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 2022 Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize to ten researchers – five women and five men. They had previously been selected from 134 nominees by the selection committee responsible. Of the ten prizewinners, four are from the humanities and social sciences, four from the natural sciences and the engineering sciences, and two from the life sciences. The prizewinners each receive prize money of €2.5 million. They are entitled to use these funds for their research work in any way they wish, without bureaucratic obstacles, for up to seven years. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, it has not yet been decided when and at what kind of event the Leibniz Prizes will be awarded in 2022; separate information on this will be provided at a later date.
The following researchers will receive the 2022 “Funding Prize in the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Programme” awarded by the DFG:
- Professor Dr. Almut Arneth, Ecosystem Research, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Karlsruhe
- Professor Dr. Marietta Auer, Law, Max Planck Institute for Legal History and Legal Theory, Frankfurt/Main, and University of Gießen
- Professor Dr. Iain Couzin, Behavioural Biology, Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior, Konstanz, and University of Konstanz
- Professor Dr. Stefanie Dehnen, Inorganic Molecular Chemistry, University of Marburg
- Dr. Eileen Furlong, Functional Genome Biology, European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), Heidelberg
- Professor Dr. Peter Hommelhoff, Experimental Physics, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg
- Professor Dr. Gabriel Martínez-Pinedo, Theoretical Physics, Technical University of Darmstadt
- Professor Dr. Mischa Meier, Ancient History, University of Tübingen
- Professor Dr. Karen Radner, Ancient Oriental Studies, LMU Munich
- Professor Dr. Moritz Schularick, Economics, University of Bonn
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 2022, a total of 398 Leibniz Prizes have been awarded to date. Of these, 127 have gone to the natural sciences, 115 to the life sciences, 95 to the humanities and social sciences and 61 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 425 nominees have received the award to date, including 358 male researchers and 67 female researchers.
Two female and eight 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), and 2021 Professor Dr. Benjamin List (Chemistry).
A brief portrait of the 2022 Leibniz prize winners:
Professor Dr. Almut Arneth (53), Ecosystem Research, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Karlsruhe
Almut Arneth is awarded the Leibniz Prize 2022 for her outstanding research into the interaction and feedback between terrestrial ecosystems and climate change. Her work has contributed significantly to a better understanding of these mutual dependencies: climate change affects ecosystems, while changes in land use also impact on regional climate. Arneth was able to show that terrestrial biogeochemical climate feedback taken together have a similar magnitude as feedback within the physical climate system itself. She undertook the first global process-based assessment of the so-called isoprene emissions released by plants into the atmosphere and was able to demonstrate that these changed significantly as a result of global warming and the increase in carbon dioxide levels. More recently, Arneth has been looking into the role of fires and land-use change as global sources of carbon dioxide. Her research links the previously only loosely connected fields of biodiversity and climate science.
Arneth gained her PhD in environmental science at the University of Lincoln in New Zealand in 1998 before becoming an Emmy Noether junior research group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena. After another postdoctoral stay at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, she moved to Lund University in 2004, where she became a professor in 2011. Since 2012 she has been a professor at the Institute for Meteorology and Climate Research at KIT, where she heads the Modelling of Global Land Ecosystems working group.
Professor Dr. Marietta Auer (49), Law, Max Planck Institute for Legal History and Legal Theory, Frankfurt/Main, and University of Gießen
Marietta Auer receives the Leibniz Prize for her outstanding work in the field of legal theory and legal history, through which she has contributed to the development of a comprehensive legal philosophical understanding of private law in relation to public law. Her doctoral thesis and the thesis she wrote for her postdoctoral lecturing qualification are already considered groundbreaking works in legal theory: in the former, Auer shows the fundamental tension between individual freedom and the “collectivist” concern for the weak, between legal certainty and individual case justice, and between legislator and judge. Building on this in the thesis for her postdoctoral lecturing qualification, she develops a philosophy of private law in the modern era, in which law – in particular the right to property – is seen as fundamental to the constitution of social relations and the modern self. Here she opened up a whole new perspective on the relationship between private law, which is supposed to guarantee the freedom of the individual, and public law, which is supposed to create social order.
Marietta Auer first studied law and then philosophy and sociology. In 2003, she obtained a Doctor of Law at LMU Munich before going on to gain a Doctor of Juridical Science at Harvard Law School in 2012. After gaining her postdoctoral teaching qualification in Munich, she became a professor at the University in Gießen in 2013 before going on to be appointed Director of the Max Planck Institute for Legal History and Legal Theory in Frankfurt/Main in 2020. In Gießen she currently holds the chairs for private law and for international and interdisciplinary foundations of law.
Professor Dr. Iain Couzin (47), Behavioural Biology, Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior, Konstanz, and University of Konstanz
The award of the Leibniz Prize to Iain Couzin recognises his outstanding work in the field of behavioural biology, which has led to a fundamentally new understanding of collective behaviour. At an early stage, Couzin’s research combined cutting-edge techniques ranging from the automated recording of movement patterns to machine learning algorithms and computer-based models. In this way he succeeded in identifying the rules that enable collective behaviour such as that exhibited by swarms of insects, fish and birds. Couzin was able to demonstrate that a few behavioural rules for each group member can predict the movement of the entire group. Early on in his career he established a theoretical model that predicts group movement patterns based on a few rules of behaviour for each group member. This has not only become established in biology as the “Couzin model”, it has also influenced the understanding of decision-making and group structures in physics, robotics and the social sciences.
