Alexander von Humboldt Professorship 2023

Daniel Jobst Müller

Daniel J. Müller is considered one of the most influential biophysicists of our time. With his vast experience in the engineering sciences as well as in patenting the methods he has developed and establishing a spin-off, he is invited to drive the development of bionanotechnology in Germany as a Humboldt Professor at Heidelberg University.

  • Nominating University: Heidelberg University
Porträt Daniel Müller
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Daniel J. Müller’s research builds bridges between scientists in various disciplines working, for example, in biology, biophysics, systems biology and medicine to understand the functioning and development of tissue and cells. In this endeavour, the atomic force microscope (AFM) is an important tool as it can measure atomic forces in the nanometre range. Müller is a thought-leader and pioneer in applying engineering to biology. He developed highly-specialised AFM platforms which found worldwide recognition. His research group managed to observe, quantify and control molecular and cell biological systems with nanometre resolution, thus enhancing understanding of cell mechanics. Müller has been able to measure the bonding forces of molecules, determine the adhesive forces on the level of single cells and invent an AFM-based cell scale, as well.

His research is also of relevance to genetic engineering. In order to change a cell’s function, foreign genetic information is usually channelled into it with the aid of a virus infection. In this process it is crucial that the genetic manipulation of individual cells or certain cell regions is achieved in a highly targeted fashion. Daniel J. Müller developed a very simple, effective method known as virus stamping which allows the virus to be precisely introduced into the single cell or cell groups.

Müller is also a trailblazer in enabling others to benefit from the methods he develops: by disseminating them by means of patents and spin-offs he ensures that his measuring techniques are widely utilised.

Heidelberg University already has an international reputation in the biosciences. Daniel J. Müller is set to head a new institute for molecular systems engineering in the Faculty of Engineering Sciences that was established in 2021. Innovative approaches to engineering will be the focus of the new faculty which will gain additional international visibility with the arrival of Müller. His experience in founding spin-offs will also help the university to expand the interfaces between its fundamental research and industry.

Brief bio

Born in Germany, Dr Daniel J. Müller has been a professor of biophysics at ETH Zurich since 2010. He took his doctorate at the University of Basel, Switzerland, in 1997, and received the university’s prize for the best PhD thesis in the life sciences. He completed his habilitation in 2000, working at the University of Basel’s Biozentrum, before relocating to Dresden. Here he was initially a group leader at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics and, from 2002, Professor for Cellular Machines at TU Dresden. Amongst others, Müller is a member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) and has been involved in numerous scientific structure-building projects as well as in founding a successful bionanotechnology spin-off back in 2006.

Daniel J. Müller has been selected for a Humboldt Professorship and is currently conducting appointment negotiations with the German university that nominated him for the award. If the negotiations end successfully, the award will be granted in 2023.