Lise Meitner Groups

The Lise Meitner Excellence Programme: an important measure to attract and promote highly qualified female scientists.

Free scientific development, long-term career security and clear career prospects - these are the cornerstones of the Lise Meitner Excellence Program. As the number of applications in the previous tender rounds shows, this is an offer that is also attractive internationally. The candidates undergo a competitive selection process, conducted by a commission made up of national and international experts from various fields. 

Lise Meitner Group Leaders 2023

Nathalie Feiner

Dr. Nathalie Feiner

Lise Meitner group Evolutionary Diversification and Innovation
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, Plön, Germany
There is an extraordinary diversity of life on earth. Yet, a closer look reveals that some traits readily evolve time and again, while others seem difficult if not impossible to evolve. Nathalie Feiner and her team aim to unravel what makes biological systems evolvable. Using lizards as study systems, they take an integrative approach to decipher the developmental rules that underpin evolutionary diversification and the emergence of novel colours, patterns and shapes.
Flore Kunst

Dr. Flore Kunst

Lise Meitner Group Non-Hermitian topological phenomena
Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light, Erlangen, Germany
In my theory group, we study non-Hermitian topological phenomena. In particular, we investigate models that describe real-world setups, which explicitly take into account the effects of their surroundings. The lens through which these models are studied is that of condensed matter physics and topology, which is a branch of mathematics studying the properties of objects. It turns out that the environment can have a dramatic impact on the features of a system, and typically results in exotic phenomena far beyond conventional cases. The study of such setups is a new and exciting interdisciplinary research field with applications both in classical and quantum physics. In my group, we study open quantum systems, non-linear optical setups as well as quantum materials highly relevant for solid state physics.
Maria Sokolova

Dr. Maria Sokolova

Lise Meitner Group Bacteriophages
Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, Martinsried, Germany
Our research group focuses on studying the viruses of bacteria, called bacteriophages, which stand as the most abundant and diverse biological entity on our planet. Many enzymes, which are conserved in cellular organisms such as, for example, RNA polymerases, are not conserved in bacteriophages and therefore exhibit unique properties. Investigating the diversity of molecular machines and processes that have evolved in bacteriophages provides valuable insights into the evolution and offers a source of new biotechnological tools. Currently, our research is focused on understanding the mechanisms of transcription by unusual phage RNA polymerases, their coupling to the translocation of phage DNA into the host cell, and the mechanisms of the translation of phage genes.
Sofie Louise Valk

Dr. Sofie Louise Valk

Lise Meitner Group Cognitive Neurogenetics in a social context
Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany
How does the structure of the human brain support its functions? The answer to this question lies at the intersection of gene-environment interactions and a refined balance of stability and plasticity. The social environment may be particularly relevant due to the prolonged human neurodevelopment and the ongoing influence of social learning upon the human brain. Sofie Valk and her team combine insights from neuroscience, social psychology, evolutionary biology, and genetics and employ advanced computational techniques to connect biology and the mind across systems and scales.

Lise Meitner Group Leaders 2022

Heidi Collaren

Dr. Heidi Collaren

Lise Meitner Group BirthRites: Cultures of Reproduction
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany
The ways we construct and organize biological reproduction are at the heart of human social life. And the demographic outcomes of these structured cultural worlds in turn shape the contours of evolution. A century of anthropology has uncovered immense variation in the motivations and institutions regulating reproduction. We know almost nothing about how these features coevolve with demographic structures or how they scale up to generate macro demographic patterns. The aims of this interdisciplinary group are: to better understand the relationship between culture and demography in the past, present and future; to develop theoretical models of reproductive dynamics grounded in the field of cultural evolution, and to draw together research practices from the humanities and sciences.
Ulrike Kraft

Dr. Ulrike Kraft

Lise Meitner Group Organic Bioelectronics
Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research, Mainz, Germany
Electronics have evolved in only a few decades from being bulky and slow to becoming light-weight and an integral part of our daily lives in multiple ways. But how will future electronics look like? Ulrike Kraft and her team are investigating  a new class of flexible and stretchable organic electronic materials, specifically conducting polymers and their potential applications in electronic devices such as transistors and biosensors. Due to their printability on elastic substrates, mechanical flexibility, biocompatibility and softness (in compliance with biological tissues), these novel organic electronic materials and devices offer the potential of revolutionizing personalized medicine and health monitoring applications.
Prof. Dr. Anna-Maria Meister

