Four female and six male researchers are to receive the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize this year – the top award for early career investigators in Germany. The award-winners were chosen by a selection committee appointed by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The prizes are each worth €20,000 and will be presented at an award ceremony on 3 May that will be broadcast via live stream.
The Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prizes 2022 go to:
- Junior Professor Dr. Pascal Friederich, Computer-Aided Material Design, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Karlsruhe
- Professor Dr. Julijana Gjorgjieva, Computational Neuroscience, Max Planck Institute for Brain Research, Frankfurt/Main and Technical University of Munich
- Dr. Nicole Gotzner, Linguistics, University of Potsdam
- Dr. Dr. Hanjo Hamann, Law, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, Bonn
- Dr. Maike Hofmann, Gastroenterology, Medical Center – University of Freiburg
- Dr. Andreas Horn, Neurology, Charité – Medical School – Charité – University Medicine Berlin and Harvard Medical School, Boston
- Associate Professor Dr. Irmtraud Huber, English Literature, University of Munich
- Associate Professor Dr. Christian Maier, Business Informatics, University of Bamberg
- Dr. Tobias Meng, Theoretical Solid State Physics, Dresden University of Technology
- Dr. Jonas Warneke, Physical Chemistry, University of Leipzig
Since 1977, the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize has been awarded annually to outstanding researchers who are at an early stage in their academic career and do not yet hold a tenured professorship. The prize serves to recognise outstanding work as well as acting as an incentive for winners to continue their career independently and purposefully. Established in 1980, it is named after nuclear physicist and former DFG President Heinz Maier-Leibnitz, during whose term of office (1974–1979) it was first awarded. The Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize is considered the top award in Germany for academic personalities who are at an early stage of their career.
A total of 155 researchers across all disciplines were nominated this year. The winners were selected by the responsible committee chaired by DFG Vice President and biochemist Professor Dr. Peter H. Seeberger.
The prizewinners in detail:
Junior Professor Dr. Pascal Friederich, Computer-Aided Material Design, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Karlsruhe
Pascal Friederich conducts research in the field of virtual material design, in particular artificial intelligence-supported material simulations and the autonomisation of experiments. These research fields are highly relevant in view of increasing demands on material properties and the need for ever faster cycles of material development, enabling a wide range of possible applications. In his dissertation, Friederich developed a new method for calculating the material properties of organic semiconductors, thereby paving the way for the design of novel organic semiconductors. During research stays at Harvard and Toronto as a Marie Curie Fellow, he also worked on developing machine learning methods that are of relevance to other subjects such as chemistry.
Professor Dr. Julijana Gjorgjieva, Computational Neuroscience, Max Planck Institute for Brain Research, Frankfurt/Main and Technical University of Munich
How does the activity in the brain, generated spontaneously in the nervous system or triggered by external impulses, control the organisation of an entire neuronal network in the first weeks shortly after birth? This is one of the key questions being pursued by Julijana Gjorgjieva. Essentially the aim is to understand at a theoretical level how self-organisation functions in mammalian neural circuits. But Gjorgjieva is also seeking to find out about the connection between visual stimulus change, for example during day and night, and neuronal network activity. In investigating these and other diverse questions, she uses computer-based and mathematical approaches, linking calculations on individual nerve cells with those of an entire neuronal network in her modelling – and she does so highly effectively, also in collaboration with experimentally oriented working groups.
Dr. Nicole Gotzner, Linguistics, University of Potsdam
Nicole Gotzner’s conducts highly innovative research at the interface between language meaning, language use, language acquisition, language processing and general cognition. This applies in particular to her approach in combining perspectives derived from formal semantics and pragmatics with experimental methods from psycholinguistics, corpus linguistics and phonetics as well as computational modelling and aspects of game theory. In all these areas, Gotzner’s work establishes a still novel connection between theory and experimental methodology. As such, Gotzner pursues linguistics based on cognitive science. She heads the Emmy Noether Group “Scales in language processing and acquisition” (SPA).
Hanjo Hamann conducts research at the interface between law and economics, thereby making the analysis of law using economic methods an important topic in Germany – something that has been discussed in the USA for some time. Hamann has also distinguished himself in the fields of empiricism and legal research with numerous publications. His dissertation takes an evidence-based approach to law and has attracted considerable interest, both nationally and internationally. In it, Hamann discusses the foundations of quantitative-empirical research in jurisprudence, combining critical reflection on empirical approaches with legal-normative approaches. He has also made key contributions to behavioural law and economics, as well as legal corpus linguistics. At the beginning of April, Hamann accepted an appointment at the EBS University of Business and Law in Wiesbaden.
