11 November 2014, No. 30/2014

Young researchers with bold ideas receive awards

Sofja Kovalevskaja Award presented to 11 international researchers / Schwarz: “We place confidence in talented researchers and give them freedom.”

Eleven talented international researchers between 29 and 41 years of age were presented one of Germany’s best-endowed research awards, the Sofja Kovalevskaja Award, Tuesday evening in Berlin. Federal Minister of Education and Research Johanna Wanka and the President of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Helmut Schwarz, presented the awards - each of which is endowed with up to €1.65 million in funding - to the young researchers from abroad who will spend five years at a German university or research institute building and heading a research team of their own.

The three women and eight men receiving this year’s award come from nine different countries and were chosen from a strong field of 79 applicants. The Sofja Kovalevskaja Award is traditionally presented every two years. However response from abroad has been so strong that it will be awarded again next year. More than 70 applications have already been submitted for the next - 2015 - round as well. The award is financed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

“The many applications show that the Sofja Kovalevskaja Award is making Germany a very enticing place for young researchers from abroad”, said Schwarz. “With this award, we place more confidence in talented researchers and give them greater freedom than most other countries do. We invest risk capital wisely so that they can head a team at an early stage in their careers and realise their often bold and risky research ideas. This concept is what makes the award so attractive internationally.”

“The Sofja Kovalevskaja Award acknowledges the achievements of young international researchers. However the award first and foremost calls attention to these individuals’ potential for making scientific breakthroughs in the future. It gives them the time and space to strike out on new research paths and, at the same time, fosters scientific excellence in Germany”, said Wanka. “By moving up the next round of Kovalevskaja Awards to next year, we will enable an even larger number of outstanding young researchers to conduct research here.”


This year’s award winners, their home countries, countries of residence, their research areas and their host institutes are:

  • Kamal Asadi, Iran / Netherlands, Electrical Engineering, Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research, Mainz
  • Gregory Brennecka, USA, Cosmochemistry, University of Münster, Institute for Planetology
  • Elizabeta Briski, Croatia / Canada, Ecology, GEOMAR – Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel
  • Pierangelo Buongiorno, Italy, Roman Law, University of Münster, Institute for the History of Law
  • Jason Dexter, USA, Astrophysics, Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Garching
  • Katja Dörschner-Boyaci, Germany / Turkey, Psychology, Gießen University, Department of General Psychology
  • Roland Donninger, Austria / Switzerland, Mathematics, University of Bonn, Mathematical Institute
  • Fernando Febres Cordero, Venezuela, Elementary Particle Physics, University of Freiburg, Institute for Physics
  • Helen May-Simera, Great Britain / USA, Cell Biology, Mainz University, Institute of Zoology
  • Christian Straßer, Germany / Belgium, Formal Logic, Ruhr University Bochum, Institute for Philosophy II
  • Alexander Tsirlin, Russia / Estonia, Solid State Chemistry and Solid State Physics, University of Augsburg, Center for Electronic Correlations and Magnetism (EKM)


Sofja Kovalevskaja was born in Moscow in 1850 and studied mathematics in Germany. As one of the first women in Europe, she received a professorship in 1889 at the University of Stockholm and acquired international standing as a mathematician.

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 26,000 Humboldtians from all disciplines in more than 140 countries worldwide – including 50 Nobel Prize winners.

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