Cover image for Vol. 18 Issue 23

Editor: Greta Heydenrych; Editorial Board Chairs: Christian Amatore, Michael Grätzel, Michel Orrit

Impact Factor: 3.075

ISI Journal Citation Reports © Ranking: 2016: 8/36 (Physics Atomic Molecular & Chemical); 55/146 (Chemistry Physical)

Online ISSN: 1439-7641

Associated Title(s): Advanced Materials, ChemBioChem, ChemCatChem, ChemElectroChem, ChemPhotoChem, ChemSusChem, Small

March 15, 2010

Highest German research prize awarded in Berlin

Highest German research prize awarded in BerlinOnce again, the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG) has honored outstanding German researchers with the famous Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize. This year's award ceremony took place on March 15th in Berlin. Ten scientists and academics working in different fields of research –among them ChemPhysChem author Petra Schwille of the Technical University of Dresden (TU Dresden)– received Germany's most highly endowed research award during a festive reception held at the Berlin–Brandenburg Academy of Sciences.

"The Leibniz Prize is long since the most prestigious scientific award for researchers in Germany –and also one of the most distinguished recognitions worldwide", said DFG president Matthias Kleiner in December during the prize announcement. The award is named after the German philosopher and mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and was established 25 years ago "to improve the working conditions of outstanding scientists and academics, expand their research opportunities, relieve them of administrative tasks, and help them employ particularly qualified young researchers". Nobel Laureate and ChemPhysChem Board Member Gerhard Ertl received the prize in 1991.

Petra Schwille, whose research has considerably advanced the development of fluorescence spectroscopy and its applications in cellular biology, is thrilled by the news: "I am happy, excited, honored, and thankful for all the support and inspirations from great teachers, colleagues and students during my past 15 years of research", she says. During this time, Schwille has successfully worked on the development of fluorescence spectroscopic methods to study the function of individual protein molecules. She has particularly contributed to the development and optimization of fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS), one of the most elegant and non-invasive methods for recording molecular processes in biological systems. Through a combination of FCS and two-photon excitation, Schwille has achieved spectacular insights into cellular mechanisms. The German biophysicist also uses the FCS method to study the interactions between proteins and lipids –a work for which she has gained international recognition.

Schwille studied physics and philosophy at the University of Göttingen. Shortly after receiving her Diploma, she started working in the research group of Manfred Eigen, who won the 1967 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for measurements of very fast chemical reactions. In 1996, Schwille received her doctoral degree from the Technical University of Braunschweig. One year later, she moved to Cornell University where she worked as a postdoctoral researcher until 1999 when she returned to the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen to set up her own independent junior research group. Schwille became Professor of Biophysics at TU Dresden in 2002. Her work has been recognized with several prizes including the Young Investigator Award for Biotechnology (2003) and the Phillip Morris Research Prize (2004). The Leibniz award, which consists of a research grant of up to 2.5 million Euro (to be used within seven years), will allow further advances in Schwille's lab. One of her newest research fields is synthetic biology and a significant amount of the money coming from the Leibniz Prize will probably be spent in that area. The Leibniz Prize "is important in many ways", Schwille says. "A motivation, like all big prizes, a very valuable source of research money that can be spent with maximum flexibility and –last but not least– a message for the public that Germany really cares about excellent science".

This year's list of prize winners also includes other outstanding young scientists such as Peter Fratzl, who works on biomaterials at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam, and Frank Neese, a theoretical chemist at the University of Bonn.

Read Petra Schwille's most recent ChemPhysChem papers on the formation of giant plasma membrane vesicles and photobleaching in two-photon scanning fluorescence correlation spectroscopy as well as Gerhard Ertl's minireview on nonequilibrium microstructures in reactive monolayers as soft matter systems.

Photo: Petra Schwille (TUD/Boes)

Kira Welter

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