Learning from nature: Swiss entomologist and Chinese chemist receive Humboldt Research Award

International top researchers come to Potsdam in 2021

November 30, 2020

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation is awarding 60,000 EUR each to the Swiss entomologist Jérôme Casas and the Chinese chemist Biao Yu. Together with their hosts from the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam, they will use this award money to implement appropriate research projects: Casas is one of the leading biologists in the field of the sensory properties of insects and Yu is a specialist in the synthesis of carbohydrates. The aim of these research collaborations is to promote scientific cooperation between Germany, France and China.

from left to right: Jérôme Casas, Professor of Ecology at the University of Tours; Biao Yu, Professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences

Jérôme Casas will join the Biomaterials department for six months next year. His knowledge of the structure and function of insect sensors can be transferred to mechanical sensors and actuators: "Inspired by nature, this will provide new and possibly more sustainable concepts for technical systems that adapt their properties to mechanical requirements by themselves," says Peter Fratzl, Director of the Biomaterials Department.

Biao Yu will spend the majority of his one-year research stay in the Department of Biomolecular Systems, where he will collaborate with Peter H. Seeberger to advance the chemical synthesis of carbohydrates. "Together, we will focus on the role of complex sugars in plants used in traditional Chinese medicine," says Seeberger, Director of the Department of Biomolecular Systems.

Humboldt Research Award

With this award, the Humboldt Foundation honors researchers whose fundamental discoveries, insights or new theories have had a lasting impact on their own discipline and from whom further outstanding achievements can be expected in the future.

Facts about the scientists

Jérôme Casas is Professor of Ecology at the University of Tours and leading member of the "Institut Universitaire de France" and specialist in the field of bioinspired technology. He is also editor in chief of the journal "Current Opinion in Insect Science", which ranks third in the field of entomology.

Biao Yu holds is Professor at the Institute of Organic Chemistry at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shanghai. His research group is known for the synthesis of a variety of naturally occurring and biologically important protein-bound complex carbohydrates (glycoconjugates) and for the development of methods for binding carbohydrates to proteins and lipids (glycosylation) for their synthesis.


 

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