Award Winners 2009–2018 in chronological order
Award Winners 2018

Anne van Aaken
Law / Economics

Hamburg

Prof. Dr. Anne van Aaken

What happens when parliamentarians are under obligation to respect transparency and publish their outside earnings? And what is the legal status of what is known as “nudging”? With this relatively recent method of regulation the state refrains from imposing prohibitions and obligations to make people behave in a certain way. Instead, politicians rely on nudging, pushing people in a specific direction, but leaving the decision up to them. Examples include people actively deciding against organ donation and having to file an objection to it or telling consumers in their energy bills that they are using more power than their neighbours.
Anne van Aaken is one of the world’s leading experts on fundamental legal issues of this kind. She works in diverse legal fields ranging from public international law through international economic law to areas like corruption, and financial market supervision and regulation. She tackles these topics from the perspective of both law and behavioural economics – a bridging method that promises to generate new approaches to issues such as the change brought about by globalisation processes in legal systems or the development of (international) law. Anne van Aaken is invited to the University of Hamburg to drive the economic analysis of law as well as the Law Faculty’s theoretical orientation and empirical research.

Wil van der Aalst
Informatics / Computer Science

Aachen

Prof. Dr. Wil van der Aalst

Wil van der Aalst is one of the leading minds in computer science. What is special about his research is that he does not restrict himself to issues of pure data processing using software and algorithms but investigates concrete business processes, workflows and organisational structures. He acquired his international reputation, in particular, as the founder of the still young field of process mining, whereby the flow of activities and order of events which make up a work process are chronologically reconstructed and analysed using log data. At the same time, consideration is also given to the human actors who carry out the individual steps in the processes. In this way, complex procedures that involve several human actors can be studied, such as airport luggage handling, bank lending or insurance claims processing. Process mining can be used, for example, to ascertain whether the actual processes coincide with the envisaged process workflows or whether certain steps in a process are particularly time consuming or cost intensive. The open source tool ProM, co-developed by van der Aalst, has become a standard tool worldwide. At RWTH Aachen University, Alexander von Humboldt Professor Wil van der Aalst will bolster the cross-cutting field of process and workflow analysis and drive cooperation with the engineering, business and economics and medicine faculties, and also industry.

Arno Rauschenbeutel
Quantum optics / Atomic physics

Berlin

Prof. Dr. Arno Rauschenbeutel

A secure method of encryption, quantum cryptography is one of the most important fields of application in quantum research. Using light photons in different quantum states, for example, it might at some stage be possible to make the transmission of information absolutely tap-proof. The fundamental research to enable such developments is done at the interface of nanophotonics and quantum optics – and in this field, Arno Rauschenbeutel is a world leader. He has managed to capture atoms close to the surface of glass fibres by passing light through extremely thin glass fibres with a diameter of less than the wavelength of light. The light that is emitted or absorbed by the fibre during oscillation captures and traps atoms. The insights gained from Rauschenbeutel’s experiments could lead to the development of novel optical sensors or tap-proof glass fibres. Born in Germany, the physicist who currently works at Vienna University of Technology (TU Wien) is invited to become an Alexander von Humboldt Professor at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and reinforce the new Center for Photonic Quantum Technologies in the Berlin-Adlershof Science and Technology Park.

Guus F. Rimmelzwaan
Virology / Immunology

Hannover

Prof. Dr. Guus F. Rimmelzwaan

Guus F. Rimmelzwaan works at the intersection of human and veterinary medicine. He is an internationally eminent immunologist specialising in virus research, especially on influenza viruses that can occur in both humans and animals and potentially be transmitted from animals to humans and vice versa. He has worked intensively on bird flu as well as investigating, for example, the role of cats as possible vectors in the transmission of influenza viruses to humans. Rimmelzwaan has gained a special reputation for his research into t-cells in the immune system, demonstrating the importance of this group of white blood cells for more comprehensive protection against influenza viruses. One finding that has proven particularly relevant to both immunisation strategies and the development of new vaccines is that a vaccination against as many different influenza strains as possible is especially advantageous because the viruses can mutate so easily. As an Alexander von Humboldt Professor at the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation (TiHo), Guus F. Rimmelzwaan is invited to help put immunology and health research on a stronger international footing. At the same time, the Humboldt Professorship harmonises excellently with the one health strategy pursued at TiHo to consider human and animal health jointly at ecosystem level.

Michael H. Sieweke
Cell Biology

Dresden

Prof. Dr. Michael H. Sieweke

Our bodies are continually changing and the fact that stem cells are able to regenerate themselves means that in most tissue – be it in the intestines, the skin or the blood – new cells are constantly being created too. This is the way the tissue is preserved or heals after injury. Sieweke’s special field are the mechanisms of blood formation and he has produced internationally recognised work that could help to develop possible new approaches to cellular therapy. It was Sieweke, for example, who discovered an emergency mechanism which quickly responds to danger from serious infection and inflammation and supplies the body with new white blood cells. This demonstrated that when there are infections or inflammations stem cells can respond to messenger substances, triggering the production of special blood cells that fight the pathogens. The hope is that Sieweke’s research will one day mean the mechanism can be used in bone marrow transplants to help rebuild the immune system more quickly. His role as Humboldt Professor at Technische Universität Dresden will be to position the university more firmly in the field of tissue regeneration and, in particular, to drive translation, that is, the mid-term medical application of research.