Prof. Dr. Anna-Maria Meister

Lise Meitner Group Coded Objects
Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut, Florence, Italy
The design and distribution of information has gained increasing importance in global politics and economics. And yet, the formal and material implications of “codes” often remain unnoticed or unexamined —just as the reverse  impact of objects  on design processes  in our environments. We therefore propose to look at the space of coding not as abstract technology or remote activity, but at the cultural, social, and aesthetic programming of objects through design. What would it mean to take "Coded Objects" not as stable denominator of things, but as a methodological investigation of form-giving operations and the materiality of design? Taking "Coded Objects" as method of refraction, our multi-disciplinary research group will question any assumptions of "neutral" technology or immaterial bureaucracy. Instead, we seek to investigate how values are concretely shaped through aesthetic and material means , thereby unveiling uncomfortable friction and productive affinities necessary for our research to bear on the present.

Lise Meitner Group Leaders 2021

Dr. Francesca Borgo

Dr. Francesca Borgo

Lise Meitner Group Endangered objects: decay, loss and conservation in art history
Bibliotheca Hertziana – Max-Planck-Institut für Kunstgeschichte, Rome, Italy
We want artworks to last as long as possible. We safeguard them from natural decay, wars, vandalism. We study the original condition at the time of their creation, but we also know that changes are inevitable. Francesca Borgo and her group investigate what happens to ageing artefacts over time. To better understand the mechanics of decay and loss, they focus on how the physical instability of objects defines the way they are treated.
Dr. Babette Döbrich

Dr. Babette Döbrich

Lise Meitner Group In search of a new, light physics
Max Planck Institute for Physics, Munich, Germany
We still don’t know what the Dark Matter of the universe is made of. Presumably, novel types of elementary particles form this mysterious cosmic substance. Up until to now, it has only been possible to detect it indirectly through gravitation – the mutual attraction of masses. Babette Döbrich and her group are also involved in the worldwide search for a concrete trace of Dark Matter. They collaborate in experiments to discover new, light particles of which it might consist.
Dr. Claire Donnelly

Dr. Claire Donnelly

Lise Meitner Group Spin3D: three-dimensional magnetic systems
Max Planck Institute for Chemical Physics of Solids, Dresden, Germany
Magnets are omnipresent in our everyday lives: they have a key role to play in energy generation and data processing. Yet the physics of magnets and the search for how to harness them beyond known applications remain mostly two-dimensional. Claire Donnelly and her group are applying new techniques to push into the third dimension. With their 3D experiments, they seek to lay the foundations for more environment-friendly and more powerful magnetic devices.
Dr. Lisa Fenk

Dr. Lisa Fenk

Lise Meitner Group Active Sensing
Max Planck Institute for Biological Intelligence, Martinsried, Germany
Our eyes are constantly on the move. However, we rarely take note of this consciously because the brain partially suppresses visual perception as these movements occur. Lisa Fenk and her team are seeking to understand how the brain filters visual features as relevant (or irrelevant), thereby determining what we actively and consciously see. They use fruit flies as a model organism: these can move their retina via tiny muscles, and the resulting eye movements are surprisingly similar to our own.
Dr. Andrea Martin

Dr. Andrea Martin

Lise Meitner Group Language and Computation in Neural Systems
Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, Netherlands
Are we humans still superior to artificial intelligence? In the field of language and its processing, this is clearly the case. Only human beings can understand and name things they have never heard of before. Our stored linguistic knowledge in our brains goes far beyond learned knowledge and distributional information gained from experience. Andrea Martin and her group are investigating how the brain can store and use both structured and statistical linguistic information.
Dr. Marieke Oudelaar

Dr. Marieke Oudelaar

Lise Meitner Group Genome organization and regulation
Max Planck Institute for Multidisciplinary Sciences, Göttingen, Germany
The ability of cells to precisely regulate the activity of their genes enables the development of complex organisms with hundreds of specialized cell types which all share the same DNA sequence. In her research, Marieke Oudelaar investigates the molecular mechanisms by which gene activity is regulated during development. In particular, her group focusses on the spatial organization of the DNA within cells and how the resulting 3D structures are related to the activity of the genes they contain.
Dr. Yuko Ulrich

Dr. Yuko Ulrich

Lise Meitner Group Social Behaviour
Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Jena, Germany
Living in groups comes with both advantages and disadvantages. For example, group-living enables division of labor, which can increase efficiency; on the other hand, it can facilitate the spread of infectous diseases. Yuko Ulrich and her team are investigating the causes and consequences of social behavior, and whether there may actually be forms of social organisation that can reduce disease transmission, using ants as an experimental system.

