This year’s recipients of the most important prize for early career researchers in Germany have been announced. The selection committee, appointed by the Deutsche Forschungsge-meinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), has chosen ten researchers, five women and five men, to re-ceive the 2015 Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prizes. The prizes of 20,000 euros each will be presented on 5 May in Berlin.
The Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize has been awarded annually to outstanding early career researchers since 1977 as both recognition and an incentive to continue pursuing a path of academic and scientific excellence. Named after the atomic physicist and former DFG President, and awarded for the first time during his term of office, the prize is regarded as the most important of its kind for early career researchers in Germany. In addition, in a survey carried out by the German magazine “bild der wissenschaft”, the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize was voted the third most important science prize in Germany by the leading research institutions after the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize, presented by the DFG, and the Deutscher Zukunftspreis, awarded by the German Federal President.
A total of 127 researchers representing all research areas were nominated for this year’s prize; 24 of the nominees were then shortlisted. “The academic quality of the candidates and their research work was extraordinarily high, making it a difficult pleasure for the committee to select the prizewinners from the shortlist,” said the chair of the committee, DFG Vice President Professor Dr. Marlis Hochbruck, after the decisions were made.
Among this year’s recipients is Cynthia Sharma, Infection Biology, University of Würzburg.
Cynthia Sharma combines biophysics and bioinformatics with infection research in a unique way in her work: once she was able to analyse genome sequences and identify structural RNA elements in her diploma thesis, she developed a new sequencing method the differential RNA-seq method as part of her doctoral thesis at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin. As a member of the DFG funded Priority Programme “Prokaryotic Small Regulatory RNAs”, she applied this method using the example of the Helicobacter pylori micro-organism, a rod-shaped bacterium which is blamed for some gastrointestinal diseases. Sharma’s group is currently researching the gene-regulating function of bacteria using molecular-biological and biochemical approaches at the Research Center for Infectious Diseases of the University of Würzburg. This should help to improve understanding of the mechanisms used by pathogens to create an infection.