Award Winners 2017

Largus T. Angenent
Environmental Microbiology / Bioprocess Engineering

Tübingen

Professor Dr Largus T. Angenent

The beings on whom all hopes are pinned are miniscule and live in complex communities: bacteria play a key role in gas fermentation, one of the most important sources of clean energy for the future. How to optimise and employ bacteria to synthesise fuels and chemicals is the subject of Lars Angenent’s research. A leading international bioprocess engineer, he himself developed the principles on which his most recent work is based by analysing the composition and interaction of microbial communities in the air of environments like hospitals and fermentation plants. He successfully puts his findings into practice in his own firm which develops and optimises microbes to store hydrogen and carbon dioxide in the form of methane. In the Centre for Applied Geosciences at the University of Tübingen, Angenent is set to generate ideas for developing new technologies. He will also drive microbiome analysis together with colleagues from neighbouring disciplines such as those at the Interfaculty Institute of Microbiology and Infection Medicine. His presence will help to ensure that Germany’s strong position in basic research in the field will achieve international eminence in applications as well.

Peter Baumann
Cell biology

Mainz

Prof. Dr. Peter Baumann

When cells divide, telomerase plays a key role, an enzyme that preserves the telomeres, the ends of the chromosomes, which get shorter with every cell division. Controlling telomerase determines whether cells age or whether, in the case of cancer, for example, they grow uninhibitedly. The cell biologist, Peter Baumann, is a leading specialist in the field of chromosome biology, genome stability and the regulation of telomerase and other molecular cell-ageing processes. His discoveries on the RNA components of telomerase (Terc) in yeast could lead to a better understanding of Terc regulation in human cells and facilitate therapies to counter early cell-ageing or pathological growth. In Mainz, Baumann will help to develop the university and the Institute of Molecular Biology (IMB) into an international location for fundamental research in biomedicine.

Jijie Chai
Structural Biology

Cologne

Professor Dr Jijie Chai

No proteins, no life – and no defence against pathogens either. Whether the subject is human, mouse or corn, when it comes to immune defence, proteins are an important element, and they are very similar right across the boundaries of animal and plant cells. If you know all about these proteins, you hold the key to the targeted manipulation of immune defence. Jijie Chai is a leading researcher who investigates the structure of such proteins and special receptors. By describing the complex structures of the proteins he produces important basic knowledge for the fight against plant disease and the development of drugs to combat inflammatory disease. In his research, Chai uses a sophisticated new microscopic method: cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM). The advent of this method has made it possible to see and analyse the structure and receptors of such proteins for the first time. So far, it is only employed at very few research locations. With Jijie Chai’s research, and technologies like cryo-EM, the University of Cologne and the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research want to draw their research in medicine, biochemistry and botany closer together.

James Conant
Philosophy

Leipzig

Prof. Dr. James Conant

American and German philosophers belong to different schools, known as the analytical and the continental movements. This fact hampers communication and cooperation. The American philosopher, James Conant, is at home in both worlds and is seen as a bridge-builder between the two approaches. He is one of the most respected experts on Kant and Wittgenstein and equally renowned for his work on the history of analytical philosophy, Nietzsche interpretation and philosophical scepticism. He has also made significant contributions to knowledge on the philosophy of logic, aesthetics and the philosophy of film. As co-director of the Leipzig Research Forschungskolleg Analytic German Idealism (FAGI), he is set to introduce new themes and perspectives into philosophy and turn the planned “Analytic German Philosophy Research Quadrangle”, involving the universities of Leipzig, Potsdam, Chicago and Pittsburgh, into a crystallisation point for German-American cooperation in philosophy.

Wolf B. Frommer
Plant molecular biology

Düsseldorf/Cologne/Jülich

Prof. Dr. Wolf B. Frommer

In order to absorb nutrients and carry them through the membranes in their cells, plants use transport proteins. Understanding them is one of the keys to increasing yields and finding new fertilisers. One of the leading experts in this area is the plant biologist, Wolf B. Frommer. He investigates different transport mechanisms, such as the so-called SWEET proteins, which channel glucose through the membranes. This mechanism operates very similarly in animal and human cells, too. Frommer’s work is thus also relevant to medical applications such as understanding metabolic processes in cancer cells. Together with non-university partners in Jülich and Cologne, Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf would like to apply Frommer’s expertise to continue developing the CEPLAS Cluster of Excellence on Plant Sciences into a cutting-edge research location for molecular botany.

Ran Hirschl
Constitutional Law / Political Science

Göttingen

Professor Dr Ran Hirschl

To what extent do constitutional courts in different countries around the world exert political influence? What role do they play in old and young democracies, or in secular and theocratic states where they compete with religious law? Ran Hirschl is one of the world’s leading scholars of comparative constitutional law. Having completed numerous studies on constitutional development, the judicialization of politics, and the intellectual history and methodologies of comparative public law, Hirschl now wants to focus on settings in which religion and constitutional law interact to reflect and shape political struggles over collective identity. He also plans to explore new challenges concerning the constitutional governance of mega-cities in an increasingly globalized world. Hirschl will help to develop the Göttingen campus into a centre for research on the interaction between comparative law, constitutional design and comparative politics. To this end, he will cooperate extensively with the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Göttingen.

Award Winners 2016

Till Winfried Bärnighausen
Epidemiology

Heidelberg

Professor Dr Till Winfried Bärnighausen

What impact are increasing treatment options for HIV carriers having on society as a whole? What are the effects on life expectancy? And how does employment consequently develop in a society? In his work, the epidemiologist Till Bärnighausen not only examines the group of carriers and sufferers, he also makes connections to society as a whole – an approach that has gained him a global reputation. Bärnighausen’s analyses of the effectiveness, costs and benefits of HIV prevention and interventions have not only caught the attention of the research community, they are also being adopted by organisations like the World Bank and the World Health Organisation. As a Humboldt Professor in Heidelberg, Till Bärnighausen is expected to drive global health research, which has been a somewhat neglected research area in Germany until now.

