Two Leibniz Prizes for the Max Planck Society

Nicole Dubilier and Armin von Bogdandy receive Germany’s top research award

December 10, 2013
On Thursday, 5 December, in Bonn the German Research Foundation (DFG) awarded the Leibniz Prizes for 2014 to a total of four female and seven male scientists. They were chosen from among 129 proposed candidates. Two of the eleven winners come from Max Planck Institutes: Nicole Dubilier of the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen and Armin von Bogdandy of the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law.

Nicole Dubilier and Armin von Bogdandy each receive 2.5 million euro in prize money. These funds can be used over a period of up to seven years to support their research, as they see fit and without undue bureaucracy, which represents an exceptional degree of flexibility.

Awarded marine scientist

Nicole Dubilier (56) is a highly regarded marine scientist with a particular interest in symbioses in the seas, especially the ecological and evolutionary adaptations between bacteria and marine invertebrates. The subjects of her research come from wide ranging sources including expeditions to study deep sea hydrothermal vents, as well as more easily accessible seagrass meadows and sulphide-rich coastal sediments. A common feature of all these habitats is the minimal availability of energy and nutrients, as a result of which host organisms are dependent on carbon compounds produced by their bacterial symbionts in a process of chemosynthesis.

In the gutless worm Olavius algarvensis, Nicole Dubilier discovered and explained a particularly complex association with two types of bacterial partner. The primary symbionts use the sulphide produced by secondary symbionts through the reduction of sulphates as an energy source in order to fix the carbon on which the worm’s life depends. Through this and other work – for example on mussels whose productivity is supported by their symbiosis with sulphur- and methane-oxidising bacteria – Professor Dubilier has brought new insights into the dependencies between symbiotic life forms and how they extract energy from the oceans.

After taking her degree and subsequently earning a doctorate in biology, Nicole Dubilier initially worked as a post-doc in Harvard from 1992, before moving to the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen and taking up a post as visiting professor in Paris. In 2012 she was appointed as a professor in the Faculty of Biology and Chemistry at the University of Bremen, and since October 2013 she has been a Director at the Max Planck Institute in Bremen. In 2013 she received an ERC Advanced Grant. In addition to her research work, her fascinating lectures have introduced a wide public audience to the global significance of marine microbiological systems.

Polyglot specialist in National, European and International Law

Armin von Bogdandy is one of Germany’s most highly renowned experts in national, European and international law, whose scientific work is most notable for the breadth, depth and diversity of his research fields and interests. With an extensive background in law and philosophy and a gift for languages, in numerous publications he has addressed such topics as the role of the executive in the European legislative process, the nature in law of the European Union and the supranationalisation of national legal systems.

The work on “European Constitutional Law” edited by Armin von Bogdandy and the studies on “IusPublicumEuropaeum” authored by him jointly with leading researchers from across Europe are standard works. Professor Bogdandy’s research, however, is not limited to positive law. His interest also extends to the philosophical and historical bases of law, and not least also to its political and social implications. Current political and legal discussions on the subject of Europe are regularly influenced by his work on central concepts such as constitutionality, democracy, legitimacy and public authority.

Armin von Bogdandy (53) completed full legal training as well as studying philosophy in Freiburg and Berlin. After taking a doctorate in law in 1988 and researching briefly in Paris, Rome, Florence and Warwick, he gained a professorship qualification in 1996 at the Free University of Berlin. His first chair was at the University of Frankfurt am Main. Since 2002 Armin von Bogdandy has been a Director at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public and International Law in Heidelberg. In addition, since 2001 he has been a judge, and since 2006, President at the European Nuclear Energy Tribunal in Paris. From 2008 until 2013 Armin von Bogdandy was a member of the Scientific Committee of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights.

Difficult choice

“The Leibniz Prize is awarded by the German Research Foundation for first-class research in the truest sense," commented DFG President Peter Strohschneider. “And just like their predecessors in past years, the 2014 prize winners can claim outstanding achievements in a wide variety of knowledge-driven fields of research.” With so many exceptional nominees to choose from, selecting the prize winners was by no means an easy task. “Once again this year, without deviating from our highest standards, it would not have been difficult to award more than the maximum of ten prizes,” emphasized President Strohschneider.


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