19 September 2019, No. 20/2019

Max Planck-Humboldt Research Award goes into the second round

Two outstanding researchers honoured in recognition of their work in the humanities and social sciences 

Ufuk Akcigit
Photo: Victor Rubow,
Max Planck Society/
Humboldt Foundation

Ufuk Akcigit of the University of Chicago is this year's winner of the Max Planck-Humboldt Research Award. The economist of Turkish descent is recognized for his outstanding achievements in the field of macroeconomics. During his research stay in Germany, which is part of the award, he will investigate the causes of the economic gap between East and West Germany. Elliot Tucker-Drob from the University of Texas (Austin) will receive the Max Planck-Humboldt Medal for his achievements in the fields of personality and developmental psychology. Anja Karliczek, Federal Minister of Education and Research, Martin Stratmann, President of the Max Planck Society, and Hans-Christian Pape, President of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, will present the awards on November 5 in the course of the Berlin Science Week.

"Bringing cutting-edge research to Germany – that is an important goal of the award.
We hope that Ufuk Akcigit's empirically influenced research results will lead to a more precise understanding of the causes of the economic differences between East and West Germany,” says Federal Research Minister Anja Karliczek. “This year we are awarding the Max Planck-Humboldt Research Award for the first time in the humanities and social sciences. Ufuk Akcigit and Elliot Tucker-Drob are two top scientists whose innovative and forward-looking ideas will help shape tomorrow's world," says Max Planck President Martin Stratmann. "It is not only the participating scientists and institutions that benefit from the award. Both research topics are of great importance to society, so that we expect important impulses for public and political discussion," adds Hans-Christian Pape, President of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

During his research stay in Germany, Akcigit will examine an issue that continues to be relevant 30 years after reunification: why is there still an economic gap between East and West Germany? "The prize money of 1.5 million euros will enable me to intensify cooperation with my colleagues at the Halle Institute for Economic Research – Member of the Leibniz Association. In three joint projects, we will be looking into the causes of the unequal living conditions in East and West which still exist today," the Max Planck-Humboldt Research Award Winner explains. Akcigit, Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago, is an internationally renowned expert in the field of modern growth theory. In his research to date, he has succeeded in demonstrating, for example, a strong link between innovation and long-term economic growth (in the USA), between innovation and social mobility, and even between innovation and happiness.

Elliot Tucker-Drob
Photo: Victor Rubow,
Max Planck Society/
Humboldt Foundation

Elliot Tucker-Drob, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, will be honored for his contributions to the fields of developmental psychology, aging, and behavioral genetics. Professor Tucker-Drob studies how social and biological processes combine to shape human psychological development across the entirety of the lifespan. His research on the complex interactions between genome and environmental context helps to refine targets for social policies and educational interventions to improve learning, and provides an important knowledge base for public discourse surrounding social justice and equality of opportunity. Tucker-Drob was nominated by Professor Ulman Lindenberger, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development.

Since 2018, the Max Planck Society and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation award the redesigned Max Planck-Humboldt Research Award to a researcher from outside Germany. The award is endowed with 1.5 million euros. It is intended to attract outstanding and particularly innovative international scientists to German universities and research institutions for a limited stay. The award winner also receives an additional sum of 80,000 euros as personal prize money.

The award is funded by the Federal Ministry for Education and Research and replaces the Max Planck Research Award, which the Humboldt Foundation and the Max Planck Society previously awarded to two researchers each year. Awards will alternate between the natural and engineering sciences, human sciences, and life sciences. In addition, two other nominees can be awarded with the Max Planck-Humboldt Medal, which is endowed with 60,000 euros.

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.

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