Sven Bernecker
Philosophy

Cologne

Professor Dr Sven Bernecker

Sven Bernecker is one of the most respected philosophers of our times, both in the fields of contemporary epistemology and classical German philosophy. His particular interests include the philosophy of mind, an area in which he is considered a pioneer of the renaissance of the philosophical debate on memory. His research focusses on the question as to what memory is, drawing on approaches taken from cognitive science, psychology and sociology. In Cologne, the Humboldt Professor is due to found and head a Centre for Contemporary Epistemology and Kantian Tradition. It may also prove valuable to cooperate with the philosopher and Humboldt Professor Michael Neil Forster who is already conducting research just up the Rhine in Bonn.

William Crawley-Boevey
Mathematics

Bielefeld

Professor Dr William Crawley-Boevey

The mathematician William Crawley-Boevey is looked upon as a pioneer in the field of representation theory and algebras. Being a theoretical researcher with a penchant for particularly thorny questions he has made important contributions to solving core mathematical challenges like Horn's problem, the Deligne-Simpson problem and Kac-Moody Lie algebras. He has developed seminal concepts in the theory of tame algebras, which govern representation theory to this day, and broken new paths in investigating the connections between representation theory and geometry. Together with his current work on vector bundles and the analysis of Riemann surfaces, this is the topic that still captures his imagination.

Tiffany Knight
Ecology

Halle/Wittenberg/Leipzig

Prof. Dr. Tiffany Knight

What is the impact of invasive species on the original biodiversity of the habitats they invade? Why do invasions increase biodiversity in some cases and reduce it in others? Invasion processes, as they are known, are one of the core research interests of the world-renowned ecologist Tiffany Knight. The American environmental researcher focusses in particular on the interaction between plants, microorganisms, pollinators and herbivores. She uses a variety of methodological and theoretical approaches deriving from population biology and evolutionary research. A special feature of her research is that she studies these interactions across different ecosystems as well. Her work on the connections between fish populations in ponds and the stocks of plant-pollinating insects on land are seen as a breakthrough in biodiversity research. She discovered, for example, that plant pollinators tend to avoid ponds where there are no fish; instead, these ponds attract a larger number of dragonflies, which feed on insects. Knight’s task at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Leipzig will be to create a focus for content generated by the various areas of ecological research, from molecular research to green corridors. In her role as an Alexander von Humboldt Professor, she will also address general issues in her field such as plant rarity or plant invasiveness.

Katrin Kogman-Appel
Jewish Studies

Münster

Prof. Dr. Katrin Kogman-Appel

What do the illustrations in mediaeval Jewish manuscripts tell us about the life of Jewish communities at the time? What interaction existed between Jewish pictorial and book culture and that of Christian and Islamic cultures? Jewish scholar Katrin Kogman-Appel is widely regarded as a world authority on the Jewish Art of the Middle Ages. She understands art history in terms of cultural history and always relates both to aspects of social and religious history. A typical example of Kogman-Appel’s approach is her work on the so-called Leipzig Mahzor, a collection of prayers for Jewish holidays and one of the most famous examples of Hebrew illuminated manuscripts from the Middle Ages. The prayer book was produced in southwestern Germany around 1310 and is known to have been kept at Worms in the 16th century. Kogman-Appel directs her attention to the role of the Mahzor and the rites of late-mediaeval Jewish community life depicted; she also focusses on social cohesion within the Jewish community in Worms, which was then a centre of Judaism in Germany. By embracing the broader cultural context, Kogman-Appel has an impact beyond the confines of Jewish Studies on Mediaeval Studies in general. She is expected to drive interdisciplinary research in the Humanities at the University of Münster. In particular, the Alexander von Humboldt Professor will seek to establish Jewish Studies to complement existing research on Christianity and Islam at Münster.

Judith Pfeiffer
Islamic Studies

Bonn

Prof. Dr. Judith Pfeiffer

What does it mean for a religious community to accept new members? What processes are initiated by a change of faith and religious conversion? Questions like this are more relevant today than ever, and the extent to which they are a recurrent theme in the history of humankind is illustrated by the work of the Islamic scholar Judith Pfeiffer. She has a global reputation as an expert on the history of the Mongols from the 13th to the 16th centuries as well as the intellectual history of the Mongolian Empire in the Islamic East, from Iran via Syria and Anatolia to Iraq. Pfeiffer focusses, amongst other things, on the conversion of migrant Mongols and leaders to Islam, analysing Persian, Arab and Ottoman sources and setting them in the greater historical and social context of their time. Her research is not restricted to asking how the conversion to Islam changed the Mongols’ way of life but also investigates how the converts influenced their new religion and introduced ideas into Islamic theology that had ripple effects even on politics and the law. By gaining an Alexander von Humboldt Professorship for Judith Pfeiffer the University of Bonn would like to continue strengthening its research focus in historical Islamic studies and extend it to embrace Iran and Central Asia.

Wolfgang Wernsdorfer
Experimental Solid State Physics

Karlsruhe

Professor Dr Wolfgang Wernsdorfer

Wolfgang Wernsdorfer’s specialism is experimental solid state physics at the interface with chemistry and material science. He is one of the world’s leading experts on nanomagnets and their use in quantum spintronics. Already as a doctoral researcher at the Low Temperature Laboratory in Grenoble, he developed the nano-SQUID, a breakthrough device allowing him to measure the magnetic properties of single nanostructures and molecules. Wernsdorfer discovered the role played by quantum laws in molecular magnetism and was thus able to build electronic circuits in which the electric current is controlled by the magnetism in the molecule. One of his most recent ambitions is to integrate tiny, molecular quantum processors in the state-of-the-art CMOS technology used in microelectronics. This could lead to nanomagnets being used in future quantum computers.

