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DFG congratulates Stefan W. Hell on Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Recipient of the 2008 Leibniz Prize and spokesperson for a DFG Cluster of Excellence shares award with 2 colleagues from the USA

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

8 October 2014 The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) congratulates Profes-sor Stefan W. Hell, of the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen and the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg, on winning the 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Speaking at a meeting of spokespersons for the graduate schools, clusters of excellence and institutional strategies in Bad Honnef, which are funded under the Excellence Initiative, DFG President Professor Peter Strohschneider said: "The DFG would like to congratulate Professor Stefan W. Hell, who was awarded the DFG's Leibniz Prize in 2008 for his outstanding research and who works in one of the DFG Research Centres now funded as a cluster of excellence within the Excellence Initiative. The award also acknowledges how organisations which fund top-level research at universities and non-university institutions together create a productive system in which such outstanding knowledge-driven research can flourish." Today the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced the winners of the prize for Chemistry: Professor Hell and his colleagues in the US, Eric Betzig and William E. Moerner, have been awarded the Nobel Prize "for the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy".

Professor Stefan W. Hell is the seventh holder of the DFG's Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize to win a Nobel Prize, following Hartmut Michel (Chemistry, 1988), Erwin Neher and Bert Sakmann (Medicine, 1991), Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard (Medicine, 1995), Theodor Hänsch (Physics, 2005) and Gerhard Ertl (Chemistry, 2007). Professor Hell is also one of the spokespersons for the DFG-funded cluster of excellence "Nanoscale Microscopy and Molecular Physiology of the Brain". He is also a participating researcher at the "Göttingen Graduate School for Neurosciences, Biophysics and Molecular Biosci-ences," which is also funded by the Excellence Initiative, and project leader of the "Nanoscale Photonic Imaging" and "Modulatory Units in Heart Failure" Collaborative Research Centres in Göttingen.

The Leibniz Prize jury acknowledged in particular the development of STED microscopy, with which Hell countered beliefs about the limits of the resolution of microscopy that had been held for over a century, by taking a revolutionary look at the resolution of conventional laser scanning microscopy: In LSM, a beam of laser light is focussed on the specimen and the fluorescence stimulated by the laser is measured. Hell's groundbreaking development worked on the assumption that it should be possible to significantly improve the resolution by inhibiting the fluorescence from the rim of the focal point before the stimulated dye molecules could emit fluorescence. This can be achieved with Stimulated Emission Depletion (STED). Using this approach, Hell was able to achieve a resolution between three and four times better than with the best conventional microscopes and, for the first time, it became possible to visualise the fusion of individual synaptic vesicles in biological systems with nerve endings by light microscopy. As early as 2008 it was clear that this discovery would significantly impact modern biology as well as the semi-conductor industry.

Stefan W. Hell's career in science began with a physics degree and a doctorate in Heidelberg, after which he initially described himself as a "freelance inventor", but subsequently took up a post as a postdoc researcher at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL). As head of the Laser Mi-croscopy Group at the University of Turku in Finland, he laid the foundations for STED microscopy, which he developed from 1996 in his capacity as head of an independent junior research group and from 2002 as a Director at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen.

The prize awarded to him today will be presented on 10 December in Stockholm.


Further Information

Media contact:

Cornelia Lossau, DFG Press and Public Relations, Tel.: +49 228 885-4328,

More on the DFG's funding of Professor Stefan W. Hell:

More information on the award of the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize to Stefan W. Hell:

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