Lautenschläger Research PrizeTrust in Science: Prize Money for Their own Ideas

10 May 2021

Prize-giving ceremony: Lautenschläger Research Prize awarded to Hannah Monyer and junior researcher prize to Felix Joos

Heidelberg neurobiologist Prof. Dr Hannah Monyer, an internationally renowned expert in the field of brain research, has been honoured with the Lautenschläger Research Prize for 2020/2021. Dr h.c. Manfred Lautenschläger, the award sponsor and an Honorary Senator of Heidelberg University, also donates a prize for outstanding junior researchers. This prize went to junior professor Dr Felix Joos, who is among the most promising talents internationally in the fields of theoretical computer science and discrete mathematics. The award ceremony was planned for December last year but had to be postponed owing to the provisions of the coronavirus ordinance. The festive presentation took place on 7 May 2021 as a virtual event, open to the public and was livestreamed from the Great Hall of the Old University.

Lautenschläger-Forschungspreise 2020/2021

In his words of welcome, Prof. Dr Bernhard Eitel, Rector of Heidelberg University, paid tribute to the special commitment of the award sponsor. With his Research Prize he had created an “enabling prize”, the Rector said, by not tying the funding to his own ideas. Instead, Manfred Lautenschläger was enabling the researchers to realize their own ideas, for which they would otherwise find it hard to receive support. “That way he proves his extraordinary trust in science, in the scientists – a trust that reaches far into society,” Prof. Eitel stated.

Dr Johannes Schemmel from the Kirchhoff-Institute for Physics then reported on the research of the working group “Electronic Vision(s)” which continues the studies initiated by experimental physicist Prof. Dr Karlheinz Meier. Prof. Meier was awarded the Lautenschläger Research Prize posthumously in 2018. Dr Claudia Backes from the Institute for Physical Chemistry, winner of the 2018 junior researcher prize, had to withdraw from the event at short notice. The research work of the 2020/2021 prize winners was the topic of a scientific conversation moderated by Markus Brock, with Hannah Monyer and Felix Joos accompanied by their presenters, neurophysiologist Prof. Dr Andreas Draguhn and Prof. Dr Johannes Walcher from mathematical physics.

Patron and award sponsor Manfred Lautenschläger addressed the two prize-winners with the advice: “Take the money and work with it.” He said he would not check on how and for what they used the prize money for their research. “Verification is good but trust is better,” he said, in reference to the Rector’s speech. Worth 250,000 euros, the Lautenschläger Research Prize for special accomplishments in leading-edge research is the most highly endowed privately sponsored research prize in Germany. Established in 2001, it is awarded every two years and goes to scientists from Heidelberg University as well as researchers from Germany and abroad with special ties to Ruperto Carola through scientific cooperation. The junior researcher prize was first awarded in 2018. The prize money of 25,000 euros serves to promote young researchers in their personal scientific development and support them in their research activity.

Since 1999 Prof. Monyer has been Medical Director of the Division of Clinical Neurobiology at Heidelberg University Hospital – a cooperational division of the Medical Faculty Heidelberg, Heidelberg University, and the German Cancer Research Center. Felix Joos joined Heidelberg University’s Institute for Computer Science in March of last year as a junior professor. Since 2019, he has headed a research group that is also funded by the Emmy Noether Programme of the German Research Foundation.