Award Winners 2015

Elisabeth Décultot
Literature

Halle/Wittenberg

Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Décultot

How did scholars in the 18th and 19th centuries read other scholars? What did they record of this in their notes and extract notebooks? And what found its way into their works? The French literary scholar Elisabeth Décultot follows tracks like these in order to understand the transfer of knowledge in the art theory and aesthetics of the Enlightenment. With success: Décultot is one of the world’s most distinguished researchers on the history of aesthetics in the 18th century. With her help, the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg wants to become the leading address for Enlightenment research in Germany. Elisabeth Décultot is to extend the focus at Halle-Wittenberg to include the European and global context.

Harald Andrés Helfgott
Pure Mathematics

Göttingen

Prof. Dr. Harald Andrés Helfgott

Every odd number from seven upwards is the sum of three prime numbers according to Goldbach’s ternary conjecture, which has kept mathematicians busy since the 18th century. They have been searching for evidence to prove or refute the conjecture for over two hundred years - but, in spite of remarkable advances in the early 20th century and steady progress since then, a proof was not forthcoming. In 2013, Peruvian mathematician, Harald Andrés Helfgott, gave a complete proof of the ternary Goldbach conjecture with some computer assistance. And it was not his first breakthrough in mathematics. He has solved fundamental problems on growth in groups and has contributed to the application of diophantine geometry in number theory. He is now set to become an Alexander von Humboldt Professor at the University of Göttingen, reinforcing the research focus on algebraic geometry and number theory and helping Göttingen to advance from an internationally recognised centre of excellence to become a global leader in the field.

Sharon Jeanette Macdonald
Cultural Anthropology / Museology

Berlin

Prof. Dr. Sharon Jeanette Macdonald

How do you choose which of a culture’s or society’s objects and artefacts should be exhibited in museums? And, in this context, how do countries deal with their own, perhaps difficult, cultural heritage? These are the kinds of question that interest the eminent cultural anthropologist and museologist, Sharon Macdonald, and the ones she always links to socially relevant themes. She investigated the treatment of the Nazi past in Germany, for instance, by focussing on the historical heritage of Nuremberg. Amongst other things, she is currently examining how Islam is presented and conveyed in museums. The British scholar also specialises in museum theory and has produced many seminal works on the subject. Under Macdonald’s leadership, Humboldt-Universität, the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz (Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation) and the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin want to establish a new, world-leading Centre for Cultural Heritage and Museum Research. In her capacity as an Alexander von Humboldt Professor, Sharon Jeanette Macdonald will also be involved in the continuing development of concrete museum projects as the future Humboldt Forum and Berlin’s Museum Island.

Karen Radner
Classical and Ancient Studies

Munich

Prof. Dr. Karen Radner

Ancient Near Eastern history specialist, Karen Radner, sets her research sights on the big picture. She is one of the world’s leading experts on the history of Mesopotamia at the time of the Neo-Assyrian Empire (9th to 7th century BC), which is considered the first major empire in human history. Trained as a cuneiform philologist, she studies the written evidence from the period in order to reconstruct its cultural and social history. Radner, an Austrian, has produced numerous first editions of previously unknown cuneiform texts, delving in particular into hitherto neglected sources such as evidence of everyday life. She also chooses unusual publication paths: she is a supporter of the Digital Humanities and provides open access to part of her work and editions online. Her mission as an Alexander von Humboldt Professor at LMU Munich will be to shift the focus of classical and ancient studies more towards a universal history of antiquity.

Marja Timmermans
Molecular genetics

Tübingen

Prof. Dr. Marja Timmermans

How do the patterns in leaves develop? Where do the differences between the top and the underside of a leaf come from? Leaf development is the special field of the plant geneticist Marja Timmermans who has made several internationally acclaimed discoveries and whose methods are used in laboratories around the world. In the course of her work, Marja Timmermans succeeded in finding an explanation for the mechanism behind leaf development and the role of mobile RNA molecules in this connection. For the Tübingen University, a Humboldt Professorship for Marja Timmermans at the Center for Plant Molecular Biology (ZMBP) would target bridging the interface between basic and applied research. Tübingen also wants to extend the profile of model organisms such as moss to crop plants such as maize, which Marja Timmermans is researching.

Award Winners 2014

Giuseppe Caire
Communications engineering

Berlin

Prof. Dr. Giuseppe Caire

Giuseppe Caire is one of the world’s leading experts on the principles of telecommunications and information theory. His pioneering work on coded modulation and many other publications and applications have had a lasting impact on the practice and standards of modern wireless communications. They are at the bottom of many digital communication technologies such as WLAN and mobile phone transmission. By conducting top-level theoretical research at university whilst working on practical applications at the Heinrich Hertz Institute, Caire would continue to combine productive research with concrete applications and consolidate TU Berlin’s position at the international forefront of the field.

Emmanuelle Marie Charpentier
Molecular biology

Hannover/Braunschweig

Prof. Dr. Emmanuelle Marie Charpentier

Emmanuelle Charpentier is considered one of the most innovative researchers in the field of RNA regulation and the molecular biology of infectious diseases worldwide. Her work on bacterial pathogens, for example, and the ability of bacteria to defend themselves against pathogens, has generated much attention. At Hannover Medical School and the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research she would combine basic research into molecular mechanisms with translations into clinical therapies and promote clinical infectiology, a field recently neglected in Germany.

no longer receiving sponsorship

Stefanie Engel
Environmental economics

Osnabrück

Prof. Dr. Stefanie Engel

Stefanie Engel is one of the world’s leading researchers in environmental economics, particularly in the field of the economics of ecosystems services. She investigates how individuals and groups treat their environment and natural resources, how their behaviour is influenced and how it can be controlled. To this end, she employs a broad spectrum of methods deriving, for example, from behavioural economics or game theory. At Osnabrück University, Stefanie Engel could invigorate the interdisciplinary Institute of Environmental Systems Research and help to guide the focus on “Governance of sustainable socio-ecological systems” to the international forefront. Stefanie Engel is a member of the Research Committee on Environmental and Development Economics of the “Verein für Socialpolitik”, the largest association of economists in the German-speaking world. She was also a member of the Task Force on Environmental Economics which is part of the Initiative for Policy Dialogue headed by Nobel economics laureate, Joseph E. Stiglitz.