Dr. Maike Hofmann, Gastroenterology, Medical Center – University of Freiburg
Since completing her doctoral thesis, Maike Hofmann has also been conducting research into memory T cells in several DFG-funded projects and has been able to identify new populations of these cells, which have a key role to play in the defence against chronic viral infections. Most recently, her focus has been on cellular immunity in COVID-19 after infection and vaccination. One particularly impressive accomplishment is her development of groundbreaking concepts on the role of T cell reprogramming in viral hepatitis and the importance of antigen-specific T cells – also in connection with mild cases of COVID-19. Here, Hofmann not least demonstrated her ability to respond quickly and effectively to new challenges and questions such as COVID-19, and to come up with a successful response to important scientific and clinically relevant questions in new collaborations.
Andreas Horn uses and develops state-of-the-art imaging methods to study brain function. His focus is on understanding and modulating neuronal networks in the brain, with the declared aim of improving “deep brain stimulation”. This therapeutic approach enables symptomatic treatment of patients suffering from movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, epilepsies and obsessive-compulsive disorders. This research field combines neurology, neuroradiology and increasingly also psychiatry. With his innovative approach, Horn contributes to a better understanding of the effects of stimulation on structural and functional neuronal networks which are elaborately branched. One important milestone was the development of freely available software for postoperative analysis of the stimulation effects. Horn was accepted onto the DFG’s Emmy Noether Programme in 2019, and since 2020 he has also been leading two projects as part of a Collaborative Research Centre.
Associate Professor Dr. Irmtraud Huber, English Literature, University of Munich
Irmtraud Huber’s central areas of research are narrative theory (narrativics) and poetry, primarily focusing on the 19th century and the turn of the millennium. One focus is the phenomenon of temporality. Here, Huber combines an approach based on history and cultural studies with an aesthetic awareness of form. She questions not only the commonplace assumptions of conventional genre theory, but more fundamentally also the prevailing narrative understanding of time in Western societies and its historical roots. In addition, Huber provides essential impulses for fundamental reflection on the experience and consciousness of time through processes of artistic formation. The thesis she wrote on English poetry of the 19th century for her post-doctoral lecturing qualification exemplifies the methodological benefits of this approach.
Associate Professor Dr. Christian Maier, Business Informatics, University of Bamberg
Christian Maier conducts research into the practices of digital transformation and their impact on users and companies. Since completing his doctorate, he has devoted himself in particular to the phenomenon of technostress. This occurs when users feel overwhelmed by new technical devices or systems. Maier looks into why and for how long digital technologies are used in private and organisational contexts and why such usage is ended. In doing so, he uses various quantitative and qualitative research methods, also contributing to their further development. When Maier originally started looking into this subject there was little available in terms of academic discussion. Maier has played a significant role in boosting this field of research since then: his work on technostress has also gained additional importance in connection with the coronavirus pandemic, when many activities have been shifted to the digital sphere.
Dr. Tobias Meng, Theoretical Solid State Physics, Dresden University of Technology
Tobias Meng works on topological physics phenomena and the behaviour of topological quantum materials – a topic that is currently one of the most important areas of research in solid-state physics. He has written groundbreaking papers in this field; for example, his publication on Weyl superconductors was the first in-depth analysis to lay the foundation for understanding these complex systems. Within this field, Meng takes an exceptionally broad approach, both thematically and methodologically: he looks at superconductivity and strongly correlated systems as well as transport phenomena and quantum computing – using the entire spectrum from modelling nanoscopic systems to three-dimensional bulk materials. Meng is head of the DFG-funded Emmy Noether Group “Quantum Design”.
Dr. Jonas Warneke, Physical Chemistry, University of Leipzig
Jonas Warneke has rapidly succeeded in realising his vision of a new interdisciplinary research field as a result of his great determination and extraordinary creativity: the material synthesis he has developed using molecular fragment ions – charged molecular fragments generated in a mass spectrometer – has the potential to bridge the wide gap between gas phase ion chemistry and synthetic chemistry. In particular, this revolutionises the way in which materials with customised properties can be created. During his time as a postdoctoral researcher in the US, Warneke significantly developed the ion soft landing method, which laid the foundations for his discoveries regarding self-organising layers. At the same time, Warneke developed fundamental concepts on the chemistry of the so-called super-electrophilic anions.
The award ceremony for the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize 2022 is due to take place on 3 May in Berlin and will be live streamed on the DFG’s YouTube channel. Representatives of the media will receive further details prior to the event.
Information on the 2022 prizewinners will be available shortly at:
DFG Press and Public Relations, Tel. +49 228 885-2109, firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact at the DFG Head Office:
Dr. Christina Elger, Academic Awards Team, Tel. +49 228 885-3117, email@example.com