The Max Planck Society met in Berlin

66th Annual Meeting with panel discussion with Chemistry Nobel Laureate Stefan Hell

June 16, 2015
On Wednesday, the Max Planck Society gathered in Berlin for its 66th Annual Meeting. In addition to the Directors of the Max Planck Institutes and the Society’s Supporting Members, the research organization’s major decision-making bodies also convened. The highlight of the two-day meeting was the Plenary Assembly on Thursday, which was attended by Johanna Wanka, Federal Minister for Education and Research, and Stefan Hell, the recently crowned Nobel Prize laureate.

At the start of the 66th Annual Meeting, Max Planck Director Lothar Willmitzer was presented with the Stifterverbandpreis 2015 on the Wednesday evening in the “Silberlaube” lecture theatre of Freie Universität Berlin. Every two years the Stifterverband für die deutsche Wissenschaft (Donors’ Association for the Promotion of the Sciences and Humanities in Germany) and the Max Planck Society honour basic research projects that have been successfully transferred to a field of application. Lothar Willmitzer, Director at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology in Potsdam-Golm, received the prize endowed with 50,000 euros for his work on plant metabolism. The resulting applications enable food crops to be provided with enhanced properties so that they possess more nutrients or produce higher yields.

Ralph Bock, Managing Director of this Max Planck Institute, delivered the speech in honour of his colleague, in which he also emphasized Willmitzer's work in various research policy committees and his willingness to mediate and in engage in controversial debates surrounding green gene technology. "I am very pleased that the Stifterverband has recognised a scientist and man known for his brilliant and innovative science, and at the same time an example for his profound commitment to the scientific community, science policy in this country, and for society on the whole."

The award was presented by Andreas Barner, Chairman of the Stifterverband, and Max Planck President Martin Stratmann. Before Willmitzer gave a lecture in which he outlined his research and its results, Stratmann had referred to the special quality of scientific prizes: "They honour personalities who have extended our knowledge of the world, whose success is based on decades of conscientious and stubborn work. Prizes do not only recognize past achievements, but also successful work in the present and future. Lothar Willmitzer is an excellent example." The host of the evening Peter-André Alt, President of the Free University of Berlin, was also among the speakers at the “Silberlaube” lecture theatre.

8th Annual Meeting in Berlin

The Max Planck Society held its Annual Meeting in Berlin for the eighth time. Around 700 guests from science, politics and business, including several Max Planck Nobel Prize winners, attended the event. “The Federal State of Berlin, with its three universities and the non-university research institutions, is a highly attractive location,” said Max Planck President Martin Stratmann. The five Max Planck Institutes are closely integrated into the local research networks, such as the Fritz Haber Institute in the “Unifying Concepts in Catalysis (UniCat)” Excellence Custer of the three Berlin universities and the University of Potsdam. Or the Max PIanck Institute for the History of Science, which, via the virtual Berlin Center for the History of Knowledge, cooperates with Freie Universität, Humboldt-Universität and TU Berlin to raise Berlin’s profile as a global hub in connection with science history. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics, the MPI for Infection Biology and the MPI for Human Development also work closely with other partners. “I am especially delighted that we were able to hold our Annual Meeting at the recently reopened Harnack House, our conference venue in Berlin-Dahlem. This building underscores the tradition and continued significance of Berlin as a location of international exchange between scientists,” said Stratmann.

Career paths to the Nobel Prize

The event also included meetings of the MPG’s governing bodies: In addition to the Sections, the Senate of the Max Planck Society met on the Thursday. The Members’ Meeting consisting of Scientific and Supporting Members also adopted the 2014 Annual Report. In addition to key information and facts, this also contains reports on current research: Günther Schlee, Director at the MPI for Social Anthropology in Halle, explains the development of the Al-Shabaab militant group in Somalia, Stefan Schaal, Director at the MPI for Intelligent Systems, outlines the latest status of research in robotics and Victor Sourjik, Director at the MPI for Terrestrial Microbiology, writes about the prospects of synthetic biology.

On Thursday evening, the Plenary Assembly took place in the Great Orangery at Charlottenburg Palace. Johanna Wanka, Federal Minister of Education and Research, and Michael Müller, Berlin’s governing mayor, l addressed the Assembly. President Martin Stratmann also welcomed the now 18 Nobel Prize laureates of the Max Planck Society. Stefan Hell, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen, reported on his research work relating to the development of STED microscopy as part of a podium discussion with the science journalist Ranga Yogeshwar. He also built a bridge to the present and discussed current issues regarding to the support of outstanding junior scientists in light of his own early career path. The President also focused on this topic in his speech on research policy.

About the Max Planck Society

Over 5,500 scientists and more than 7,600 doctoral students, graduates, student assistants and guest scientists conduct basic research in the natural, life and human sciences at Max Planck institutions, which currently number 83. The Max Planck Society was founded in 1948 as the successor organization to the Kaiser Wilhelm Society, which had existed since 1911. Since that time, 18 Nobel Prize laureates have emerged from its ranks. The Institutes are renowned internationally and attract leading researchers from all over the world. In addition to five Institutes abroad, the MPG operates a further 14 Max Planck Centers together with research institutions such as Princeton University in the USA, Science Po in France, University College London in the UK and the University of Tokyo in Japan. With the Federal Government and the Federal States each providing half of its funding, the Max Planck Society has a total annual budget of 1.6 billion euros.


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