Stuart S. P. Parkin
Solid state physic

Halle/Wittenberg

Prof. Dr. Stuart S. P. Parkin

Stuart Parkin has an international reputation as an outstanding, innovative solid state physicist who knows how to transpose theoretical developments in material science into technological applications. Amongst other things, his work has had a global impact on magnetic data storage. His pioneering achievements include the development of oscillatory interlayer coupling in magnetic multilayers for industrially-produced giant magnetoresistance and the discovery and utilisation of tunnelling magnetoresistance. He is currently investigating the potential for enhancing storage density with the help of a three-dimensional storage medium. Stuart Parkin is invited to become a professor in the Institute of Physics at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg and the Director of the Max Planck Institute (MPI) of Microstructure Physics. This would help to establish Halle’s position as an outstanding international location for applied spintronics and materials science.

Andreas S. Schulz
Applied mathematics (Operations Research)

Munich

Prof. Dr. Andreas S. Schulz

Andreas Schulz is a world leader in the field of Operations Research (OR) and a driving force in the new research discipline of algorithmic game theory. Thanks to his interdisciplinary strategy he has become an expert in combining mathematical OR with established economic theory – an approach that has not been adopted very widely in Germany so far. At Technischen Universität München (TUM), Andreas Schulz is invited to accept a professorship in Quantitative Methods in Management at the TUM School of Management and also be involved in the TUM School of Mathematics. The aim of this interdisciplinary research is to put collaboration between the two departments on a new footing and thus steer TUM towards a vanguard position in fundamental research in Germany.

Jairo Sinova
Theoretical physics

Mainz

Prof. Dr. Jairo Sinova

Jairo Sinova is one of the most eminent theoretical physicists of the younger generation in semi-conductor spintronics. Whilst still a postdoc in 2003, he became famous overnight when he proposed the notion of the intrinsic Spin Hall Effect. Since then, he has continued his theoretical work in cooperation with many experimental colleagues. He is invited to join the Institute of Physics at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz and help drive the field of Spintronics/Spin Related Phenomena to the international forefront; he would also take centre stage in establishing the new Humboldt Center for Emergent Spin Phenomena (H-CESP). Jairo Sinova’s presence at the interface of theory and experimentation would enhance the Institute of Phsyics’s existing experimental expertise and develop its as yet non-existent theoretical group focused in spin related phenomena.

Hidenori Takagi
Solid state physics

Stuttgart

Prof. Dr. Hidenori Takagi

Hidenori Takagi is one of the most eminent and best networked international researchers in modern solid state research and materials sciences worldwide. His contributions to high-Tc superconductivity, correlated materials and magnetic oxide compounds are considered just as innovative and outstanding as his achievements in the synthesis of novel compounds. At the University of Stuttgart and the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research in Stuttgart he would augment the strategic focus area of solid state research, drive a new research direction from “classic” semi-conductor and metals research to “advanced materials” and help extend interdisciplinary research.

Award Winners 2013

Gregory Ralph Crane
Classical Philology

Leipzig

Prof. Dr. Gregory Ralph Crane

Gregory Ralph Crane combines classical philology and computer science in an innovative approach, applying computer science methods to systematise human cultural development. He owes his reputation as a pioneer of digital humanities to his development of the Perseus Digital Library, a comprehensive and freely accessible online library for antique source material. By appointing him to the University of Leipzig, the university aims to expand its Institute of Computer Science into an internationally visible digital humanities centre.

Frank Fehrenbach
Art History

Hamburg

Prof. Dr. Frank Fehrenbach

Frank Fehrenbach is globally recognised as an outstanding scholar who has revitalised art history and established it as overarching Visual Studies. He received international acclaim for his studies on the works of Leonardo da Vinci in which he examines aspects of art history in a new interdisciplinary context invoking mathematics, optics, physics, geoscience and psychology. Fehrenbach thus overcomes the boundaries of his discipline and sets new benchmarks for art history as one of the innovative humanities. In Hamburg Fehrenbach is due to spearhead the realignment of the long-established Department of Art History and build up and lead a cross-disciplinary Research Centre on Images of Nature which is set to play a pioneering role in art history internationally.

Michael Neil Forster
Philosophy

Bonn

Prof. Dr. Michael Neil Forster

Michael Neil Forster owes his reputation as a philosopher with a globally unique profile not least to his work on the connection between modern language philosophy and its Romantic roots in Herder’s writing. In his work, he combines the Anglo-American analytic philosophy approach with the continental approach, and is thus considered an important representative of those who examine the historical connections between these two schools of thought. His areas of specialisation include the philosophy of German idealism in Kant and Hegel, ranging all the way to the hermeneutics of Heidegger and Gadamer.
At the University of Bonn, Forster is to help develop the newly founded Internationales Zentrum für Philosophie des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen and thus raise the international profile of philosophy at Bonn.

Stephan Hartmann
Philosophy of Science

Munich

Prof. Dr. Stephan Hartmann

Stephan Hartmann is one of the world’s leading academics in formal epistemology and the philosophy of science. He gained his reputation particularly for his transdisciplinary approach, for example in applying Bayesian network theory, a statistical model of probability distribution, to complex issues in various areas of philosophy.
At LMU Munich he is to hold a chair in “Philosophy of Science” in the Faculty of Philosophy, Philosophy of Science and the Study of Religion. In addition, he is to manage the faculty’s Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy together with Humboldt Professor Hannes Leitgeb. The faculty aims to become one of the five most important institutions for logic and the philosophy of science.