Lise Meitner Group Leaders 2020

Anna Ahlers

Dr. Anna Ahlers

Lise Meitner Group China in the Global System of Science
Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, Germany
China has become the world’s largest producer of scientific articles and a fast climber in global university rankings. The Chinese government is promoting this rise, differentiating strongly between the natural and the social sciences, and aiming at a political control of science. Anna Ahlers will elaborate a sociology of science with her research group that focusses on the political regime and societal values as environmental factors for science in China and for the global system of science.
Aneta Koseska

PD Dr. Aneta Koseska

Lise Meitner Group Cellular computations and learning
Max Planck Institute for Neurobiology of Behavior - caesar, Bonn, Germany
Cells process information in real-time and respond to combination of chemical signals that vary both in space and time. Such information processing dynamically resembles the sensory computations of the neural microcircuits in the cerebral cortex. Aneta Koseska wants to develop a generic theory of computations and learning on the level of biochemical networks in single cells.
Lydia Luncz

Dr. Lydia Luncz

Lise Meitner Group Technological Primates
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig
Tool use paved the way for human development in an evolutionary trajectory. Surprisingly, very little is known regarding the origin and evolution of human tool use. Lydia Luncz studies non-human primates as a model for potential tool behaviour of early hominins. Comparisons between species help to expand our knowledge regarding the adaptive significance of tool use and substantially further our understanding of the cultural and behavioral evolution of humans.
Constanze Neumann

Dr. Constanze Neumann

Lise Meitner Group Metal-Organic Framework and Nanoparticle Catalysis
Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung, Mülheim / Ruhr, Germany
The research topics in my group are clustered around problems that, if solved, would either enable or significantly improve the sustainable production of vital resources. The design of a catalyst that can selectively activate a stronger bond in the presence of a weaker bond, or the development of a catalyst support material that can direct the course of a chemical transformation would enable more straight-forward synthetic routes to important commodity products.
Nadine Neumayer
Lise Meitner Group Galactic nuclei
Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, Heidelberg, Germany
Nadine Neumayer and her research group are investigating the role black holes play in the evolution of galaxies. At what point in the development of a galaxy and under what conditions is a massive black hole formed? Do all galaxies have a central black hole? To answer these questions, she systematically studies those galaxies that are still in an early stage of development. The findings provide insights into how galaxies evolve and how matter is distributed in the universe. more
Silvia Portugal

Dr. Silvia Portugal

Lise Meitner Group Malaria parasite biology
Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology, Berlin
In many malaria endemic regions, mosquitoes are absent for several months. Biologist Silvia Portugal seeks to identify central molecular mechanisms that regulate parasite virulence seasonally, and enable several months of subclinical parasite persistence which will allow resuming transmission upon mosquitoes return.
Arunima Ray

Dr. Arunima Ray

Lise Meitner Group Knot theory and low-dimensional topology
Max Planck Institute for Mathematics, Bonn
Topology is the study of spaces of arbitrary dimensions and their properties. For example, the surface of a ball is a two-dimensional manifold, while a circle is a one-dimensional manifold. Three- and four-dimensional manifolds are more abstract and difficult to visualise directly. Remarkably, they can be precisely described and studied using knotted loops in three-dimensional Euclidean space. Arunima Ray’s research aims to further understand this correspondence, specifically with respect to topological and smooth structures.
Edda Schulz
Lise Meitner Group Systems Epigenetics
Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics, Berlin, Germany
In mammals, a single genome carries information on how to generate many different cell types. Edda Schulz will make use of recently developed methods based on the CRISPR system that now allow us to precisely modify specific genes or genomic elements in a high-throughput fashion. Combined with a series of theoretical and computational approaches we can now start to tackle the complexities of genome regulation. more
Simona Vegetti

Dr. Simona Vegetti

Lise Meitner Group Gravitational lensing and its astrophysical applications
Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics, Garching, Germany
Simona Vegetti will use strong gravitational lensing observations to measure the abundance and structural properties of dark matter haloes and thereby provide clean observational constraints on the nature of dark matter. She will also measure the physical properties of high-redshift lensed galaxies to study star formation and feedback processes at cosmologically-interesting epochs on sub-kpc scales.

