Ambassadors for Forschungszentrum Jülich
Excellence Prize awarded to four of Jülich’s early-career scientists
Jülich, 26 June 2018 – Dr. Barbara Gold, Dr. Maria Żurek, Dr. David Dahmen, and Dr. Nicolai Kallscheuer are the winners of this year’s Excellence Prize of Forschungszentrum Jülich. The four early-career scientists received the award, which is endowed with € 5,000, last Saturday during this year’s ceremony honouring Jülich’s successful doctoral researchers.
Forschungszentrum Jülich has been awarding the distinction since 2009. It is based on an outstanding doctoral thesis, the main parts of which were written at Jülich, combined with excellent achievements during the subsequent postdoc phase of up to two years. This year’s winners conduct their research in the fields of particle physics, biotechnology, brain research, as well as neutron scattering and soft matter.
In addition to awarding the Excellence Prizes, Forschungszentrum Jülich honoured a total of 44 doctoral researchers at the 2018 JuDocs event. “They will now go out into the world as ambassadors – for Forschungszentrum Jülich and its unique multidisciplinary environment, but also for science as a whole,” said Prof. Wolfgang Marquardt, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Forschungszentrum Jülich, in his welcome address. He went on to remark that science is currently facing a crisis of trust and stressed that “scientists from Jülich and other research establishments and universities now have an even greater responsibility”. In his view, their scientific research helps society to recognize the significance of verifiable knowledge.
In 2017, a total of 1,048 doctoral researchers from 66 countries were supervised at Forschungszentrum Jülich.
Winners of the 2018 Excellence Prize
Dr. Barbara Gold
Dr. Barbara Gold conducted her research at Jülich’s subinstitute for Neutron Scattering, where her work focused on a relatively new area of polymer chemistry and physics: supramolecular polymers. The polymer chains in these polymers are not bound together by permanent bonds like they are in conventional elastomers – rubber – but by temporary bonds such as hydrogen bridges. They can be broken by mechanical or thermal stress and can bond again when relaxing or cooling down. Plastics thus gain special mechanical properties; they are both stable and flexible under stress, which is advantageous in many fields of medical and sensor technology. During her doctorate, the young scientist, who now works at ETH Zurich, successfully attributed the mechanical behaviour of such materials to the underlying microscopic processes – an important aspect for the development of tailored plastic materials.
Dr. Maria Żurek
Physicist Dr. Maria Żurek’s research is focused on one of the fundamental questions of modern-day science: why is the universe the way it is? Answers to this question may lie in the symmetries present in the world of elementary particles. Using Jülich’s particle accelerator COSY for an experiment, Żurek investigated a symmetry violation occurring in nature due to the different masses of quarks, the smallest particles. The results of her work permit an insight into the effects of quark masses on those of nucleons, which are made up of quarks.
Dr. David Dahmen
State-of-the-art electrodes permit brain signals from individual cells as well as large-area networks to be monitored simultaneously. As part of his work at Jülich’s Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine – Computational and Systems Neuroscience, Dr. David Dahmen researches how these signals are interconnected: he combines the mathematical modelling of neuronal networks and their efficient simulation on high-performance computers with theoretical methods of statistical physics. In this way, fundamental structural mechanisms of communication between nerve cells/networks and the cerebral cortex can be revealed – a major step towards a better understanding of how the brain functions.
Dr. Nicolai Kallscheuer
Dr. Nicolai Kallscheuer impressed the panel with his research project addressing the biotechnological production of polyphenols from bacteria. Polyphenols are bioactive plant compounds which have positive effects on human health. A more detailed analysis of these effects, however, requires access to larger amounts of individual polyphenols. Isolating them from plant material is technically complicated due to their low natural concentrations, and is therefore usually not profitable. At the Institute of Bio- and Geosciences – Biotechnology, Kallscheuer investigates plant biosynthesis pathways which are then transferred into the industrially used Corynebacterium glutamicum as an alternative source. This would permit larger amounts of polyphenols to be produced without being dependent on plants.
Erhard Zeiss, Press officer
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