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    Leibniz Prize for Würzburg researcher


    With prize money of up to 2.5 million euros, the Leibniz Prize from the German Research Foundation is considered a kind of German Nobel Prize. The recipients have been announced today; among them, as Bavaria’s sole representative, is a physicist from the University of Würzburg.

    The news spread through the Institute of Physics like wildfire: Professor Laurens Molenkamp, Chairman of the Department of Experimental Physics III, will be receiving one of the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prizes from the German Research Foundation (DFG). This award comes with 2.5 million euros. Given the large prize money and their great reputation, the Leibniz Prizes are also seen as “German Nobel Prizes”.

    “I am delighted to be receiving a prize for my work from the DFG, too. The Leibniz Prize is a great honor,” said Professor Molenkamp. The prize money will enable the Würzburg physicist to press ahead with his already multi-award winning research.

    Spintronics and topological insulators

    Laurens Molenkamp (57) is regarded as one of the fathers of semiconductor spintronics. It is expected that this technology will make information processing and computer engineering considerably more powerful.

    The physicist was the first researcher in the world to succeed in the experimental realization of topological insulators. Since then, this novel material class has been researched intensively as it is likely to be essential for further progress in spintronics: topological insulators should enable the creation in future of even smaller and more powerful computer chips.

    Laurens Molenkamp’s career to date

    Laurens Molenkamp, born in Garrelsweer in the Netherlands in 1956, studied Physical Chemistry at the University of Groningen. After obtaining his doctorate, he worked in the research laboratory of the company Philips in Eindhoven for ten years. There he began his work on quantum transport in semiconductor nanostructures, which he has continued to this day. In 1994, Molenkamp joined RWTH Aachen University as a Professor. In 1999, he was appointed Chairman of Experimental Physics III at the University of Würzburg and was placed in charge of the local molecular beam epitaxy laboratory.

    He has received several internationally renowned awards for his cutting-edge research into topological insulators, including the Europhysics Prize in 2010, the Oliver Buckley Prize from the American Physical Society in 2012, and the Physics Frontiers Prize in 2013.

    Facts about the Leibniz Prize

    The DFG’s Leibniz Prize will be presented to Molenkamp in Berlin on March 12, 2014. For 2014, the DFG selected a total of eleven Leibniz Prize recipients from 129 nominations. Molenkamp is the only recipient from Bavaria.

    The DFG awards the Leibniz Prize to researchers of exceptional quality who have already generated outstanding achievements in their research fields early on in their academic careers and who are expected to produce further excellence that will leave a lasting impression on the research landscape in Germany.

    Würzburg’s Leibniz Prize recipients

    So far, nine scientists from the University of Würzburg have received one of the highly coveted Leibniz Prizes. These are regarded as “German Nobel Prizes” on account of their large prize money. The recipients from Würzburg are Professor Otto Ludwig Lange and Professor Ulrich Heber (Ecology/Biochemistry/1986), Professor Hans-Peter Zenner (Otorhinolaryngology and Cell Biology/1987), Professor Ingrid Grummt and Professor Bert Hölldobler (Molecular Biology/Zoology/1990), Professor Martin Lohse (Pharmacology/1999), Professor Ulrich Konrad (Musicology/2001), Professor Thomas Mussweiler (Psychology/2006), and, most recently, Professor Holger Braunschweig (Chemistry/2009).


    Prof. Dr. Laurens Molenkamp, Institute of Physics at the University of Würzburg, T +49 (0)931 31-84925 or 31-85776, molenkamp@physik.uni-wuerzburg.de

    Homepage of Laurens Molenkamp