Lise Meitner Group Leaders 2019

Maria Bergemann

Dr. Maria Bergemann

Lise Meitner Group Astrophysical spectroscopy and cosmic nucleogenesis
Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, Heidelberg
Spectroscopy is a standard technique that is used in physics, chemistry and technology. Maria Bergemann has succeeded in advancing astrophysical spectroscopy in her research to date by developing new models of radiation transfer in stellar atmospheres. Using an interdisciplinary research approach, the astrophysicist is now seeking to generate new intelligent methods for pattern recognition from stellar spectra, in order to provide new constraints on the origin of chemical elements and on the evolution of our Milky Way galaxy.
Gesa Hartwigsen

Dr Gesa Hartwigsen

Lise Meitner Group Cognition and Plasticity
Max Planck Institute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany
For a long time, the adult brain was regarded as unchangeable. This was until neuroscientists found out that synapses, nerve cells and even entire brain sections were indeed capable of selective alteration during a person’s lifetime. Psychologist Gesa Hartwigsen seeks to identify central mechanisms of this neuroplasticity, for example, when acquiring new cognitive skills or compensating for brain lesions such as after a stroke.
Meritxell Huch

Meritxell Huch, PhD

Lise Meitner Group Principles of stem cell maintenance and tissue regeneration, organoid cultures and disease modelling
Max Planck Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Dresden
Meritxell Huch conducts research into organoid cultures. Based on her previous findings on the contribution of liver and pancreatic cells to the regeneration of adult tissue, the pharmacologist has now set herself the following goal: she wants to identify the underlying biological mechanisms involved in tissue regeneration and carcinogenesis.
Simone Kühn

Prof Dr Simone Kühn

Lise Meitner Group Environmental Neurosciences
Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, Germany
What effects does the physical environment have on the brain, behaviour and health? This is the question addressed by Simone Kühn. Her particular focus is on neuronal mechanisms – both in urban life and in extreme environments such as the Antarctic. The aim is to derive measures that sustainably enhance human well-being.
Mariana Rossi

Dr Mariana Rossi

Lise Meitner Group Simulations from ab initio approaches: Structure and dynamics from quantum mechanics
Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter, Hamburg, Germany
Mariana Rossi aims to develop a new framework for the investigation of realistic bioorganic/inorganic systems with unprecedented resolution and accuracy, joining first principles of quantum mechanics for electrons and nuclei with different machine learning methods aimed at accelerating calculations. One of her main goals is to be able to predict not just structure, but also nuclear and electronic response properties of matter composed by inorganic and organic components
Eleanor Scerri

Dr Eleanor Scerri

Lise Meitner Group Pan-African Evolution
Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena, Germany
Archaeologist Eleanor Scerri and her team are studying human evolution and demography in Africa and South-West Asia. She combines field projects with various approaches from archaeology, genetics, biogeography and climate sciences. One particular focus of her work is West Africa, one of the least understood regions of the continent with regard to human evolution.
Laura G. Spitler

Laura G. Spitler, PhD

Lise Meitner Group Universal Census of Ionized Media with Radio Bursts
Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy, Bonn, Germany
Astronomer Laura Spitler’s research focuses on Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs). These include short, one-off bursts of radio radiation that last a few milliseconds at (presumably) extragalactic distances. Now Spitler aims to investigate the potential of FRBs as probes for extragalactic plasmas.
Dr Daniela Vallentin

Dr Daniela Vallentin

Lise Meitner Group Neural circuits for vocal communication
Max Planck Institute for Biological Intelligence, Seewiesen, Germany
Whether riding a bicycle, sewing a seam or whistling a pure tone – most movements are perceived as effortless. Daniela Vallentin knows that this is not the case: using songbirds as an example, the neuroscientist investigates neuronal circuits that form the basis of their learning and the generation of their complex vocal behaviour.
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