 2017; he has also been a Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Biology in Tübingen since 2019.

Professor Dr. Claudia Höbartner, Biological Chemistry, University of Würzburg

Claudia Höbartner has been awarded the Leibniz Prize in recognition of her work in the fields of organic and biomolecular chemistry of functional nucleic acids. With her highly acclaimed publication on the elucidation of the first structure of a DNA enzyme that catalyses a linkage of RNA strands, Höbartner has provided insights into the active centre of the catalyst at the atomic level, thereby making a significant contribution to the chemistry of catalytically active nucleic acids. Her pioneering research is based on a combination of creative strategies to discover new catalytic nucleic acids, so-called ribozymes and deoxyribozymes, combined with the determination of their structures and their functional mechanisms. In addition, Höbartner uses novel chemical methods and elements of chemical biology to synthesise and label modified RNA in order to investigate and visualise the biological functions of RNA as well as natural and artificially produced RNA modifications.

Claudia Höbartner studied technical chemistry at TU Vienna and ETH Zurich. After completing her doctorate in organic chemistry at the University of Innsbruck in 2004, she went to the University of Illinois, USA, as a postdoctoral researcher. in 2008, she became head of a research group at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen before going on to be appointed a W2 professor at Göttingen University in 2014. Höbartner has been Chair of Organic Chemistry at the University of Würzburg since 2017, and in 2016 she also received an ERC Consolidator Grant. In 2022 she was accepted as a member of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina.

Professor Achim Menges, Architecture, University of Stuttgart

Achim Menges is awarded the Leibniz Prize for his research in the field of digital planning methods and robotic manufacturing in architecture, which enable new types of construction. Menges’ research aims to achieve end-to-end digital processing of construction from design to execution. The focus is also on integrating the interactions between form, material, structure and environment in computational design. Menge’s approach is highly interdisciplinary in that he collaborates with researchers from civil engineering and robotics, materials science and biology, for example, as well as drawing on the social sciences and the history of architecture. His innovative architectural designs are inspired by natural biological forms, also using forward-looking techniques and computational intelligence tools. In this way, Menge’s work also contributes to the conservation of resources and the reduction of energy- and process-related CO2 emissions in the construction industry.

Achim Menges completed his architectural studies at TU Darmstadt and the Architectural Association in London. After graduating in 2002, he began a teaching career there. He then became a professor at the Hochschule für Gestaltung in Offenbach, subsequently moving to the University of Stuttgart, where he founded the Institute for Computer-Based Design and Construction in 2009. Menges is the spokesperson for the Cluster of Excellence “Integrative Computational Design and Construction for Architecture”. His architectural concepts and experimental buildings have been or are being shown at international exhibitions such as the Centre Pompidou or the Venice Biennale.

Professor Dr. Sarah Ellen O’Connor, Natural Product Biosynthesis, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Jena

Sarah Ellen O’Connor receives the Leibniz Prize for her fundamental discoveries relating to natural product biosynthesis in plants. Plants have developed special enzymes and synthetic pathways to produce organic compounds with which they can defend themselves against predators and parasites. Many of these natural substances are used as medicines, but it is often impossible to replicate them by means of conventional chemical methods. O’Connor explores biosynthetic pathways in plants and uses the discovery of new gene functions, the elucidation of enzymatic mechanisms of action, and molecular genetic and genomic methods to decipher the synthesis of even the most complex natural compounds, such as cancer-inhibiting or neuroactive substances. For example, O’Connor’s research group recently succeeded in completely elucidating the biosynthetic pathway of strychnine – something others had spent many years attempting to accomplish. As a chemist and biologist, she also uses the insights gained in the process to produce novel compounds in plants. This opens up possibilities for the optimised production of natural substances as well as synthetic access to new classes of molecules.

Sarah Ellen O’Connor obtained her doctorate in organic chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, USA, in 2001. After professorships at MIT and the University of East Anglia, UK, and a group leadership at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, she became Director at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena in 2019. She has also been an Honorary Professor at the University of Jena since 2022. O’Connor has been a member of the European Molecular Biology Organization since 2017, and in 2018 she was awarded an ERC Advanced Grant. Her distinctions include winning the 2022 American Chemical Society’s Ernest Guenther Award in the Chemistry of Natural Products.

