Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prizes 2024

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prizes 2024

Author: ChemistryViews

The Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize is the highest honor in the German research landscape and is awarded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation). This year, ten researchers were chosen from 150 nominees to receive the prize. The winners represent the humanities and social sciences, life sciences, natural sciences, and engineering sciences, with three female researchers and seven male researchers. Each winner receives EUR 2.5 million to fund their research work for up to seven years. This year’s awards ceremony took place in Berlin, Germany, on March 13, 2024.

The following researchers have received the 2024 Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize:

  • Dmitri Efetov, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich
    Experimental Solid State Physics

    Dmitri Efetov is recognized for his pioneering work on the production of large-area, homogeneous, “magically” entangled graphene. When two graphene layers are rotated against each other, a so-called moiré pattern with a periodic potential and a new band structure is created. At an angle of exactly 1.1 degrees, new physical phenomena such as superconducting, magnetic, and insulating states occur. Based on this work, Efetov has been able to gain fundamental new insights into various quantum effects. For example, materials made of entangled graphene can conduct electricity without any resistance. In the future, they could replace conventional high-voltage cables.

  • Tobias Erb, Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology, Marburg, and University of Marburg
    Synthetic Microbiology

    Tobias Erb is recognized for his outstanding work in synthetic biology, in which he analyses natural metabolic processes and draws on these to generate novel enzyme functions. His particular focus is carbon dioxide fixation. Through photosynthetic CO2 fixation in plants, almost 70 gigatons of carbon are bound per year, removing it from the atmosphere. Erb is looking for new CO2-binding enzymes for the purpose of carbon fixation, hoping to design artificial fixation pathways that are superior to natural pathways. For example, he has succeeded in introducing certain enzymes into plants to produce a CO2 concentration mechanism that has resulted in a significant increase in photosynthesis.

  • Jonas Grethlein, Heidelberg University
    Classical Philology

    Jonas Grethlein is recognized for his work on the narratology of ancient narrative forms, ancient aesthetics, and the relationship between historical image and experience in ancient narrative and historiographical texts. This work has significantly influenced the development not just of classical philology but also of literary, cultural, and historical studies in general. The starting point and core of Grethlein’s work is the in-depth interpretation of texts from almost all genres of ancient Greek literature. He often accesses the ancient texts in a completely new way by drawing on modern literary and cultural theoretical approaches.

  • Moritz Helmstaedter, Max Planck Institute for Brain Research, Frankfurt am Main

    Moritz Helmstaedter is recognized for his pioneering work in the field of neuroscience, which has led to a fundamentally new understanding of the three-dimensional organization and function of circuits in the mammalian brain. He is one of the founders of the field of connectomics, which is the study of the basic principles of brain organization based on the reconstruction of thousands of neurons and their synaptic connections. His analyses of a dense local connectome of more than 200,000 synapses disproved decades-old assumptions about how neuronal connectivity works. Helmstaedter has solved methodological problems, e.g., how to prepare large tissue samples in order to precisely record the neuron population contained within them. He has also answered questions about the fundamental differences between the human brain and the brains of other mammalian species.

  • Ulrike Herzschuh, Alfred Wegener Institute, Potsdam, and University of Potsdam

    Ulrike Herzschuh is recognized for her outstanding work in the field of geo-ecology, through which she has contributed to understanding the influence of climate fluctuations in recent geological history on the biodiversity and the functioning of polar regions. She has developed innovative research methods to investigate the long-term effects and consequences of climate fluctuations, e.g., methods for analyzing fossil DNA in lake and marine sediments as an indicator of changes in biodiversity. She has also been instrumental in developing new vegetation models based on the characteristics of individual plants. In the course of excursions to remote regions, she has also collected data that reveals the links between climate change and biodiversity distribution in the Earth’s history.

  • Eike Kiltz, University Bochum

    Eike Kiltz is recognized for his fundamental and pioneering work in the field of public key cryptography. Public key cryptography allows information to be securely encrypted and communicated via public channels, based on the prime factorization of large numbers, which cannot easily be performed by conventional computers. The security of public key methods can only be guaranteed if the underlying mathematical problems cannot be solved efficiently. As quantum computers advance, computing power increases and there is a greater risk that the keys can be calculated. New cryptographic methods that are secure even if quantum computers are used are, thus, needed. Kiltz’s work lays the foundations for these new methods, and a proof designed by him has been established as the basis for verifying the security of new methods.

  • Rohini Kuner, Heidelberg University

    Rohini Kuner is recognized for her pioneering work on the mechanisms underlying chronic pain. Her contributions to the mechanisms of pain signaling and pain transmission to the central nervous system form an important foundation for understanding chronic pain and tackling it pharmacologically. She pursues systemic approaches focusing on neuroplasticity, i.e., the changeability of neuronal connections, that is underlying chronic pain. Using, e.g., neurogenetic and optogenetic techniques along with methods such as in vivo imaging and three-dimensional electron microscopy, Kuner has determined central neural pathways of pain transmission. She has also focused on the mechanisms involved in neuropathic pain that occurs after the severing of nerves (“phantom pain”).

  • Jörn Leonhard, University of Freiburg
    Modern and Contemporary History

    Jörn Leonhard is recognized for his work in the field of the European and transatlantic cultural and political history of the 19th and early 20th centuries. He has worked on the linguistic and conceptual history of European liberalism, the relationship between the empire and the nation-state, and the history and post-history of the First World War. Leonhard has placed international research on the war and post-war period between 1914 and 1924 on a new footing. His approach is primarily based on conceptual precision, empirical density, and a methodological openness that draws on multiple perspectives.

  • Peter Schreiner, University of Gießen
    Organic Molecular Chemistry

    Peter Schreiner is recognized for his outstanding work in physical organic chemistry, through which he has made pioneering contributions to reaction control. He has established the mechanism of “tunnel control” of chemical reactions. This is a driving force that can be used to steer chemical reactions in a way that would not have been predicted by the established principles of kinetic control or thermodynamic control. Using experiments and theoretical calculations, Schreiner also proved that chemical reactions are significantly influenced by dispersion interactions, previously described as “weak” in terms of their relevance to chemical processes.

  • Eva Viehmann, University of Münster

    Eva Viehmann is recognized for her influential work on arithmetic algebraic geometry in connection with the Langlands program. This program consists of a series of far-reaching conjectures linking number theory and representation theory. It involves seemingly mysterious connections between prime numbers, integer solutions of polynomial equations, and “arithmetic” on the one hand and the harmonic analysis of oscillations and spectra on the other. Viehmann has significantly advanced this field of research. She has developed a rich geometric understanding of the parameter spaces that occur, such as an appropriate breakdown of their dimensions (“stratification”).

Recent Publications by the Recipients


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