Couzin received his PhD in biology from the University of Bath in 1999. After postdoctoral stays in Leeds, Princeton and Oxford, Couzin went to Princeton University in 2007 as an assistant professor before being appointed a full professor there in 2013. In 2014, he accepted an appointment in Konstanz to what is now the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior, where he is currently Director of the Department of Collective Behaviour. Couzin also holds a chair at the University of Konstanz. In addition to academic awards, he has received several prizes for his commitment to science communication.
Professor Dr. Stefanie Dehnen (52), Inorganic Molecular Chemistry, University of Marburg
Stefanie Dehnen receives the Leibniz Prize for her outstanding contributions to the synthesis of novel metal clusters and their application in energy storage and transfer. Her work in chemistry is based on a special synthesis concept that enables access to a wide range of novel compounds and materials. For example she uses binary aggregates of main group elements which are then extended by at least one component – additional atoms or organic groups. In this way, Dehnen has succeeded in producing novel structures with the best conductive properties known to date. Her research does not fit into any conventional scheme: the transdisciplinary approach is especially crucial in “stretch chemistry”, in particular the combination of inorganic and organic chemistry, complex chemistry and modern theoretical methods. The results of her research have found their way into chemistry textbooks, and her synthesis approach is now used worldwide.
Dehnen studied chemistry at the University of Karlsruhe and gained her doctorate there in 1996. After obtaining her postdoctoral teaching qualification in 2004, she accepted an appointment to the chair of inorganic chemistry at the University of Marburg one year later. She is still a professor in Marburg today. Dehnen is committed to equal opportunities and in 2018 received the Philipps University Award for the Promotion of Women in Science. She is also a member of the Leopoldina – the German National Academy of Sciences. At her university she runs the Chemikum, a public hands-on laboratory.
Dr. Eileen Furlong (51), Functional Genome Biology, European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), Heidelberg
Eileen Furlong is an outstanding researcher who receives the Leibniz Prize for her work in developmental biology on functional mechanisms of enhancers in gene regulation. Enhancers are specific sections in eukaryotic DNA that control gene regulation, i.e. the activity of genes. Furlong’s work on the properties of these enhancers was able to elucidate how genes are activated in the course of embryonic development. In particular, she has shown that many embryonic enhancers first programme a molecule that increases the transcription of regulated genes before receiving the signals to switch on. In her latest work, Furlong combines developmental biology, genomics and population genetics to elucidate mechanisms by which genetic variation as found in the wild causes a gene’s genetic information to appear. She was also an early adopter of different types of computer models, such as machine learning, to gain a better understanding of developmental trajectories. In this way, Furlong was able to raise population genetic developmental biology to a new level.
Furlong gained her PhD at the Department of Pharmacology and Biotechnology, University College Dublin in 1996. She then joined the Department of Developmental Biology at Stanford University as a postdoctoral researcher, where she stayed until 2002 before moving to the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, initially as a group leader. Since 2009 she has headed the Department of Developmental Biology at EMBL. She has been successful in securing two ERC Advanced Grants to date.
Professor Dr. Peter Hommelhoff (47), Experimental Physics, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg
Physicist Peter Hommelhoff is awarded the Leibniz Prize for his fundamental contributions to electron dynamics driven by strong light fields and the use of optical waveforms of laser pulses to study electrons in a vacuum as well as in solids and at solid surfaces. Electron dynamics in atoms and molecules typically occur on a time scale that is in the order of several 100 attoseconds – something that has only been accessible to experimentation for about 15 years. This is the starting point of Hommelhoff’s research: he was able to develop methods that helped control electron dynamics with light fields on the attosecond time scale. In this way, he has made fundamental contributions to the understanding of electron dynamics in strong fields. His work in this area, which he began as a postdoctoral researcher, established a new field of investigation: the laser acceleration of electrons on photonic structures. Hommelhoff recently extended this to include the study of charge carrier dynamics in solids.
Hommelhoff gained his doctorate in physics at LMU Munichin 2002, shortly after which he moved to Stanford as a postdoc. He returned to Germany in 2007, initially heading a Max Planck research group in Garching before gaining his postdoctoral teaching qualification in Munich in 2012, and he was then appointed to the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in the same year. Hommelhoff is also a fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light, which is likewise located in Erlangen. He received an ERC Advanced Grant. Together with a colleague from Stanford he leads the ACHIP project (Accelerator on a Chip International Project), which has received funding of nearly $20 million.
