12 May 2011, No. 17/2011

Germany gains eminent new researchers

State secretary Quennet-Thielen and the President of the Humboldt Foundation, Helmut Schwarz, confer Humboldt Professorships in Berlin

Award ceremony in Berlin
Award ceremony in Berlin
Photo: Humboldt Foundation/
David Ausserhofer

On Thursday evening in Berlin, eight eminent academics were presented with the highest valued international award for research in Germany. The Alexander von Humboldt Professorships were conferred by Cornelia Quennet-Thielen, State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, and Helmut Schwarz, President of the Humboldt Foundation. The award winners are nominated by German universities and are to conduct long-term research in Germany.

“The Alexander von Humboldt Professorship stands for highest standards – it honours the best researchers and stimulates sustainable research at excellent universities in Germany. It therefore pleases me all the more that we were this year able to gain eight researchers of worldwide renown for this highest valued award”, said State Secretary Quennet-Thielen. “This shows how attractive our academic landscape is: the Humboldt Professorships are only in their third year, yet their international appeal is already immense.”

“The Alexander von Humboldt Professorship provides universities with a tool to appoint internationally sought-after researchers to key positions. This Professorship thus complements, so to speak, the Excellence Initiative of the Federal Government and the Federal States. And as excellent research and high-quality teaching are inextricably linked, it is also intended to allow universities to attract the attention of students around the world”, said the President of the Humboldt Foundation, Helmut Schwarz.

The Alexander von Humboldt Professorship is awarded annually to a maximum of ten researchers from all disciplines working abroad who are world leaders in their fields. Apart from the candidates’ outstanding academic eligibility, a crucial factor in the decision-making process is the concept submitted by the nominating university offering the researchers and their teams long-term prospects for remaining in Germany. The award amount totalling 3.5 million EUR for researchers in theoretical disciplines and 5 million EUR for researchers in experimental disciplines is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

The award winners and their universities in Germany are:

Harald Clahsen, Psycholinguistics, University of Potsdam
Harald Clahsen is one of the internationally most renowned German linguists. He is a leading researcher in the fields of language acquisition, language processing and language disorders. His work links linguistic theory with experimental psycholinguistics and techniques of neuroscience. Clahsen is to become professor for the Psycholinguistics of Multilingualism at the University of Potsdam and will be the founding director of the new Potsdam Research Institute of Multilingualism (PRIM), to reinforce the Area of Excellence in Cognitive Sciences of the Human Sciences Faculty.

David DiVincenzo, Quantum Physics, RWTH Aachen University and Forschungszentrum Jülich
David DiVincenzo was one of the first physicists to engage in quantum information and is considered an eminent authority on quantum information processing. In particular, his name is associated with the development of criteria for the quantum computer, known as the DiVincenzo Criteria. In addition, his work is also significant in the fields of materials science and solid-state physics. As part of the Jülich Aachen Research Alliance (JARA), DiVincenzo is to become the head of the Institute of Theoretical Quantum Information, which is to be founded at RWTH Aachen University. He will also be heading the Institute of Nanoelectronics at the Forschungszentrum Jülich.

Brian Foster, Particle Physics, University of Hamburg and DESY (Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron), Hamburg
Brian Foster is acknowledged as one of the most important experimental particle physicists of the day. He has played a leading role in numerous international projects involving particle accelerators, and both his theoretical and his practical work developing innovative measuring instruments have expedited progress in accelerator physics. He has received countless awards, including the Humboldt Research Award (1999). Foster is invited to work at DESY (Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrontron), Hamburg, and as a professor, teaching and researching at the University of Hamburg.

Gerhard Kramer, Information Theory and Engineering, TUM (Technische Universität München)
Gerhard Kramer is one of the world’s leading researchers in information theory and communications engineering. His innovative achievements in the most diverse areas of telecommunications technology, from radio engineering to optical data communication, have been highly acclaimed. In the course of his career, Kramer has continually combined theory and applications, working, for example, at the Bell Laboratories in the USA, one of the world’s top addresses for industrial applied research. Kramer will be invited to assume the chair in communications engineering at TUM (Technische Universität München) and to help uphold and enhance Munich’s position as a global leader in the field.

Dirk Kreimer, Mathematical Physics, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Dirk Kreimer is one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of mathematical physics. As a physicist, he is not only held in the highest esteem by his colleagues in the discipline, but also by top mathematicians with whom he regularly cooperates. At Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Kreimer is supposed to drive the symbiosis of mathematics and theoretical physics in Germany, focusing on fields such as quantum field theory, and helping Germany draw level with the best in the world. Kreimer is scheduled to become a member of the Department of Mathematics and the Department of Physics as well as the Director of the new Interdisciplinary Centre for Mathematical Physics.

Hannes Leitgeb, Philosophy, LMU München
Hannes Leitgeb is one of the world’s leading academics working at the interface of logic, mathematics and cognitive science. His numerous innovative achievements include his work on artificial neural networks. This is where Leitgeb closes the interdisciplinary gap between research into artificial intelligence and brain research. In Munich Leitgeb will build up a new centre of mathematical philosophy which will cooperate closely with neurophilosophy and neuroscience.

Vahid Sandoghdar, Nano-optics, University of Erlangen-Nürnberg and Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light, Erlangen
Vahid Sandoghdar is one of the world’s leading scientists in nano-optics, a field to which he has added a further area of study: single-molecule nanophotonics. The experimental techniques he introduced were also highly influential in other fields of research, such as physical chemistry, biophysics, optical microscopy and quantum optics. Sandoghdar is to become the director of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light and professor at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, where he will sharpen the strategic research focus of the field of optics. In cooperation with various departments, he will develop new fields of research, such as biophotonics and nano quantum optics. The establishment of a Centre for Light Microscopy is also planned under his direction.

Alec Michael Wodtke, Physical Chemistry, University of Göttingen and Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen
Alec Michael Wodtke has made significant contributions to photo and atmospheric chemistry and is a world leader in the field of molecular interactions at interfaces. His work has produced fundamental contributions to catalysis research, the storage and conversion of chemical energy into electrical energy and interface research. This topic is set to be developed into a focus area at Göttingen University as well as at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen. Wodtke is scheduled to become the founding director of a new Centre for Advanced Studies in Energy Conversion.

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 24,000 Humboldtians from all disciplines in more than 130 countries worldwide – including 44 Nobel Prize winners.

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