UniversityLautenschläger Research Prize Goes to Christine Selhuber-Unkel

Press Release No. 74/2023
16 June 2023

Award endowed with 250,000 euros – Victoria Ingham to receive junior researcher prize

An internationally outstanding representative of the extremely innovative research field “Molecular Systems Engineering”, physicist Prof. Dr Christine Selhuber-Unkel, is to receive the Lautenschläger Research Prize for 2023. The prize winner from the Faculty of Engineering Sciences at Heidelberg University conducts research at the interface of materials science and biophysics on biohybrid life-inspired microsystems. The award comes with prize money of 250,000 euros. Dr h.c. Manfred Lautenschläger, the sponsor of the prize and Honorary Senator of Ruperto Carola, has also established a prize for outstanding early-career researchers. This award, endowed with 25,000 euros, goes to biologist Dr Victoria Ingham. At the Centre for Infectious Diseases of Heidelberg University Hospital, she investigates whether, and if so, to what extent an increasing burden of insecticides and rising insecticide resistance impact on the development of the malaria pathogen and its transmission to humans. The award ceremony of the most highly endowed research prize from a private donor in Germany takes place on 22 June 2023.

Prize-winner Christine Selhuber-Unkel

With her research studies, Prof. Selhuber-Unkel pursues the aim of linking synthetic systems from molecular components with living cells. If the cells can be made to transfer their forces and motion to the artificial structures, “living materials” can emerge. These biohybrid, life-inspired microsystems would be independent of external energy sources. Prof. Selhuber-Unkel’s vision is the development of self-regulating bio-tech hybrids, whose functionality extends far beyond the present, purely technical systems. “Prof. Selhuber-Unkel’s studies are characterised by highly innovative and original approaches with the potential for a technological revolution,” according to the statement of reasons for awarding the prize. Christine Selhuber-Unkel – a scientist at the newly founded Faculty of Engineering Sciences – is the founding director of the Institute for Molecular Systems Engineering and Advanced Materials (IMSEAM) of Heidelberg University.

After studying physics in Heidelberg and Uppsala (Sweden) Christine Selhuber-Unkel earned her doctorate at Heidelberg University in 2006 and then worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen (Denmark). In 2010, as a junior professor, she transferred to the Department of Material Science at Kiel University, where she led an Emmy Noether junior research group. The following year, she was appointed Professor of Biocompatible Nanomaterials in Kiel. In July 2020, she accepted a Professorship for Molecular Systems Engineering at Heidelberg University. Before that she spent fairly long research periods abroad with a Feodor Lynen Research Fellowship of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York (USA). The scientist has acquired several highly endowed research grants, for example from the European Research Council (ERC), most recently an ERC Consolidator Grant (2020).

Porträt Christine Selhuber-Unkel

Prize-winner Victoria Ingham

This year’s junior researcher prize goes to someone who, with her studies on insecticide resistance with medically relevant vectors, breaks scientific new ground in a dynamic field of research. At the Medical Faculty Heidelberg of Heidelberg University and at the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF), Dr Ingham heads the junior research group on translational malaria research. In the Parasitology Unit of the Centre for Infectious Diseases, she studies how using insecticides for malaria control and a spreading resistance to such chemicals influences the Anopheles mosquito – the most common host of the malaria pathogen. In particular, she examines their influence on the ability to transfer the malaria parasite to human beings.

Victoria Ingham studied biological sciences at the University of Oxford (UK) and earned a master’s degree in systems biology at the University of Warwick, where she received her doctorate in 2016. After doing research for her thesis at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine she stayed on there as a postdoc, interrupted by visits to the T.H. Chan School of Public Health of Harvard University (USA). Since 2021, Dr Ingham has been working at Heidelberg University Hospital and the DZIF. The European Research Council is funding her research with an ERC Starting Grant.

Porträt Victoria Ingham

Lautenschläger Research Prize

Worth 250,000 euros, the Lautenschläger Research Prize is awarded every two years for special accomplishments in leading-edge research. The distinction is intended to honour scientists from Heidelberg University as well as other national and international researchers with special ties to Ruperto Carola through scientific cooperation. Entrepreneur Manfred Lautenschläger established the award in 2001 to foster outstanding researchers who are actively engaged in advancing the discovery process. An interdisciplinary board of internationally connected scientists selects the potential prize recipients, who can be nominated for the Lautenschläger Research Prize from any discipline.

Lautenschläger Junior Researcher Prize

The first junior researcher prize was awarded in 2018. Eligible for selection are habilitation candidates, junior research group leaders or junior professors who can show outstanding scientific achievement and particularly innovative research approaches. The prize money helps to promote these young researchers in their personal scientific development and to support their research activity.

Award Ceremony

Prof. Dr Bernhard Eitel, Rector of Heidelberg University, will open the festive award ceremony. Then the prize-winners for 2020/2021 – neuroscientist Prof. Dr Hannah Monyer and Junior Professor Dr Felix Joos from theoretical computer science – will talk about their work. The presentation of this year’s awards will be followed by a scientific discussion with the prize winners and participation by Prof. Dr Peer Fischer (Molecular Systems Engineering), Prof. Dr Michael Lanzer (Parasitology) and Prof. Dr Ulrich Schwarz (Theoretical Physics). Markus Brock will serve as moderator. Prize sponsor Manfred Lautenschläger will conclude the event with his address.

Note for newsrooms

The award ceremony for the Manfred Lautenschläger Research Prize takes place on 22 June 2023 in the Great Hall of the Old University, beginning at 5pm. Media representatives are warmly invited to attend and report. Registration by email to presse@rektorat.uni-heidelberg.de is requested.