HMLS Investigator Award for Prof. Dr. Jochen Wittbrodt and Dr. Ernst Stelzer
This evening, developmental biologist Prof. Dr. Jochen Wittbrodt of Heidelberg University and biophysicist Dr. Ernst Stelzer of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) will receive the Heidelberg Molecular Life Sciences (HMLS) Investigator Award for their pioneering work on the microscopic representation of crucial stages in embryonic development. The HMLS research award is endowed with 200,000 euros and is awarded jointly by the Faculty of Biosciences, the Medicine Faculty of Heidelberg, the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research, the German Cancer Research Centre and the EMBL. The HMLS initiative is part of the Institutional Strategy by which Heidelberg University receives funding within the framework of the Excellence Initiative.
In their research, Professor Wittbrodt and Dr. Stelzer have used their expert knowledge of digital laser microscopy to investigate central issues involved in the development of organisms. In so doing, they have developed an entirely new means of seeing cell migration in fish embryos. With a microscope designed specifically for this purpose, even very fast and complex processes can now be represented three-dimensionally. The films produced in this way are available online for perusal by researchers and laypersons alike. In announcing the selection of Prof. Wittbrodt and Dr. Stelzer, the HMLS awards committee praised the scientists’ work as evidence of the outstanding quality of joint research in Heidelberg achieved by transcending traditional disciplinary and institutional boundaries.
Jochen Wittbrodt is professor of molecular developmental biology and physiology at Heidelberg University’s Institute of Zoology and a member of the Cluster of Excellence Cellular Networks. His work investigates early embryonic processes leading to the formation of fully-grown fish. Important stages in this process are correct cell multiplication and the migration of cells to their final destinations. These developmental processes are not restricted to fish, but are found also in other organisms. The same basic principles are operative in crucial processes observable in human development.
Physicist Ernst Stelzer has worked at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory EMBL since 1987 and is one of the non extra-university members of the Cluster of Excellence. He has headed an EMBL research group in the field of cell biology and biophysics since 1989. One of his main research interests is the use of nanotechnologies in the investigation of biological processes. A central concern of this work is the improvement of microscopy, both in terms of microscope performance and in connection with the development of contact-free methods for use in biology.