Professor Dr. Stefan Pfister, Paediatric Oncology, German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and Heidelberg University

Stefan Pfister is an outstanding fundamental researcher and physician who is awarded the Leibniz Prize in recognition of his research in the field of paediatric oncology, which has improved the diagnosis of brain tumours in children and provided patients with better therapy. His analyses of brain tumour tissue using novel genomic-based molecular approaches – taking into account such factors as changes in the expression of genes and their epigenetic regulation – have shown that brain tumours are based on not one, but many different disease mechanisms. Pfister’s research has enabled a new molecular-pathological classification of childhood brain tumours which has been recognised and adopted by the World Health Organisation. Today, this scientific foundation forms the basis worldwide for more precise diagnosis of these diseases, which as Pfister has shown are based on more than 100 different molecular causes. Pfister’s research is a breakthrough in paediatric oncology and an impressive example of precision medicine.

After completing his studies and obtaining his doctorate in medicine in Hamburg and Tübingen, Stefan Pfister went to Harvard University in Boston, USA, as a postdoc for one year. He trained in paediatrics at the University Children’s Hospital in Mannheim, the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Heidelberg, and Heidelberg University Hospital, before going on to obtain his post-doctoral lecturing qualification in 2010. Pfister has headed the Division of Paediatric Neurooncology at the DKFZ since 2012 and has been a professor at Heidelberg University since 2014. His work has received numerous distinctions, including an ERC Consolidator Grant.

Professor Dr. Hartmut Rosa, Sociology, University of Jena and University of Erfurt

The Leibniz Prize goes to Hartmut Rosa in recognition of his groundbreaking work in the field of normatively based critical analysis of modern societies. His contributions to the question of which social dynamics promote or hinder the possibilities of a good life are read and discussed internationally in both academia and society at large. In his study Beschleunigung. Die Veränderung der Zeitstrukturen in der Moderne (2005), which was published under the English title Social Acceleration: A New Theory of Modernity, Rosa provides a comprehensive, philosophically grounded sociological analysis of the dynamics of acceleration through time that shape modern societies while at the same time posing enormous challenges to the individuals in these societies. Rosa also developed a theory of “world relations”: partly as a critique of capitalist structures and their impact at the level of psychology and the living environment, and in dialogue with other critical theories, this gave rise to another comprehensive theoretical assessment – the book Resonanz. Eine Soziologie der Weltbeziehung (2016), which was published under the English title Resonance. A Sociology of our Relationship to the World. Rosa is regarded far beyond Germany as one of the most important social thinkers of our time.

Hartmut Rosa has been Professor of General and Theoretical Sociology at the University of Jena since 2005 and Director of the Max Weber Center for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies at the University of Erfurt since 2013. He is the spokesperson for the Collaborative Research Centre/Transregio “Structural Change of Property”. After studying political science, philosophy and German language and literature in Freiburg and at the London School of Economics, Rosa obtained a doctorate at Humboldt University in Berlin in 1997. He worked in Mannheim, Jena and at the New School for Social Research in New York before gaining his post-doctoral lecturing qualification in Jena in sociology and political science. Rosa has held visiting professorships in Paris and New York.

Professor Dr. Georg Schett, Rheumatology, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg

Georg Schett receives the Leibniz Prize for his outstanding research in the fields of rheumatology and osteoimmunology, with which he has made important fundamental scientific contributions, at the same time developing innovative therapies to cure even severe forms of autoimmune diseases. Among other things, Schett has conducted research into the role of autoantibodies in the formation of bone-degrading cells in rheumatoid arthritis. He discovered that, as a result of this mechanism, sufferers can develop systemic bone loss that is independent of the inflammation. Schett’s insights into the molecular pathways of bone formation and degradation and the pathogenesis of rheumatic diseases have led to major advances being made in understanding the molecular mechanisms and therapies of inflammatory diseases. This has significantly changed the way of thinking in this field, contributing to a molecular-based understanding of disease.

After training in Innsbruck and Vienna, the physician Georg Schett obtained his post-doctoral lecturing qualification in 2003 and was appointed Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine at the Medical University of Vienna. This was followed by a research stay at the biotech company Amgen, USA. Since 2006, Schett has been W3 Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg and Director of Medical Clinic 3 – Rheumatology and Immunology at the university hospital there. Schett is involved in research administration as the spokesperson of a DFG-funded Collaborative Research Centre and as Vice President for Research. He has been a member of the Leopoldina since 2021.

