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3 July 2002

Alfried Krupp Research Award for Heidelberg Scientist Prof. Dr. Joachim P. Spatz

One of the most generously endowed awards for younger scientists (Euro 500,000) goes to Heidelberg professor of biophysical chemistry — Rector Prof. Dr. Peter Hommelhoff: Award a major fillip for a focal research area in chemistry at the University of Heidelberg

This year, one of Germany's most coveted awards goes to the Heidelberg scientist Prof. Dr. Joachim P. Spatz: the Alfried Krupp Research Award 2002, endowed with Euro 500,000. Spatz, professor of biophysical chemistry at the University of Heidelberg, is one of three recipients of this year's research prize for young scientists donated by the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach Foundation. Rector Prof. Dr. Peter Hommelhoff was one of the first to offer his congratulations: "The University of Heidelberg is fortunate indeed to have Professor Spatz doing his research and teaching here," he said, adding that the prestigious Alfried Krupp Award would act as a fillip for a focal research area in chemistry at the University and "underline its international significance." Only a few days before, the German Research Council had approved a new Long-Term Cooperative Research Project in chemistry for Heidelberg.

Chemistry dean Prof. Dr. Rüdiger N. Lichtenthaler also expressed his gratification. This, he said, is the third time the Faculty of Chemistry has received the Alfried Krupp Research Award, once for physical chemistry, once for inorganic and once for organic chemistry: "A visible token of the broad spectrum covered by our Faculty."

Speaking on behalf of the Institute of Physical Chemistry, Prof. Dr. Michael Grunze remarked that this generously endowed award was not only a richly merited distinction for the "outstanding and groundbreaking research work" Professor Spatz has done, it also gave him the necessary financial scope to enlarge his research activities in Heidelberg and cultivate his extremely successful international collaboration contacts.

No fewer than 48 outstanding candidates from 45 different fields in engineering and the national sciences were proposed to the Foundation. The laureates finally selected were (alongside Prof. Spatz) biologist Prof. Dr. Stefanie Dimmeler of the University of Frankfurt/Main and geologist Prof. Dr. Gregor Markl of the University of Tübingen. With their prize monies of Euro 500,000 apiece, they can now pursue their research work independently of public funding, expanding their research groups and creating a better-equipped environment for their research and teaching activities.

Groundbreaking new nanostructuring methods

Professor Spatz is 32 years old and can already look back on a career of outstanding scientific achievement. He completed his physics studies at the University of Ulm with distinction. He wrote his diploma thesis at the Colorado State University, subsequently spending some months at the Texas Center of Superconductivity at the University of Houston. After only 2 ¼ years he completed his doctoral studies with distinction at the Chair of Organic and Macromolecular Chemistry, University of Ulm (supervisor: Prof. Martin Möller). In the course of his postgraduate studies he developed pioneering new nanostructuring methods now used worldwide in the production of nanostructured surfaces. As a post-doc, Joachim P. Spatz divided his time between the Department of Organic and Macromolecular Chemistry at the University of Ulm and — thanks to a German Research Council grant — the Institut Curie, working there with Prof. Dr. Jacques Prost. It was here that he took a keen interest in biophysical issues, investigating them further in his present post as professor of biophysical chemistry in Heidelberg. Spatz has received many distinctions for his work, among them the German Research Council's Gerhard Hess Award in January 2000.

Quantifying the formation of carcinogenic melanocytes via extreme mechanical forces

Since his appointment to the University in July 2000, Prof. Spatz has built up a lab featuring all modern research methods for the investigation of cell interaction with substrate surfaces and the biomechanics of individual cells. His research group is the first to have succeeded in controlling receptor aggregation in skin-cell membranes as a result of contact with nanostructured surfaces and in quantifying the impact of structured boundary surfaces and external forces on intracellular structures, protein expression and changes in the mechanical features of carcinogenic cells. The research group already boasts two post-docs, eight doctoral candidates and four diploma students. Accordingly, it is safe to anticipate more groundbreaking work from Spatz' research in the near future.

Joachim P. Spatz is outstandingly committed to his teaching obligations. In the new cross-Faculty B.A./M.A. course on "Molecular Biotechnology", he not only represents the biophysical chemistry perspective but has also taken on additional teaching work in physical chemistry. He was also the prime mover behind the application to the German Research Council for an international postgraduate research group on cell-substrate interaction involving research groups in the US and Australia.

Spatz is an outstanding teacher and an innovative research scientist. He can be counted among those young German physicists who explore unconventional avenues and thus open up new research areas for chemistry, physics and biology.

Please address any inquiries to:
Prof. Dr. Joachim P. Spatz
phone: 06221/544942, fax: 544950

Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317

Prof. Dr. Rüdiger N. Lichtenthaler
phone: 06221/544889 (secretary: 544844), fax: 544589

Prof. Dr. Michael Grunze
phone: 06221/548465, fax: 546199

Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach Foundation
Public Relations, Regine Solibakke

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Updated: 22.07.2002


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