Michael Köhl
Nuclear and Molecular Physics

Bonn

Prof. Dr. Michael Köhl

Michael Köhl is one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of experimental atomic physics and quantum optics. He specialises in ultra-cold particles and their interactions. His achievements include developing methods for examining atomic fermi quantum gases that have been adopted by other research groups around the world. His research is of practical significance for, among other things, zero-resistance current flow in superconductors. Köhl has worked closely with Humboldtians and Nobel Laureates in Physics, Wolfgang Ketterle and Theodor Hänsch.
By continuing his research at the University of Bonn he is to lay the foundations for an outstanding research centre at the intersection of quantum optics and condensed matter.

Oskar Painter
Quantum Optics

Erlangen/Nürnberg

Prof. Dr. Oskar Painter

Oskar Painter is a pioneer in the development and physical characterisation of optical nanosystems. His current research focus is the study of quantum mechanical characteristics of mechanical solid state structures and their interaction with light. In his research, he uses the characteristically very low radiation pressure of light to prepare and study mechanical resonators in a quantum state. Applications of this technique include the development of quantum-limited high-precision sensors and the realisation of integrated networks for quantum optical communication. Oskar Painter will work both at FAU’s Physics Department and at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light, intensifying cooperation between the two institutions. At the university he will strengthen the existing research focus on optical sciences, which has also received funding from the German government’s Excellence Initiative.

no longer receiving sponsorship

Wolfram Ruf
Medicine

Mainz

Prof. Dr. Wolfram Ruf

Wolfram Ruf is one of the world’s leading authorities in the field of coagulation physiology. The main focus of his work is on examining the protein thromboplastin which plays an important role in blood clotting. Increased thromboplastin production resulting, for example, from cancer may have negative effects – in addition to causing thromboses, the protein can also increase tumour growth. Ruf has shown that these cellular processes caused by thromboplastin can be influenced without negatively affecting blood clotting.
His appointment to the University Medical Center (UMC) of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz is intended to strengthen UMC’s recently founded Center for Thrombosis and Hemostasis (CTH).

Award Winners 2012

Rolf Harald Baayen
Linguistics

Tübingen

Prof. Dr. Rolf Harald Baayen

Rolf Harald Baayen is regarded as one of the best and most innovative researchers in the field of vocabulary research and quantitative linguistics. He is a pioneer of computer assisted and empirical linguistic research and psycholinguistics, and has made fundamental contributions to our understanding of human speech and the role of the memory in language processing. Baayen is set to assume the Chair of Quantitative Linguistics at the University of Tübingen and help make linguistic research a key sector in the university’s strategic plan.

no longer receiving sponsorship

Friedrich Eisenbrand
Mathematics

Berlin

Prof. Dr. Friedrich Eisenbrand

Friedrich Eisenbrand is a world leader in the field of algorithmics and discrete mathematics and works at the intersection between pure research and applications. He researches into integral optimisation, for example, which could be of use to both industry and telecommunications in capacity planning. Eisenbrand’s presence at TU Berlin, the Zuse Institute Berlin (co-nominator) and the DFG Research Centre Matheon is expected to promote the status of Berlin as a leading location for mathematics.

no longer receiving sponsorship

Jochen Guck
Biophysics

Dresden

Prof. Dr. Jochen Guck

Jochen Guck has the reputation of being one of the world’s best and most innovative researchers in the field of biophysics. A physicist by trade, he conducts research at the interface to biology and biomedicine. His work currently focuses on the mechanical properties of cells and tissues. Guck is to take over the chair of “Cellular Machines” at the Biotechnology Centre of TU Dresden (BIOTEC) and work with the Center for Regenerative Therapies Dresden (CRTD), DFG Research Center and Cluster of Excellence, and the Collaborative Research Center for stem cell research, thereby strengthening Dresden’s leading international position in the field of bioengineering.

Hans-Arno Jacobsen
Computer Science

Munich

Prof. Dr. Hans-Arno Jacobsen

Hans-Arno Jacobsen has the reputation of being one of the most important and technically outstanding researchers at the interface of computer science, computer engineering and information systems in the world. He holds numerous patents for diverse software and is involved in important industrial developments with partners such as IBM and Bell. At Technische Universität München he is due to assume a chair in Information Systems, add his weight to the Faculty of Informatics, which already achieved success in the Excellence Initiative, and help establish a centre of excellence.

Robert Schober
Communications engineering

Erlangen/Nürnberg

Prof. Dr. Robert Schober

Robert Schober is one of the world’s leading researchers in communications engineering and wireless communications. Combining academic excellence and industrial application in a manner ideally suited to the engineering sciences, he has for example developed an algorithm used in many modern mobile telephones. At the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, Schober is to take a leading role in the interdisciplinary research area of communication technology, thereby strengthening the university’s international profile as a centre of technology.

no longer receiving sponsorship

Matthias Tschöp
Medicine

Munich

Prof. Dr. Matthias Tschöp

Matthias Tschöp is considered one of the world’s leading scientists examining the metabolic diseases of diabetes and obesity. His work focuses both on research into molecular transduction mechanisms that play a role in diabetes and insulin resistance, and on new preventative and therapeutic approaches. At Technische Universität München, Tschöp is to take the new chair of Insulin Resistance and become the director of the also newly established Institute of Insulin Resistance at the Helmholtz Zentrum München, thus strengthening diabetes research as a key area.

