Heinz Maier-Leibnitz prizes 2004

03/31/04

Six young researchers recognised for outstanding research achievement

This release is also available in German

This year the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is once again honouring six young researchers with the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize. The decision was made at the meeting of the DFG's Executive Committee on 25 March. The prizes, worth 16,000 euros each, will be awarded in Bonn by DFG president Professor Ernst-Ludwig Winnacker and Wolf-Michael Catenhusen, State Secretary to the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, BMBF) on 8 June. Named after physicist and former DFG president Heinz Maier-Leibnitz, the prize has been awarded to young researchers since 1977 in recognition of outstanding achievement. The prize is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

This year's winners were chosen from 104 nominated candidates in a multi-stage selection process. Of the 57 nominees accepted for the review process, 15 were from the humanities and social sciences, 19 from the life sciences, eleven from the areas of physics, mathematics and earth science, four from chemistry and process technology and eight from the engineering sciences. Amongst the 57 reviewed candidates were 20 women.

The prize winners are:

Dr. Friedrich Eisenbrand (32), Computer Science, Max Planck Institute for Computer Science, Saarbrücken

Friedrich Eisenbrand's research area is on the border between mathematics and computer science, and deals primarily with the task of finding optimal decisions among a multitude of alternatives. Dr. Eisenbrand's groundbreaking achievements have made fundamental contributions to the theory and algorithms of discrete and combinatorial optimisation, thus gaining worldwide recognition. His work has contributed to a deeper understanding of the degrees of difficulty of specific problems and a better estimation of the effort required for finding a solution in the application of algorithmic methods. This work has numerous potential applications, such as in production planning or the efficient allocation of human and material resources in air and rail transport.

Friedrich Eisenbrand studied mathematics and computer science at Saarland University and completed his doctorate there in the Computer Science Department in 2000. After holding guest posts in Rome and Berlin and membership in Professor Harald Garzinger's working group at the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Computer Science in Saarbrücken, he completed his habilitation in 2003 at Saarland University. Since 2002, Friedrich Eisenbrand has led an independent junior research group at the MPI in Saarbrücken.

Dr. Filipp Furche (29), Theoretical Chemistry, University of Karlsruhe

Filipp Furche focuses his efforts on developing quantum chemical methods, implementing them in highly efficient computer programs and using them to solve current problems in chemistry. These investigations are of great interest in photochemistry and photophysics, for instance in predicting the electron spectra of molecules. For example, his work has led to the long sought-after ability to calculate the geometries of larger molecules such as gold cluster ions. In these largely theoretical projects, Filipp Furche frequently seeks to work closely with groups conducting experimental work. He has attracted much international attention for his innovative and groundbreaking research in the area of time-dependent density functional theory.

Filipp Furche studied chemistry at the Universities of Freiburg and Karlsruhe and completed his doctorate in theoretical chemistry at the University of Karlsruhe under Professor Reinhard Ahlrichs in 2002. After a year of postdoctoral study under Professor John P. Perdew at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, he returned to the Institute for Physical Chemistry in Karlsruhe.

Dr. Marion Merklein (30), Production Engineering, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg

Marion Merklein is conducting research into manufacturing technology, specifically on laser forming, a method of shaping light metals. Using this method, metals are briefly heated to high temperatures and shaped as desired. Dr. Merklein was the first to investigate microstructural changes in the structure of aluminium alloys that arise as a result of such heating. She also developed a method of recording forming limit diagrams, which make it possible to estimate the forming properties of sheet metals. This work has been important in assessing the behaviour of metallic materials and holds great potential for the automotive industry in particular.

Marion Merklein graduated in materials science at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, where she also completed her doctorate in 2001 on the influence of materials in laser forming. Since then she has worked there as a research assistant and a member of the scientific management in the Manufacturing Technology Chair and is responsible for the area of "Sheet metal and profile processing". She leads a project section within the DFG Research Unit "High-Performance Joining Technology".

Dr. des. Pavlína Rychterová (34), History, University of Konstanz

Pavlína Rychterová's research focuses on the literature of the Middle Ages, in particular Old Czech literature and medieval devotional literature. Her dissertation dealt with the Czech translation of the Revelationes of Birgitta of Sweden by Thomas of Štítné. This interdisciplinary work concentrates on one of the principal texts of late medieval religious history and for the first time examines its reception in a Slavic language. This significantly extends the comparability of the reception styles of different languages and gives fresh momentum to research in this area. With her work, the native Czech, who has lived and worked in Germany for the past seven years, is building important bridges between German and Czech medieval studies.

Pavlína Rychterová studied Czech language and literature, history and film at the Charles University in Prague. She pursued her doctoral studies in the fields of history and Slavic studies in Prague and at the University of Konstanz, where she presented her dissertation in 2003. She now works as a research assistant at the University of Konstanz and as a member of the project "Religious charisma as the motor and medium of religious communication", part of the DFG Collaborative Research Centre "Norm and Symbol".

Dr. Volker Springel (33), Astrophysics, Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics, Garching

Volker Springel's research interest is in the area of cosmology. His research links computer-aided physics with theoretical astrophysics, and he has developed a computer program called GADGET, which uses a simulation method to compute the formation of galaxies. This new method of calculation is not only significantly faster than previous simulations, it also takes into consideration such factors as galactic winds and the formation of stars. GADGET is now used for a wide variety of applications in the field of astrophysics. Dr. Springel's work was honoured by the Max Planck Society with the Otto Hahn Medal in 2000.

Volker Springel studied physics at the Eberhard Karls University in Tübingen and in 2000 completed his doctorate at the MPI for Astrophysics in Garching and at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich with research on the formation of galaxies. After a one-year visiting researcher post at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics at Harvard University he first worked as a business consultant before returning to the MPI in Garching in 2001 to take a postdoctoral post.

Dr. Boris Worm (34), Marine Ecology/Marine Science, University of Kiel

Marine ecologist Boris Worm deals with questions of biodiversity of the world's oceans, in particular with the conditions under which alternative stable states of higher or lower species diversity develop. One specific field of investigation has been the effects of industrial fishing practices on marine ecosystems. Together with Canadian colleagues, he analysed data on the changes in predatory fish levels in different oceans and showed for the first time that these levels had decreased to a far greater degree than previously believed. These data have far-reaching consequences for the management of global fish populations and for marine environmental protection. Dr. Worm also studies the effects of different nutrient levels on the balance of plants and animals in bodies of water. These projects are of great importance, not only for protecting the world's natural waters, but also for environmental protection as a whole.

Boris Worm completed his undergraduate and doctoral studies at the University of Kiel, where he studied biological marine science, zoology and marine chemistry. After completing his dissertation in the year 2000 on "The relative impact of consumers and resources on the food network on rocky shores" he went to Dalhousie University Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada on an Emmy Noether Fellowship funded by the DFG. Since 2003 he has led a working group under the same funding programme at the Institute for Marine Science at the University of Kiel.

The Heinz Maier-Leibnitz prizes will be awarded on 8 June at 3:00 p.m. at the Deutsches Museum in Bonn, Ahrstraße 45. Journalists are cordially invited to attend this event.

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