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Neurobiologist Hannah Monyer Receives Lautenschläger Research Prize

Award endowed with 250,000 euros – Junior Researcher Prize for Felix Joos in theoretical computer science

Hannah Monyer | © Sabine Arndt

Heidelberg neurobiologist Prof. Dr Hannah Monyer, an internationally renowned expert in the field of brain research, is being honoured with the 2020 Lautenschläger Research Prize. The prize is endowed with 250,000 euros. The award sponsor and Honorary Senator at Ruperto Carola, Dr h.c. Manfred Lautenschläger, is also awarding a prize to a junior researcher. The recipient of the 25,000-euro award is Junior Professor Dr Felix Joos, who is conducting groundbreaking research in theoretical computer science. The award ceremony for Germany’s most highly endowed research prize from a private donor was originally scheduled for the beginning of December 2020 but because of pandemic restrictions has been rescheduled to 7 May 2021.

Prof. Monyer’s research focuses on the molecular mechanisms that lead to synchronous neural network activities and support cognitive processes such as learning and remembering. “In this field, Hannah Monyer combines intelligent questions with highly innovative experimental approaches and does not shy away from expanding beyond the boundaries of her own discipline to uncover the fundamental secrets of neural networks. She can rightly be called a pioneer of modern systemic neuro and behavioural science anchored in molecular biology,” says Manfred Lautenschläger of this year’s prize-winner. The researcher was instrumental in several groundbreaking and internationally highly visible discoveries, especially related to the so-called inhibitory interneurons and projection neurons – the brain’s “master clocks”. She has recently turned her attention to the function of specific inhibitory interneurons in neural “circuits” that exhibit an effect up to the behavioural level. Since 1999 Prof. Monyer has been Medical Director of the Divison of Clinical Neurobiology at Heidelberg University Hospital – a cooperational division of the Medical Faculty Heidelberg, Heidelberg University, and the German Cancer Research Center. She studied medicine and earned her PhD at Heidelberg University. She worked as a resident physician in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim, subsequently joining the Department of Paediatric Neurology at the University Children‘s Hospital in Lübeck. In 1986, Hannah Monyer joined Stanford University (USA) as a postdoctoral research fellow and three years later came to the Center for Molecular Biology at Heidelberg University. She received her authorisation to teach biochemistry in 1993, becoming an endowed professor the following year and establishing her own research group. In addition to other prestigious awards for her achievements, Prof. Monyer received the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize from the German Research Foundation in 2004.

This year’s prize for a young researcher goes to – in the words of award sponsor Manfred Lautenschläger – “an enormously productive young researcher who with creativity, self-determination, and technical flexibility is tackling major questions in theoretical computer science at the intersection of discrete mathematics, graph theory, and combinatorics”. In particular, he recently drew attention with his solution to the “Oberwolfach problem” (2018) and a paper on the “kissing number” (2019). Felix Joos studied mathematics at Ulm University, where he also submitted his dissertation. After research stays at the University of Birmingham (Great Britain) and the University of Hamburg, he joined Heidelberg University’s Institute for Computer Science in March this year as a Junior Professor. Since 2019, Prof. Joos has headed a research group that is also funded by the Emmy Noether Programme of the German Research Foundation. He has already published numerous articles with cooperation partners from all over the world. 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 active researchers in the discovery process. The very first junior researcher prize was awarded in 2018 to support excellent young researchers in their personal scientific development and their research activities. An interdisciplinary board of internationally networked scientists selects the potential prize recipients, who can be nominated for the Lautenschläger Research Prize from any discipline.


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