Michael Weiss
Mathematics

Münster

Prof. Dr. Michael Weiss

As a leading expert in algebraic and differential topology, Michael Weiss enjoys an outstanding international reputation. One of his greatest achievements is proving the Mumford conjecture, a mathematical problem that extends into many areas of the discipline. At the University of Münster, Weiss is to take on a new professorship in mathematics and strengthen geometric research in Münster, as well as helping the university join the world’s leading institutes in topology.

no longer receiving sponsorship

Award Winners 2011

Harald Clahsen
Psycholinguistics

Potsdam

Prof. Dr. Harald Clahsen

Harald Clahsen is one of the internationally most renowned German linguists. He is a leading researcher in the fields of language acquisition, language processing and language disorders. His work links linguistic theory with experimental psycholinguistics and techniques of neuroscience. Clahsen is to become professor for the Psycholinguistics of Multilingualism at the University of Potsdam and will be the founding director of the new Potsdam Research Institute of Multilingualism (PRIM), to reinforce the Area of Excellence in Cognitive Sciences of the Human Sciences Faculty.

David DiVincenzo
Quantum Physics

Aachen/Jülich

Prof. Dr. David DiVincenzo

David DiVincenzo was one of the first physicists to engage in quantum information and is considered an eminent authority on quantum information processing. In particular, his name is associated with the development of criteria for the quantum computer, known as the DiVincenzo Criteria. In addition, his work is also significant in the fields of materials science and solid-state physics. As part of the Jülich Aachen Research Alliance (JARA), DiVincenzo is to become the head of the Institute of Theoretical Quantum Information, which is to be founded at RWTH Aachen University. He will also be heading the Institute of Nanoelectronics at the Forschungszentrum Jülich.

Brian Foster
Particle Physics

Hamburg

Prof. Dr. Brian Foster

Brian Foster is acknowledged as one of the most important experimental particle physicists of the day. He has played a leading role in numerous international projects involving particle accelerators, and both his theoretical and his practical work developing innovative measuring instruments have expedited progress in accelerator physics. He has received countless awards, including the Humboldt Research Award (1999). Foster is invited to work at DESY (Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrontron), Hamburg, and as a professor, teaching and researching on the future of particle acceleration at the University of Hamburg.

no longer receiving sponsorship

Gerhard Kramer
Information Theory and Engineering

Munich

Prof. Dr. Gerhard Kramer

Gerhard Kramer is one of the world’s leading researchers in information theory and communications engineering. His innovative achievements in the most diverse areas of telecommunications technology, from radio engineering to optical data communication, have been highly acclaimed. In the course of his career, Kramer has continually combined theory and applications, working, for example, at the Bell Laboratories in the USA, one of the world’s top addresses for industrial applied research. Kramer will be invited to assume the chair in communications engineering at TUM (Technische Universität München) and to help uphold and enhance Munich’s position as a global leader in the field.

Dirk Kreimer
Mathematical Physics

Berlin

Prof. Dr. Dirk Kreimer

Dirk Kreimer is one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of mathematical physics. As a physicist, he is not only held in the highest esteem by his colleagues in the discipline, but also by top mathematicians with whom he regularly cooperates. At Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Kreimer is supposed to drive the symbiosis of mathematics and theoretical physics in Germany, focusing on fields such as quantum field theory, and helping Germany draw level with the best in the world. Kreimer is scheduled to become a member of the Department of Mathematics and the Department of Physics as well as the Director of the new Interdisciplinary Centre for Mathematical Physics.

no longer receiving sponsorship

Hannes Leitgeb
Philosophy

Munich

Prof. Dr. Hannes Leitgeb

Hannes Leitgeb is one of the world’s leading academics working at the interface of logic, mathematics and cognitive science. His numerous innovative achievements include his work on artificial neural networks. This is where Leitgeb closes the interdisciplinary gap between research into artificial intelligence and brain research. In Munich Leitgeb will build up a new centre of mathematical philosophy which will cooperate closely with neurophilosophy and neuroscience.

no longer receiving sponsorship

Vahid Sandoghdar
Nano-optics

Erlangen/Nürnberg

Prof. Dr. Vahid Sandoghdar

Vahid Sandoghdar is one of the world’s leading scientists in nano-optics, a field to which he has added a further area of study: single-molecule nanophotonics. The experimental techniques he introduced were also highly influential in other fields of research, such as physical chemistry, biophysics, optical microscopy and quantum optics. Sandoghdar is to become the director of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light and professor at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, where he will sharpen the strategic research focus of the field of optics. In cooperation with various departments, he will develop new fields of research, such as biophotonics and nano quantum optics. The establishment of a Centre for Light Microscopy is also planned under his direction.

Alec Michael Wodtke
Physical Chemistry

Göttingen

Prof. Dr. Alec Michael Wodtke

Alec Wodtke has made significant contributions to photo and atmospheric chemistry and is a world leader in the field of molecular interactions at interfaces. His work has produced fundamental contributions to catalysis research, the storage and conversion of chemical energy into electrical energy and interface research. This topic is set to be developed into a focus area at Göttingen University as well as at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen. Wodtke is scheduled to become the founding director of a new Centre for Advanced Studies in Energy Conversion.

no longer receiving sponsorship

Award Winners 2010

Gerard J. van den Berg
Economics

Mannheim

Prof. Dr. Gerard J. van den Berg

Gerard van den Berg is a world leader in the field of Econometrics, an academic discipline which uses methods taken from statistics to analyse and explain economic relationships. He specialises in labour market and health economics. Van den Berg’s outstanding reputation is not only based on his innovative research; he is also considered to be one of the best exponents of his discipline with regard to combining scientific theory and economic practice. He is a member of various research institutes all over Europe and is one of the most productive econometricians worldwide. He will set up a new Centre of Economics and Empirical Economics at Mannheim University and help the university to progress from being a top German institution in this field to becoming one of the very best in the world.

