Invitation to the presentation of the Alexander von Humboldt Professorships by Federal Minister Wanka in Berlin on 16 May

Six award winners from abroad will each receive up to €5 million and soon conduct research in Cologne, Düsseldorf, Göttingen, Heidelberg and Tübingen.

Germany’s most valuable research award, the 2017 Alexander von Humboldt Professorship, will be awarded in Berlin on 16 May. With this award, the Humboldt Foundation singles out researchers from all disciplines who have worked abroad to date and are leaders in their fields. The award winners were nominated by German universities and research institutes. They are expected to develop at their host institutions teams and structures that can compete at international level.

The awards will be presented by Johanna Wanka, the Federal Minister of Education and Research, and Helmut Schwarz, the President of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

Award ceremony
Date: Tuesday, 16 May 2017, 7:00 p.m. (doors open at 6:00 p.m.)
Venue: Hauptstadtrepräsentanz Deutsche Telekom AG, Französische Str. 33 a-c, 10117 Berlin
It is permitted to film, photograph and make audio recordings during the award ceremony.

The supporting programme prior to the ceremony will begin at 6:00 p.m. with a walkabout with Johanna Wanka and Helmut Schwarz to the Humboldt Professors and the information stands of their respective host institution.

Please send your accreditation, including a copy of your valid press ID, by e-mail to presse@avh.de or fax to +49 228 833-441 by 12:00 noon on 12 May 2017.

A short trailer with the award winners is available at:
Extensive video material and photographs can be downloaded from:

Interviews with the award winners can be arranged for Monday, 15 May, or the day of the award ceremony, 16 May.

The award winners at a glance:

  • Largus T. Angenent, Environmental Microbiology and Bioprocess Engineering
    Angenent is exploring how wind and solar energy can be stored with the help of microorganisms and how bacteria can be optimised and used to synthesise chemicals. He comes from Cornell University in Ithaca, USA, and will now, as a Humboldt Professor, generate impetus for the development of new technologies at the University of Tübingen.
  • Jijie Chai, Structural Biology: Proteins as the key to immunological responses
    By describing the complex structures of proteins with the help of, for instance, cryo-electron microscopy, Chai is providing important fundamentals for combating plant diseases and developing medicines. Previously from Tsinghua University in Peking, he has now switched to the University of Cologne and the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne.
  • Wolf B. Frommer, Plant Molecular Biology: Making plants grow better with SWEET proteins
    The transport mechanisms in plant cells and human cells work in similar ways, making the work of plant biologist Frommer interesting for our understanding of the metabolic processes in cancer cells, too. He comes from Stanford University in the USA to Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf where he, together with the Forschungszentrum Jülich and the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne, will develop and expand the CEPLAS Cluster of Excellence on Plant Sciences as a top research location for molecular botany.
  • Ran Hirschl, Constitutional Law and Political Science: Constitutional development and the judicialization of politics
    After publishing numerous studies on constitutional law, Hirschl now plans to build an interdisciplinary bridge to the study of constitutions as social and political phenomena. As a Humboldt Professor at Georg-August-Universität Göttingen he will also examine constellations in which the conflict between religion and constitutional law shapes the collective identity. He has conducted research at the University of Toronto in Canada to date.
  • Till Winfried Bärnighausen, Epidemiology: How effective is HIV prevention?
    Fellow researchers and organisations such as the World Bank and the World Health Organization have taken up and built upon Bärnighausen’s analyses of the efficacy, costs and benefits of HIV prevention and intervention measures. He already made the move from Harvard University in Cambridge, USA, to Germany in September 2016. Since that time he has been working at Heidelberg University where he is building up global health research in Germany.
  • Sven Bernecker, Philosophy: Epistemology and memory research
    Bernecker’s current work revolves around the question of what “memory” is. His investigation draws on approaches used in the cognitive sciences, psychology and sociology. He made the switch in July 2016 from the University of California, Irvine, USA, to the University of Cologne where he founded and directs the Cologne Center for Contemporary Epistemology and the Kantian Tradition (CONCEPT).

Alexander von Humboldt Professorships are financed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The award comes with €5 million in funding for individuals conducting experimental research and €3.5 million for researchers working in theoretical fields. The award money is to be used to fund the first five years of their research work in Germany.

Contact on location
Kristina Güroff, Phone: 0151 / 140 157 96
Alexandra Hostert, Phone: 0160 / 97 287 564