Humboldt Professorships bring international research stars to Germany

Alexander von Humboldt Professorships awarded by State Secretary Cornelia Quennet-Thielen from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the President of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Helmut Schwarz.

Six top researchers (three women and three men) from abroad were awarded Alexander von Humboldt Professorships Tuesday evening in Berlin. State Secretary Cornelia Quennet-Thielen from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the President of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Helmut Schwarz, presented Germany’s best-endowed research award to William Crawley-Boevey, Tiffany Knight, Katrin Kogman-Appel, Judith Pfeiffer, Wolfgang Wernsdorfer and Andreas S. Schulz during a special ceremony. The award winners were nominated by German universities and will soon be conducting research in Bielefeld, Bonn, Halle/Leipzig, Karlsruhe, Munich and Münster. Each award is endowed with €5 million for individuals conducting experimental research and €3.5 million for researchers working in theoretical fields.

“The Alexander von Humboldt Professorship shows that our universities are so attractive that outstanding researchers turn their backs on top addresses in other countries in order to conduct research in Germany”, said Helmut Schwarz in Berlin. “Here in Germany we give them the freedom to concentrate fully on science, instead of having to continually write new funding applications. We give them the freedom to conduct basic research without having to have the next application in mind. We make it possible for them to explore questions outside the mainstream, questions whose relevance and importance might become apparent only decades down the road. It is precisely this freedom that makes the Humboldt Professorship so attractive internationally.

The Alexander von Humboldt Professorship has impressively succeeded in bringing top international researchers to Germany. However this award does even more: for a university, a Humboldt Professorship ideally constitutes an element in a comprehensive internationalisation strategy and enables the individual university to develop new fields of research and raise its profile”, said Cornelia Quennet-Thielen, State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. “Humboldt Professors often act as catalysts ‒ for research, for instruction and for international networking ‒ at their respective university.”

Every year the Humboldt Foundation awards the Alexander von Humboldt Professorship to up to ten internationally leading researchers from all disciplines who work in other countries. In addition to the candidates’ outstanding academic and research qualifications, the concepts designed by the universities to offer the researchers and their teams longer-term prospects in Germany are deciding factors in the evaluation of the applications. The Humboldt Professorship is financed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

The award winners at a glance:

  • William Crawley-Boevey, Pure Mathematics, previously conducted research at the University of Leeds and is now going to the University of Bielefeld
  • Tiffany Knight, Ecology, will be leaving Washington University in St. Louis, USA, to work at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ in Leipzig, and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
  • Katrin Kogman-Appel, Jewish Studies, is coming to the University of Münster from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beer-Sheva, Israel
  • Judith Pfeiffer, Islamic Studies, is switching from the University of Oxford, Great Britain, to the University of Bonn
  • Wolfgang Wernsdorfer, Experimental Solid-state Physics, previously worked at the Institut Néel, CNRS in Grenoble, France, and will be conducting research at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
  • Andreas S. Schulz, Applied Mathematics, worked at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, USA, before moving to TU Munich in 2015