16 May 2017, No. 10/2017

Humboldt Professorships bring international research stars to Germany

Alexander von Humboldt Professorships awarded by Federal Minister of Education and Research Johanna Wanka and the President of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Helmut Schwarz.

Six top researchers from abroad were awarded Alexander von Humboldt Professorships Tuesday evening in Berlin. Federal Minister of Education and Research Johanna Wanka and the President of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Helmut Schwarz, presented Germany’s best-endowed research award to Largus T. Angenent, Jijie Chai, Wolf B. Frommer, Ran Hirschl, Till Winfried Bärnighausen and Sven Bernecker during a special ceremony. The award winners were nominated by German universities and will soon be conducting research in Cologne, Düsseldorf, Göttingen, Heidelberg and Tübingen. Each award is endowed with €5 million for individuals conducting experimental research and €3.5 million for researchers working in theoretical fields.

“The awardees belong to the crème de la crème in their respective fields”, said Helmut Schwarz in Berlin, adding that their decision to continue their careers in Germany shows how attractive German universities are, “not least of all also - but not just - in light of current political decisions elsewhere. We have become vastly more attractive in recent years. Word of this has gotten around. Researchers here are increasingly envied around the world due to their extensive funding opportunities”, said Schwarz.

“The freedom of science is non-negotiable. It rightly has been anchored in the constitution because it involves fundamental principles that underpin our democracy. Being such an important part of our society, scientists should seek much more public attention, communicate their work and take part in discussions. In this connection, I also urge our Humboldt Professors: Lead the way as models”, said Johanna Wanka, Federal Minister of Education and Research, emphasising: “Academic freedom and space for critical thinking are the best prerequisites for discussions that move societies forward.”

Award ceremony of the Humboldt Professorship 2017 - group picture
Group picture with the Federal Minister of Education and Research Johanna Wanka, Dr. Enno Aufderheide, Secretary General of the Humboldt Foundation, Helmut Schwarz, President of the Humboldt Foundation and the Winners of the Alexander von Humboldt Professorship 2017 (Photo: Humboldt Foundation / Michael Fahrig)

Every year the Humboldt Foundation awards the Alexander von Humboldt Professorship to up to ten internationally leading researchers from all disciplines who work in other countries. In addition to the candidates’ outstanding academic and research qualifications, the concepts designed by the universities to offer the researchers and their teams longer-term prospects in Germany are deciding factors in the evaluation of the applications. The Humboldt Professorship is financed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

The award winners at a glance:

  • Largus T. Angenent, Environmental Microbiology and Bioprocess Engineering, is coming from Cornell University in Ithaca, USA, to work at the University of Tübingen.
  • Jijie Chai,Structural Biology, will switch from Tsinghua University in Peking to the University of Cologne and the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne.
  • Wolf B. Frommer, Plant Molecular Biology, is coming from Stanford University in the USA to Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf, the Forschungszentrum Jülich and the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne.
  • Ran Hirschl, Constitutional Law and Political Science, is coming from the University of Toronto in Canada to Georg-August-Universität Göttingen.
  • Till Winfried Bärnighausen, Epidemiology, made the move from Harvard University in Cambridge, USA, to Heidelberg University back in September 2016. 
  • Sven Bernecker, made the switch in July 2016 from the University of California, Irvine, USA, to the University of Cologne.

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 28,000 Humboldtians from all disciplines in more than 140 countries worldwide – including 54 Nobel Prize winners.


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