Professor Dr. Catharina Stroppel, Pure Mathematics, University of Bonn

Catharina Stroppel receives the Leibniz Prize in recognition of her excellent work in representation theory, especially on the topic of category theory. Representation theory is the mathematical field that deals with symmetries and their various realisations. Symmetries are of key importance in nature as well as in mathematics, for example in physics in relation to the structure of crystals. Stroppel works in representation theory with multiple links to knot theory and also areas such as low-dimensional topology. In particular, she has proven profound Bernstein-Frenkel-Khovanov conjectures, providing a representation-theoretical description and a categorisation of Khovanov homology. She has also created graduated variants of many structures from representation theory, often closely linked to the question of categorisation. With the help of the categorised structures, Stroppel was the first to describe precisely, with Brundan among others, the representation theory of the Lie superalgebra gl (m | n), which is an example of a graduated variant.

Catharina Stroppel studied mathematics and theology at the University of Freiburg and obtained her doctorate in mathematics there. As a postdoc she conducted research in Leicester, Aarhus and Glasgow. She has been Professor of Mathematics at the University of Bonn since 2008, Deputy Director of the Bonn International Graduate School since 2014 and a member of the University Senate since 2019. Visiting professorships have taken her to Chicago and Princeton, among other places. Stroppel is involved in the Bonn Cluster of Excellence in Mathematics and received one of the rare invitations to give a plenary lecture at the International Congress of Mathematicians in 2022.

Professor Dr. Fabian Theis, Bio- and Medical Informatics, Helmholtz Munich and TU Munich

Fabian Theis receives the Leibniz Prize for his pioneering work in the analysis, modelling and interpretation of genomic data. A mathematician, physicist and bioinformatician, he has developed new methods for biomedical data analysis, especially for single-cell genomics. Recent developments in the genomic revolution include methods for RNA sequencing of single cells in large pools. For this purpose, Theis has developed software packages based on artificial intelligence methods, thereby generating profound biomedical insights. He applies this, for example, to achieve a better understanding of the developmental pathways of cells, improved medical diagnostics, risk identification and therapy development and, as is currently the case, to study the cellular changes that occur after a SARS-CoV-2 infection. As part of the Human Cell Atlas project, a worldwide initiative to create a reference map of all human cell types, Theis co-coordinates the Human Lung Cell Atlas project. This aims to identify cells that are relevant to the development of lung diseases such as asthma.

Fabian Theis studied mathematics and physics, obtaining his doctorate in biophysics at the University of Regensburg in 2002 and in computer science at the University of Granada, Spain, in 2003. After national and international positions as a visiting researcher, postdoc and group leader, he received an appointment at the TU Munich in 2009. Since 2013, Theis has also been Director of the Institute for Computational Biology at Helmholtz Munich. In 2006 he received the DFG’s Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize, and in 2010 an ERC Starting Grant. In 2022 he was awarded an ERC Advanced Grant and accepted as a member of the European Molecular Biology Organization.

Professor Dr. Anita Traninger, Romance Literary Studies, Freie Universität Berlin

Anita Traninger is awarded the Leibniz Prize for her internationally recognised studies in early modern Romance studies. These combine philology, rhetoric, history of science and media history in an innovative way, providing a whole new perspective on the dynamics of culture and knowledge transfer. In particular, her understanding of rhetoric as a historically variable ensemble of media-bound practices is groundbreaking in light of the traditional yet still widespread notion of rhetoric as a rigid set of rules. Based on a profound knowledge of historical texts and contexts, Traninger consistently questions the seemingly fixed epochal boundaries between Antiquity, the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period. In her work, teleological models of history are replaced by networks and overlaps, in short: she provides concrete insights into the complexity of historical action in and with language. Traninger is one of the key international figures in the field of romance studies in a global context and has succeeded in reorganising the subject on an interdisciplinary basis.

Anita Traninger completed her studies and doctorate in Vienna before going to the Freie Universität Berlin, where she first became an assistant at the Institute for Romance Languages. She received her post-doctoral lecturing qualification in general and comparative literature and Romance philology in 2010. Guest lectureships and fellowships have taken her to Belfast, Harvard, Madrid, Oxford, Salamanca, Washington, Wolfenbüttel and Zurich. Since 2015, she has taught as a Professor of Romance Languages at the Freie Universität Berlin. Traninger is the spokesperson for the Cluster of Excellence “Temporal Communities. Doing Literature in a Global Perspective.”

Further information

Appointment notice:

The Leibniz Prizes will be awarded on 15 March 2023 at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Berlin. The media will receive a separate invitation.

Media contact:

Contact at DFG Head Office:

For further information on the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Programme and, from the beginning of the new year, on the 2023 prizewinners, see: