Original, Innovative, and Internationally Recognized

16 August 2023

This year, Prof. Astrid Lambrecht, Chair of the Board of Directors, was able to award Forschungszentrum Jülich’s Excellence Prize to three outstanding young researchers. Dr. Iulia Cojocariu, Dr. Alexander van Meegen, and Dr. Moritz L. Weber accepted the award, which is endowed with € 5,000 each, on Saturday, 12 August 2023, during this year’s JuDocs Ceremony.

“This year’s Jülich Excellence Prize honours the achievements of Dr. Iulia Cojocariu, Dr. Alexander van Meegen, and Dr. Moritz L. Weber – three young scientists in the fields of materials and energy research as well as neuroscience. Their theses impressed the jury with their originality, innovative approach, and international recognition in the scientific community,” explained Prof. Astrid Lambrecht.

The new Chair of the Board of Directors emphasized: “Forschungszentrum Jülich’s ongoing efforts to promote early-career scientists, attract young talent to Jülich, and further improve their research and working conditions will be one of the cornerstones of my agenda as Chair of the Board of Directors and a shared objective of the Board of Directors. It is therefore a particular pleasure that one of my first official acts is to award the Excellence Prize to three young colleagues who are already clearly demonstrating that excellent research is being carried out at Forschungszentrum Jülich on important topics of the future.”

Forschungszentrum Jülich has been awarding the Excellence Prize since 2009 to young, internationally successful scientists for their outstanding doctoral theses (the main parts of which were written at Jülich) as well as their excellent achievements during the early postdoc phase. This must be endorsed by a high-ranking committee of four internal and four external professors as well as written external expert opinions. The three honorees this year bring the total number of award winners to 41.

Originell, innovativ und international anerkannt
Excellent scientists: (from left) Alexander van Meegen, Iulia Cjocariu, and Morutz L. Weber
Forschungszentrum Jülich / Ralf-Uwe Limbach

The winners of the 2023 Excellence Prize

Dr. Iulia Cojocariu
Dr. Iulia Cojocariu, an Italian scientist with Romanian roots, studied chemistry in her hometown of Rome. For her doctoral thesis at Jülich’s Peter Grünberg Institute – Electronic Properties, she researched two-dimensional materials – metal-organic overlayers interfaced with coinage supports – while working at the NanoESCA beamline in Trieste. The young scientist selectively functionalized these interfaces, modifying the electrical and magnetic properties. These “smart” materials might serve as electrical components or sensors in future.

In awarding her the Excellence Prize, the jury particularly recognized the originality of Dr. Cojocariu’s work as well as the high quality and extensive scientific output of her research. For this, she also received the Helmholtz Doctoral Prize this year. The young scientist is now continuing her investigations into this topic as a postdoc at the synchrotron light source (Elettra Sincrotrone Trieste) in Trieste.”

Dr. Alexander van Meegen
Dr. Alexander van Meegen’s research focuses on how the brain processes information. The 32-year-old physicist completed his doctorate at Jülich’s Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine – Computational and Systems Neuroscience. In his doctoral thesis, the researcher focused on information processing in computational neuroscience. He used methods from statistical physics to study the vast, dynamic network in our heads to gain a better understanding of how the billions of brain cells work together.

The jury was impressed by the original and creative approach to the young scientist’s work. His outstanding doctoral thesis helped him to obtain a prestigious Swartz fellowship at the Center for Brain Science at Harvard University in Boston, USA, where he will now use similar methods to investigate how, for example, the artificial neural networks of artificial intelligences work.

Dr. Moritz L. Weber
The energy supply needs to become “green” – and hydrogen as an energy carrier is an important component in this regard. Electrolyzers that split water into hydrogen and oxygen are therefore required. This is where the now award-winning research of Dr. Moritz L. Weber comes into play. The scientist developed materials with sophisticated surface structures for low-cost, high-performance catalysts during his doctoral thesis at the Peter Grünberg Institute – Electronic Materials and the Institute of Energy and Climate Research – Materials Synthesis and Processing.

In awarding him the prize, the jury paid tribute to the broad range of Dr. Weber’s scientific findings. The 31-year-old researcher, who studied chemistry, returned this summer from his one-year postdoctoral fellowship at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the USA. The young scientist is now seeking new challenges abroad.

Photo Gallery of the JuDocs-Ceremony 2023 on the website of Forschungszentrum Jülich


Erhard Zeiss

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Last Modified: 16.08.2023