Double success

Asifa Akhtar and Volker Springel are honoured with the 2021 Leibniz Prize of the German Research Foundation

December 14, 2020

Asifa Akhtar, director at the Max Planck Institute for Immunobiology and Epigenetics in Freiburg, is also Vice President of the Max Planck Society. Volker Springel conducts research at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Garching, where he has been director since 2018. The highest scientific award in Germany is endowed with 2.5 million euros for each prizewinner.

Asifa Akhtar receives the Leibniz Prize, among other things, for her cell biological work on mechanisms of epigenetic gene regulation and understanding chromosome regulation ("dosage compensation"). This is a mechanism in which the genes of the X chromosome are produced in equal strength in the male and female sex. Among other things, Akhtar was able to elucidate the molecular mechanism that controls the different function of MOF (males-absent on the first protein) histone acetyltransferases on the X chromosome and the autosomes.

New insights into galaxy formation

Volker Springel is being honoured for his work in the field of numerical astrophysics. He developed new methods that explained, among other things, how the manifold-structured cosmos could emerge from an early, almost uniform universe.  In addition, the astrophysicist has investigated the critical role that feedback processes play in the evolution of galaxies and their black holes. Many of the observed properties of the galaxies are a consequence of this feedback within the current standard on the origin of cosmic structures, the "cold dark matter" paradigm.

The Leibniz Prize, which will be awarded digitally on 15 March 2021, has been honouring up to ten scientists each year since 1986. Nine Leibniz Prize laureates from the Max Planck Societyalso received the Nobel Prize after being presented with the Leibniiz award: Hartmut Michel (chemistry) in 1988, Erwin Neher and Bert Sakmann (both medicine) in 1991, Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard (medicine) in 1995, Theodor W. Hänsch (physics) in 2005, Gerhard Ertl (chemistry) in 2007, Stefan W. Hell (chemistry) in 2014 as well as Emmanuelle Charpentier (chemistry) and Reinhard Genzel (physics) in 2020.

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