Max Planck Research Awards 2003

Promoting International Cooperation / Critical Mass for Maximum Scientific Performance

November 26, 2003

As part of the efforts to promote international cooperation in science, the Max Planck Society and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation presented the Max Planck Research Award for 2003 on November 26, 2003 at 5:30 PM to 12 scientists and researchers in an award ceremony at Harnack-Haus in Berlin-Dahlem. Each award is endowed with EUR 125,000 and gives highly qualified German and foreign scientists and researchers the opportunity to initiate, deepen, or expand mutual projects with the goal of achieving maximum scientific performance on the international scene.

"The Max Planck Research Awards are meaningful indicators for the future that reflect the interdisciplinary nature of science and demonstrate its effectiveness internationally", explains Prof. Rüdiger Wolfrum, Vice President of the Max Planck Society. The award aims to open the door to opportunities to find the best partners in Germany and abroad for joint research projects thereby allowing the necessary "critical mass" to unfold. This is a decisive requirement in bringing about top research results through long-term and intensive cooperation without scientists having to leave their home university research environment for long residencies.

The Max Planck Research Awards are primarily used to finance short-term research residencies, joint research seminars or workshops as well as the necessary materials, equipment, and personnel. The German Ministry for Education and Research provides the Max Planck Society and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation with the necessary funds for the program that has been in place since 1990.

This year, the ten-member selection committee under the chair of Professor Herbert Walther decided to award the following individuals and projects with the Max Planck Research Award 2003:

The Max Planck Research Award 2003 in the Biosciences /Medicine goes to

  • Prof. Eckart Dieter Gundelfinger from the Department for Neurochemistry and Molecular Biology at the Leibniz Institute for Neurobiology in Magdeburg for identifying the two "giant proteins" "Bassoon" and "Piccolo", which play a decisive roll in the connection of neural networks, e.g., in the brain.
  • Prof. Jürgen Hennig from the Department for Radiology at the University Clinic in Freiburg for developing the RARE technique, which speeds up the imaging process in Magnet Resonance Tomography and makes rapid movements, e.g., in cardiac walls, visible.
  • Prof. Gary Lee Westbrook from the Vollum Institute at the Oregon Health & Sciences University in Portland, USA for his research into the permeability of so called NMDA receptors for calcium ions, which lead to an activation of enzymes that in turn lead to long-term changes in the synapse, those interfaces that bridge the space between the nerve endings in the brain.

The Max Planck Research Award 2003 in Chemistry/Pharmacy goes to

  • Prof. Michael Grunze from the Institute for Applied Physical Chemistry at the University of Heidelberg for developing new coatings that measure only a few nanometers and are made out of highly polymerized molecules for stents. These small tubes help to widen narrowed coronary blood vessels thus reducing the risk of thromboses or infections.
  • Prof. Stefan Jentsch from the Department for Molecular Cell Biology at the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry in Martinsried near Munich performs research on yeast cells as model organisms to investigate repair mechanisms of human DNA and has come up with a type of cellular "protection switch". In the future, this will enable new diagnostic methods and therapies in the battle against cancer.

The Max Planck Research Award 2003 in the Engineering Sciences goes to

  • Prof. Antony P. Selvadurai from the Department of Civil Engineering and Applied Mechanics at McGill University in Montreal, Canada for his theoretical and experimental methods, with which he can predict the foundation properties of structures, such as for the frost heave of a pipeline built on permanently frozen soil.

Two scientists were awarded the Max Planck Research Award 2003 in Mathematics:

  • Prof. Stephan Luckhaus from the Mathematics Institute at the University of Leipzig for his trail blazing model showing clear cut solutions for the transport of water and other substances in soil. These solutions can also describe the growth of tumor cells in healthy tissue, which, up until now, was only described theoretically.
  • Prof. Wolfgang Lück from the Mathematics Institute at the University of Münster for his landmark research on algebraic topology - a fundamental theory, which, in the meantime, has permeated all significant areas of mathematics.

The Max Planck Research Award 2003 in the Humanities and the Social Sciences goes to

  • Prof. Thomas Risse from the Otto Suhr Institute for Political Science at the Free University Berlin for his examination of the development of international relations. In light of armed conflicts, the challenges presented by terrorism but also the process of European unity and the upcoming eastward expansion, Thomas Risse delves into the consequences for world politics.
  • Prof. Kathleen Thelen from the Department of Political Science at Northwestern University in Illinois, USA researches the institutions, which like trade unions and employers, provide for a balance of interests between labor and capital. Kathleen Thelen has refuted a widely held assumption that globalization has led to a uniform, "neoliberal" American model of companies in all industrialized nations.

The Max Planck Research Award 2003 for Physics goes to

  • Prof. Klaas Bergmann from the Department of Physics at the University of Kaiserslautern for developing the STIRAP method (Stimulated Raman Adiabatic Passage) that enables quantum processes to be examined precisely. These processes play a decisive role in chemical reactions between atoms and molecules.
  • Prof. Yuval Gefen from the Department of Condensed Matter Physics at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel works on the base for future "nanoelectronics". In this microscopic world of atoms new effects arise, e.g., through the repulsion of individual electrons that have to be controlled to reach the goal of a quantum computer for an unimaginable large number of parallel computer operations.

The "Max Planck Research Awards 2003 for International Cooperation" were awarded at a ceremony on Wednesday November 26, 2003 at 5:30 PM in Harnack Haus of the Max Planck Society in Berlin-Dahlem. After the welcoming address given by Prof. Rüdiger Wolfrum, Vice President of the Max Planck Society, Wolf-Michael Catenhusen, Parliamentary Secretary of State in the Ministry for Education and Research, gave a speech. Following this, Prof. Wolfgang Frühwald, President of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, introduced each award recipient and presented the certificates. Finally, an award recipient, Prof. Stefan Jentsch, from the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry spoke on "Destiny and Fate in the Cell: A Protein with a License to Kill".

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