no longer receiving sponsorship

Philip van der Eijk
Classics

Berlin

Prof. Dr. Philip van der Eijk

Philip van der Eijk is internationally recognised as an outstanding expert in the fields of Classical Philosophy and the History of Science as well as in the History of Ancient Medicine. He focuses on the dialogue between philosophy and medicine. His current research interests are concerned with the understanding of the interaction between body and soul from Antiquity to the Middle Ages. Highly decorated as a classicist, van der Eijk is not only respected as a brilliant researcher but also as an excellent science manager. He is expected to give significant impetus to and expedite the internationalisation of the History of Ancient Medicine and Classics in Germany. Berlin’s Humboldt University has established a Centre for the History of Science where van der Eijk will work together with other colleagues using an interdisciplinary approach. He is also expected to be involved in many projects, including the cluster of excellence, TOPOI, and to help HU Berlin achieve eminence in his discipline worldwide.

no longer receiving sponsorship

Marc Levine
Mathematics

Duisburg-Essen

Prof. Dr. Marc Levine

Marc Levine is a world leader in the field of Algebraic Geometry. His outstanding, innovative contributions to his subject, not least his recent Theory of Algebraic Cobordism, have elicited a huge response and been recognised in numerous awards, including the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation’s Wolfgang Paul Award in 2001. Levine will become one of the directors of the proposed Institute of Algebra at Duisburg-Essen University, drawing on previous stays in Essen. Levine will thus contribute to covering a broad palette of mathematical methods which will be unique in Germany and, indeed, can only be found at very few other places in the world.

no longer receiving sponsorship

Jürgen Margraf
Psychology

Bochum

Prof. Dr. Jürgen Margraf

Jürgen Margraf is considered to be a leading expert in the field of clinical psychology and psychotherapy with a particular focus on the treatment of anxiety disorders. He advocates short forms of treatment, already evaluated for their efficacy, a position he championed as a member of the Scientific Advisory Board on Psychotherapy advising the Federal government. His most recent work concentrates on identifying conditions for good mental health in order to prevent disease. At Bochum University Margraf is expected to drive forward the research focus area of clinical psychology, which has been developed over the last few years, and head the projected new Mental Health Research and Treatment Centre.

no longer receiving sponsorship

Matthias Wessling
Chemical process engineering

Aachen

Prof. Dr. Matthias Wessling

Matthias Wessling is recognised as one of the most productive and influential experts in membrane technology and polymer research. He has an outstanding reputation as a basic researcher who knows how to combine theory and practice. This is a result of the experience he gained and contacts he made during three years working in industrial research. His work is seminal for future technologies in the fields of energy and environment, such as membranes for fuel cells and high performance batteries for water treatment and desalination. At RWTH Aachen it is planned to use his expertise to forge close links between engineering, natural science and medicine. The location should become a top international address for membrane research.

no longer receiving sponsorship

Award Winners 2009

Oliver Brock
Computer science

Berlin

Prof. Dr. Oliver Brock

Oliver Brock is a pioneer in the field of research into artificial intelligence for the next generation of autonomous robots which can produce complicated reactions and motion sequences and are thus suitable for use in medicine, space travel or in case of accidents involving radioactivity. At Berlin’s University of Technology Brock is not only expected to develop this research focus area but also propel forward partnerships with other academic institutions and industry.

no longer receiving sponsorship

Piet Wibertus Brouwer
Theoretical solid state physics

Berlin

Prof. Dr. Piet Wibertus Brouwer

Piet Wibertus Brouwer is considered to be one of the most productive and important minds in his discipline. He investigates current themes in solid state theory and quantum transport at the interface of the quantum and classical worlds. Under his leadership a centre for theoretical physics is proposed at Berlin's Free University, the Dahlem Centre for Complex Quantum Systems.

no longer receiving sponsorship

Georgi Dvali
Particle physics and cosmology

Munich

Prof. Dr. Georgi Dvali

Georgi Dvali is considered to be one of the world's leading experts in the field of particle research and is highly respected in his discipline for his theories on gravitational interaction. With his help Munich University wants to develop into a leading global location for cosmological particle research which can hold its own with Princeton, Harvard or Stanford.

no longer receiving sponsorship

Ulrike Gaul
Developmental biology

Munich

Prof. Dr. Ulrike Gaul

Ulrike Gaul is a world leader and innovative expert in systems biology, a research field which has not yet fully established itself in Germany. Rather than isolating individual genes or proteins systems biology investigates their combined impact in the body. At the Munich Gene Centre, Gaul is expected to raise systems biology research to international cutting-edge level and network with other working groups through interdisciplinary collaboration.

no longer receiving sponsorship

Norbert Langer
Astrophysics

Bonn

Prof. Dr. Norbert Langer

Norbert Langer has been one of the world’s leading experts in the field of theoretical astrophysics for more than two decades. He investigates the development of high mass stars up to the point when they explode as supernovae. His expertise will fill a gap in astronomy in Bonn, complementing the current scientific portfolio. Much is also expected from collaboration planned with the neighbouring Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy.

no longer receiving sponsorship

Martin Bodo Plenio
Quantum optics and quantum information

Ulm

Prof. Dr. Martin Bodo Plenio

Martin Bodo Plenio is a world authority in the field of quantum information science and has produced ground-breaking work on entanglement in quantum systems and the practical realisation of quantum information processing. In Ulm he is expected to make a significant contribution to establishing the planned Centre for Quantum Engineering where mathematicians, physicists and electrical engineers are supposed to work together on a par with the best in the world.

no longer receiving sponsorship

Burkhard Rost
Bioinformatics

Munich

Prof. Dr. Burkhard Rost

Burkhard Rost is one of the researchers who has decisively shaped the development of bioinformatics into the indispensable discipline we know today. He is expected to provide new impetus and be a driving force for his subject in Germany and also build a bridge between biological sciences and medicine. To this end he will gather together a top-flight researcher group.

no longer receiving sponsorship