Leibniz Prize for two Max Planck scientists

Peter Fratzl and Ulman Lindenberger to receive Germany’s most prestigious research funding prize

December 11, 2009

The Leibniz Prize winners for 2010 have been announced. The German Research Foundation (DFG) today bestowed the honour on ten scientists - one woman and nine men - in Bonn. Among the recipient are two Max Planck scientists, Ulman Lindenberger, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, and Peter Fratzl, Director at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam. The prize winners each receive EUR 2.5 million in funding.

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The developmental psychologist Ulman Lindenberger (48), Director at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, is one of the world’s leading researchers in cognitive gerontology. He has redefined the potential and limits of cognitive aging in an impressive number of studies in which he successfully combined approaches from neuroscience, gerontology and developmental psychology. Lindenberger was able to prove for instance that the intellectual performance level of older individuals is determined to a large extent by their own behaviour rather than natural factors, such as age, and can therefore be improved. According to his results, perception, thought and memory in old-age are largely dependent on physical, emotional-motivational and social factors. The results of this fundamental research have rapidly been incorporated into practical programs and, in view of the current demographic changes, are of great socio-political importance.

Research into biomaterials

Peter Fratzl (51), Director at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam, is a leading international representative of modern biomaterials research. Fratzl deals with a variety of questions relating to natural materials, such as bone and plants, conducting research into their mechanical properties in particular. To this effect, he analyzes the relationship between the properties and structures of biological materials and develops new biomimetic and bio-inspired materials, approximating naturally occurring biological structures and processes. His research in this field builds on his earlier work in metal physics. Often conducted in cooperation with medical researchers and biologists, his work is a great asset to fundamental research and also yields findings that are significant to the treatment of diseased bone tissue and especially osteoporosis. Moreover, it lays the foundations for the development of new and improved biomimetic bone replacement materials and for regenerative hard tissue therapies.

Peter Fratzl was taken completely by surprise by the news of the prize when he received a telephone call in the morning from the German Research Foundation. "I am delighted to receive this prize, which will allow me to continue to explore the boundaries between materials science and biology. Above all, I would like to support junior scientists and generate interest in this exciting field of research," said Fratzl.

Accolade for scientists

All German scientists dream of winning the Leibniz Prize. This year in addition to Peter Fratzl and Ulman Lindenberger, Frank Neese (42), Professor of Theoretical Chemistry at the University of Bonn and Max Planck Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Bioinorganic Chemistry in Mülheim an der Ruhr, will also receive the much-coveted award.

The Leibniz Prize award ceremony will be held on March 15, 2010 in Berlin. At that time, the German Research Foundation will also be celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Leibniz Program. The Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize has been awarded by the German Research Foundation every year since 1986 for outstanding achievements in research. Since the program was initiated, 280 Leibniz Prizes have been awarded, including those announced today. Of these prizes, 97 were awarded in the natural sciences, 79 in the life sciences, 61 in the humanities and social sciences and 43 in the engineering sciences.

Six Leibniz Prize winners have gone on to receive the Nobel Prize: 1988 Professor Hartmut Michel (chemistry), 1991 Professors Erwin Neher and Bert Sakmann (medicine), 1995 Professor Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard (medicine), 2005 Professor Theodor W. Hänsch (physics) and 2007 Professor Gerhard Ertl (chemistry). All of these scientists conduct research and lecture at Max Planck institutes.

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