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June 30, 2011
Jens Rieger Receives Walther Nernst Medal in Berlin
The German Bunsen Society of Physical Chemistry (DBG: Deutsche Bunsengesellschaft) has awarded Dr. Jens Rieger, Vice President of Polymer Research at BASF, Germany, this year's Walther Nernst Medal for his outstanding contributions to applied physical chemistry. The scientist received the prize during the annual meeting of the DBG in Berlin.
"I was thrilled when I found out", Rieger told ChemPhysChem. "It is a great honor to receive this prize, especially because the jury recognized the practice-based connection between high-level scientific research and the demands of the industrial environment." Rieger has been doing applied research for many years. He joined BASF in 1989 after finishing his PhD in Theoretical Physics at Saarland University (Germany) and has been involved in many projects in the fields of plastics, coatings, cosmetics, detergents, pharmaceuticals, and others. He is a member of the advisory board of several journals, including Advanced Materials, and has authored or co-authored more than 100 scientific publications, contributions to books and patents.
The motivation for Rieger's outstanding work in materials science comes from the practical uses of the research in this field and the many challenges it involves: "It is the direct impact on our lives on the one hand side: many of today's big challenges are directly linked to materials; for example, energy harvesting and storage, prevention of infections, sustainable building, providing infrastructure etc. On the other hand, it is fascinating to see how many fundamental questions still remain to be solved. Just to name two of them: What happens on the molecular scale when polymers such as polyethylene and polyamide solidify, that is, crystallize, when cooling from the melt? Or how do cells, bacteria as well as mammalian cells, interact with man-made surfaces and how can we control their proliferation?"
In order to find answers to these and other important questions, Rieger has helped establish the BASF Advanced Research Initiative at Harvard University. Professors David A. Weitz and George Whitesides are also involved in the project. According to Weitz (Harvard University), Rieger has made important contributions in understanding the growth of inorganic crystals and has also been able to identify many areas of science of technological importance: "Jens is unique in his ability to identify excellent science questions that also play a major role in technology. He is driven by the technology but finds the important science that underlies it", he says.