Professor Dr. Gabriel Martínez-Pinedo (52), Theoretical Physics, Technical University of Darmstadt
Gabriel Martínez-Pinedo is awarded the Leibniz Prize 2022 in recognition of his outstanding work in theoretical astrophysics on the formation of the heavy elements. Heavy elements with atomic numbers beyond that of iron are created in the universe as a result of certain astrophysical processes and require extreme densities of neutrons. But the question of how these astrophysical processes take place was one of the unsolved problems of physics in the 21st century – and this is precisely where Martínez-Pinedo's research brought about a paradigm shift: it is not the collapse of heavy stars in supernova explosions that is the pivotal process here but the fusion of neutron stars. Based on this finding, Martínez-Pinedo was able to predict that such an event should be a thousand times brighter in terms of observation than the nova explosions known from the Milky Way; the term “kilo-nova” was created to describe this phenomenon. This prediction was actually verified when a neutron star merger was observed for the first time in 2017 using gravitational waves and telescopes.
After completing his doctorate in Madrid in 1995, Martínez-Pinedo went on research stays to California, Aarhus, Basel and Barcelona. Since 2005 he has been based in Darmstadt, where he has held positions at the Technical University of Darmstadt and at the GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research, which is also located there. Today, Martínez-Pinedo is head of the theory department at GSI Darmstadt and professor of theoretical nuclear astrophysics at TU Darmstadt. His work was awarded the Gustav Hertz Prize of the German Physical Society in 2008 and he is the recipient of an ERC Advanced Grant.
Professor Dr. Mischa Meier (50), Ancient History, University of Tübingen
Mischa Meier receives a Leibniz Prize in recognition of his groundbreaking work on the history of late antiquity with which he has left a lasting mark on the field of ancient history and related disciplines, both nationally and internationally. Meier’s studies have contributed significantly to a new and more differentiated understanding of the so-called “long” period of late antiquity, i.e. approximately from the 3rd to the 8th century AD. This era encompassed much more than the fall of Rome. It was marked by the coexistence and opposition of competing empires, the parallel rise of different monotheistic religions and the experience of environmental catastrophes and pandemics, as well as significant migration movements. Meier first developed this new perspective on late antiquity in his fundamental book Das andere Zeitalter Justinians (2003). Meier then turned his attention to the migration of peoples, the plague, the fall of Rome in 410 and the Late Roman Emperor Anastasius. In these studies, Meier set a new benchmark in his combination of methodological approaches drawn from different disciplines, often enabling him to highlight the exemplary nature of his objects of study so as to shed more light on our present-day world.
Mischa Meier began his academic career in 1998 with a doctorate at the University of Bochum. He obtained his postdoctoral teaching qualification at Bielefeld University in 2002 with a thesis that gained the distinction of being the best in the field of history at that time. Since 2004 he has been professor of ancient history at the University of Tübingen, which he has since developed into an internationally recognised and highly productive centre for research into late antiquity.
Professor Dr. Karen Radner (49), Ancient Oriental Studies, LMU Munich
Karen Radner receives the Leibniz Prize as one of the world’s leading experts on the early history of the Near and Middle East. The award recognises her internationally influential research on Assyriology, through which she has investigated and communicated the history and culture of this particular region in an entirely new way. In her thematically wide-ranging and interdisciplinary work, Radner researches the ancient culture and history of what is now referred to as the “Near and Middle East”. Her main focus is on the great power Assyria in the first millennium BC: with groundbreaking publications and analyses to her name, including ten monographs and twelve edited volumes, she has revealed the historical relevance of this extensive region, not least from a modern-day perspective. Radner has pioneered the indexing of Assyrian sources, and her work has the potential to redefine mutual knowledge and relations between the Orient and the Occident. She is also actively involved in promoting young academics from countries such as Iraq and Iran.
After completing her award-winning dissertation at the University of Vienna, Radner pursued postdoctoral studies in Helsinki and Tübingen before obtaining a postdoctoral teaching qualification at LMU Munich in 2004. She then taught at the History Department of University College London, from 2011 onwards as a professor. In 2015 she returned to Munich, where she now holds the newly created Alexander von Humboldt Professorship in Ancient Near and Middle Eastern History.
Professor Dr. Moritz Schularick (46), Economics, University of Bonn
The Leibniz Prize goes to Moritz Schularick in recognition of his outstanding research accomplishment in the field of economics. This is especially true of the fresh links he has drawn between macroeconomics and economic history, as well as his insights into the causes of financial crises and the historical development of wealth distribution. While the 2008 financial crisis largely caught economists unprepared, Schularick promptly succeeded in demonstrating that financial crises regularly follow on from periods of pronounce growth. On this basis, he developed a more fundamental understanding of crisis dynamics that can help predict and mitigate future financial crises. More recently, Schularick has focused his research on the causes of social inequality. To this end, he analysed the development of earnings on capital and property and was able to identify aspects of unequal resource endowment as being essential to the increase in social inequality. Overall, his work has contributed considerably to a better understanding of key problems of the present and is frequently cited in economic and socio-political debate.
After completing master’s degrees in Berlin, Paris and London, Schularick obtained his doctorate at the Free University of Berlin in 2005, where he subsequently held a junior professorship for five years. Visiting professorships then took him to the Center for European Studies at Harvard University, the Institut d'études politiques in Paris and the Stern School of Business at New York University. Since 2012 he has been a professor of economics at the University of Bonn, where he heads the MacroHistory Lab.
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