Press release

Invitation to the presentation of the Alexander von Humboldt Professorships by Federal Minister Karliczek in Berlin on 9 May

Nr. 8/2019

  • from
Saturn-ähnliches Dekortationsbild


Presse, Kommunikation und Marketing
Tel.: +49 228 833-144
Fax: +49 228 833-441

Nine award winners from abroad will each receive up to €5 million and soon conduct research in Bonn, Cologne, Darmstadt, Erlangen-Nuremberg, Konstanz, Leipzig and Würzburg.

Germany’s most valuable research award, the 2019 Alexander von Humboldt Professorship, will be awarded in Berlin on 9 May. With this award, the Humboldt Foundation singles out researchers from all disciplines who have worked abroad to date and are leaders in their fields. The award winners were nominated by German universities and research institutes. They are expected to develop at their host institutions teams and structures that can compete at international level.

The awards will be presented by Anja Karliczek, the Federal Minister of Education and Research, and Hans-Christian Pape, the President of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. 

Award ceremony
Time: Thursday, 9 May 2019, 7 p.m. (doors open at 6 p.m.)
Venue: Hauptstadtrepräsentanz Deutsche Telekom AG (Representative Office of Deutsche Telekom AG), Französische Str. 33 a-c, 10117 Berlin 

It is permitted to film, photograph and make audio recordings. Interviews with the award winners can be arranged by individual agreement for Wednesday, 8 May, or the day of the award ceremony, 9 May.

Starting 6:00 p.m.: Once the doors have opened, a tour will be conducted with Anja Karliczek, Hans-Christian Pape and the award winners to the information stands of the respective host universities from Bonn, Cologne, Darmstadt, Erlangen-Nuremberg, Konstanz, Leipzig and Würzburg.

Please send your accreditation, including a copy of your valid press ID, by e-mail to presse[at] by 1 p.m. on 7 May 2019.

Contact on location:
Georg Scholl, Tel.: 0160 / 97 245 344

The award winners at a glance:

  • Cologne: Malte Gather (Nanobiophotonics)
    Living lasers and light that steers cells
    Malte Gather conducts research in the realm where biology, medicine and physics intersect. Together with his team, he has miniaturised lasers and integrated them into living cells. At present he is working on biocompatible applications for the OLED technology of the type embedded in smartphone displays, applications with the potential to heal neurological disorders that affect vision. Malte Gather will head the newly-founded NanoBioPhotonics Research Centre at the University of Cologne and will bring together work being done in the materials and life sciences. 
  • Konstanz: Anke Hoeffler (Political Economy)
    Making society more resilient
    Anke Hoeffler studies the phenomenon of violence. She has moved the subject of collective violence into the focus of development research using the question whether wars are triggered by social injustice or have primarily economic causes. While at the University of Konstanz she will also examine interpersonal violence, such as violence in families. A new centre for conflict research and development policy is to be established where Anke Hoeffler will strengthen research on these issues.
  • Leipzig: Jens Meiler (Bioinformatics)
    Designing individual medicines on the computer
    Jens Meiler develops computer programmes that can calculate plausible models for the structure of specific proteins. Such models, which are exact down to the smallest spatial molecular structure, are needed in order to develop tailor-made medicines. Jens Meiler conducts research with a team in which molecular biologists work closely with IT specialists, chemists and physicists. Now, a new centre with additional expertise in experimental work is to be established in Leipzig for the structure-based development of medicines.
  • Darmstadt: Alexandre Obertelli (Experimental Nuclear Physics)
    Exotic nuclei and the origins of the elements
    How did the chemical elements - the building blocks of our world - come into being? To answer such fundamental questions, Alexandre Obertelli is studying radioactive nuclei that are instable due to the fact that they have too many or too few neutrons. The FAIR international accelerator facility is currently being built in Darmstadt. In the laboratory there, matter that otherwise exists only in the depths of space will be produced and studied - offering ideal conditions for Alexandre Obertelli to develop the field of physics of rare isotopes at TU Darmstadt into a research centre of global standing.
  • Würzburg: Stefanie Petermichl (Mathematics)
    Builder of bridges between worlds of mathematics
    Stefanie Petermichl is a leading mathematician in the area of harmonic analysis, a field that could help, for example, to improve medical imaging processes or make it easier to process signals. Drawing on unusual ideas and combining various mathematic subdisciplines, Stefanie Petermichl has left her mark on this field of research and created new standard instruments in recent years. She will establish a new interdisciplinary research centre at the University of Würzburg. 
  • Bonn: Dietmar Schmucker (Molecular Neuroscience)
    Understanding the brain: How nerve cells are linked
    In the human brain, billions of nerve cells are linked together in complex networks. Malfunctions in their connections are often the cause of neurological diseases. Dietmar Schmucker has developed methods and techniques that help us understand which molecular mechanisms underlie the wiring of the nervous system. As a result, his basic research is also highly relevant to the medical field. Dietmar Schmucker will now set up a neuroscience centre in Bonn with a focus on fundamental research.
  • Cologne: Henning Walczak (Biochemistry/Immunology)
    Messenger substances for the fight against cancer
    Together with his team, Henning Walczak will research how programmed cell death can be used so that the immune system can reliably switch off cancer cells. He aims to influence messenger substances in ways that will prevent the death of immune cells that fight tumour cells. While in Cologne, Henning Walczak will bring pre-clinical and clinical research more closely together and expand the interdisciplinary research being conducted in the area of metabolism.
  • Erlangen-Nuremberg: Enrique Zuazua (Applied Mathematics)
    Shaping the future with the help of mathematics
    Being an applied mathematician, Enrique Zuazua understands mathematics as a tool with virtually endless applications, as a kind of universal language. Control theory and numerical analysis are his special disciplines. In practical terms, he wants to make reality more calculable and controllable. The challenge here is to find algorithms that are not infinite but rather sufficiently precise - and therefore both quickly and reliably calculable. He will now drive forward innovative and interdisciplinary research projects at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg.

In addition, one previously conferred award will be presented:

  • Konstanz: Margaret Crofoot (Biology/Movement Ecology)
    Who decides which way to go? Group dynamics among baboons
    Margaret Crofoot focuses her research on the social behaviour of primates: how do animals move in groups? How do they defend their territory? And how do they make decisions? Crofoot is one of the pioneers in the young field of movement ecology who are investigating questions like these. The observation of animals equipped with GPS transmitters has revealed how complex the decision-making process is in such groups. Margaret Crofoot will develop the research focus Collective Behaviour at the University of Konstanz.

The Alexander von Humboldt Professorship is financed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Funding of 5 million euros is available for academics conducting experimental research and 3.5 million euros for those undertaking theoretical research. The money is intended to finance the first five years of research in Germany.


The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation

Every year, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation enables more than 2,000 researchers from all over the world to spend time researching in Germany. The Foundation maintains a network of well over 29,000 Humboldtians from all disciplines in more than 140 countries worldwide – including 55 Nobel Laureates.

Previous Press Release Conference: “Research without Borders – Alexander von Humboldt’s Legacy Today”
Next Press Release 2019 Humboldt Professorships conferred: nine top researchers from abroad honoured