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Leibniz Winners Named

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BONN, Germany, Dec. 14, 2006 -- A theoretical physicist, a materials science expert and an astrophysicist will each receive 2.5 million euros (approximately $3.2 million) as winners of the 2007 Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize, Germany's most highly endowed research award. The winners were announced by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation, DFG) at its meeting last week.

Out of 129 nominations, the DFG Joint Committee named 10 scientists and academics -- eight men and two women -- as Leibniz Prize recipients for 2007. For the first time, the winners will receive up to 2.5 million euros (formerly 1.55 million euros, or $2 million) and be able to use the money over a period of seven years -- increased from five years -- to finance their research.

The Leibniz Programme, established in 1985, aims to improve the working conditions of outstanding researchers, expand their research opportunities, relieve them of administrative duties and make it easier for them to employ qualified young researchers. Scientists and academics from any research area can be nominated for the prize. The DFG Nominations Committee said it selects researchers who it thinks will particularly advance their scientific achievements through this award.

Professor Patrick Bruno, PhD, of the Max Planck Institute of Microstructure Physics in Halle, Germany, can use his award to fund his work on theoretical solid-state physics, especially the theory of magnetism in low-dimensional systems and in nanostructures. In a statement announcing the awards, the DFG said Bruno's microscopic explanation of special exchange interactions in ferromagnetic layered systems ("interlayer exchange coupling") is "already a staple of modern textbooks on solid-state physics."

Bruno analyzed several magnetic effects in quantum mechanics (Casimir effect, spin Hall effect) and examined the role of Berry phases in anisotropic ferromagnets. "In doing so, he often elucidated new aspects of standard theories. The scope of his knowledge, which spans the entire field of theoretical solid-state physics, is especially evident in numerous overview articles he published about hot topics such as the spin polarization of nanostructures, quantum nanomagnets and magnetic semiconductors," the DFG said.

Bruno has been a scientific member of the Max Planck Society and a director at the Max Planck Institute of Microstructure Physics since 1998. In 1999 he was appointed honorary professor at  Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg.

Materials science professor Peter Gumbsch, PhD, head of the Institute for Reliability of Components and Systems (IZBS) at the University of Karlsruhe and director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials (IWM) in Freiburg and Halle, specializes in the mechanics of materials. In addition to his research on deformation in thin films, he has focused on the dynamics of deformation processes and the dislocations underlying deformation (irregularities in the lattice structure of solid materials) at high velocities.

Gumbsch has also analyzed the elementary mechanisms of fracture. Using atomistic investigations and the first serious quantum-mechanical calculations of brittle fracture behavior, he expanded the thermodynamic model that had been the textbook standard with important insights into the breaking of atomic bonds, the DFG said.

Astrophysicist Guinevere Kauffmann, PhD, of the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Garching, can use her award to fund her continuing research into the evolution of galaxies. She has demonstrated how dark matter structures can serve as a framework to construct an evolutionary model for the entire galaxy.

"Her work shows how this evolutionary model can be included in computer simulations of the cosmic structure. Furthermore, she was the first to consider the growth of supermassive black holes in such models, allowing studies of the connection between the growth of black holes and their host galaxies. She demonstrated that one can obtain realistic stellar masses for almost all galaxies," the DFG said. Kauffmann has worked at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics since 1996 and has been a research group leader since 2003.

Other Leibniz Award recipients for 2007 include: mineralogy and petrology professor Falko Langenhorst, Institute of Geosciences, University of Jena; endocrinologist and professor Jens Claus Brüning, Institute for Genetics, University of Cologne; neuroscience professor Magdalena Götz, National Research Center for Environment and Health, Institute of Stem Cell Research, Neuherberg and the Department of Physiology, Ludwig-Maximilians University, Munich; paleoclimatology professor Gerald Haug, Department of Geodynamics, GeoForschungsZentrum, Potsdam, and the Department of Geosciences, University of Potsdam; medieval history professor Bernhard Jussen, Faculty of History, Philosophy and Theology, University of Bielefeld; classical philology professor Oliver Primavesi, Department of Classical Philology, Ludwig-Maximilians University, Munich; and professor Detlef Weigel, Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, Tübingen.

The award presentation ceremony will take place on March 13, 2007, at 3 p.m. at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Berlin. The prizes will be awarded by the new president of the DFG, professor Matthias Kleiner.

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Dec 2006
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