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Jülich Excellence Prize

Forschungszentrum Jülich’s Award for Young Scientists

Since 2009, Forschungszentrum Jülich is annually awarding the Jülich Excellence Prize – endowed with € 5.000 (before tax) – to internationally successful young scientists whose ideas have provided decisive stimulus in their area of research and who belong to the top 5 % of their peers in their field.

The distinction is based on an outstanding doctoral thesis, the main parts of which were written at Forschungszentrum Jülich, combined with excellent achievements during the subsequent up to two years of the postdoctoral phase. Based on external expert opinions, a high-ranking jury – comprising four internal and four external professors – decides on the nominees’ worthiness for the prize in international comparison. The Jülich Excellence Prize can be awarded to a maximum of five early career scientists. However, it will be only awarded if a nominee’s scientific achievements are beyond doubt and it will be only awarded to the maximum number of researchers if five nominees meet the high standards.

Previous Award Winners


Dr. Felix Lüpke refined and applied the method of scanning tunnelling potentiometry in order to investigate electronic transport properties of quantum materials on the nanoscale.

Dr. Doreen Niether investigated the relationship between thermophoresis and the formation of hydrogen bonds in order to develop models on the origins of life and on protein–ligand complex formation.

Dr. Peter Schüffelgen developed a novel process that permits components for quantum technology to be manufactured in situ under ultra-high vacuum conditions, in particular through the combination of topological insulators and superconductors.


Dr. David Dahmen combined mean-field methods with forward models in his doctoral thesis, bridging the gap between microscopic and mesoscopic brain activity, which permits novel model predictions.

Dr. Barbara Gold was concerned with self-healing materials in her doctoral thesis: she developed model systems for the investigation of dynamic bonds in polymer materials, which permits the targeted design of self-healing systems for applications.

Dr. Nicolai Kallscheuer for the first time enabled medically relevant plant polyphenols to be produced using the microbial cell factory Corynebacterium glutamicum.

Dr. Maria Żurek conducted and analysed a particle physics experiment at COSY in order to investigate a symmetry violation in nature, which is caused by differing quark masses.


Dr. Christoph Bäumer made a significant contribution to our understanding of the physical processes in non-volatile data storage devices by developing electron-transparent graphene electrodes for spectroscopy of oxidic thin films.

Dr. Catalin Voiniciuc provided the international research community with new insights into the biosynthesis of hemicellulose by further developing and adapting the seed mucilage model and thus laid the foundation for further modifications of plant cell walls for producing bioenergy and biomaterials.

Dr.-Ing. Félix Urbain performed impressive technological development work based on materials science and physical fundamentals of silicon thin-film technology, which led to the development of an electrochemical photovoltaics component for producing hydrogen as an energy carrier at an internationally outstanding efficiency.


Dr. Sarah Charlotte Finkeldei: With her research on the management of actinides derived from spent reactor fuel elements, Dr. Sarah Charlotte Finkeldei developed technical solutions and thus she investigated the use of pyrochlores as a storage material for long-term immobilization of actinides (radionuclides) in ceramics instead of glasses.

Dr. Sergii Pud: With his research in the field of nanowires for the extracellular deriving of electrical signals of neurons, Dr. Sergii Pud researched the development, characterization and optimization of transistor made of silicon nanowires for the extracellular deriving of neurons’ electrical signals in vitro.

Dr. Stephan Wirths: With his research on chemical vapor deposition (CVD) of Ge-Sn alloys, Dr. Stephan Wirths provided the first experimental evidence of an optically pumped GeSn laser.


Dr. Sabyasachi Dasgupta on the one hand made significant contributions to the fundamental understanding of processes between micro- and nanoparticles and biological interfaces, on the other hand he opened new opportunities for the optimization of the interaction of nanoparticles and membranes for medical diagnostics and pharmacokinetics.

Dr. Enno Kätelhön established a new basis for the understanding of electrochemical applications and sensor principles by applying redox-active molecules in nanochemical systems.

Dr. Anja Klotzsche fundamentally improved the understanding of flow and solute transport processes and successfully applied a new methodology of full-waveform inversion for electromagnetic waves to real case studies of structure investigations and aquifers for the first time.

Dr. Michael Rack developed a high-quality explanation for the ELM heat load deposition by analyzing the influence of resonant magnetic perturbations on the Edge Localized Modes (ELM) and considering thermoelectric currents.


Dr. Armel Ulrich Kemloh Wagoum`s work deals with the combination of optimized high performance computing simulations of large crowds with the psychological and cultural dependent factors of the pedestrians. With his outstanding results he makes an essential step in the research area of pedestrian dynamics and safety management.

Dr. Benjamin Stadtmüller`s work on intermolecular interactions in hetero-organic thin films represents a scientific breakthrough in the understanding of the co-adsorption of organic molecules on surfaces. It is an outstanding result, also relevant for several applications, e.g. in the area of photovoltaics or organic light-emitting diodes.


Dr. Giuseppe Mercurio investigated the geometry of molecules using X-rays at Jülich’s Peter Grünberg Institute. His goal was to study the interaction between organic molecules and metal surfaces in greater detail.

Dr. Felix Plöger analyses transport mechanisms in the atmosphere and their effects on the global climate at Jülich’s Institute of Energy and Climate Research. He focuses on the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere, investigating the transport of water vapour, ozone, and other trace gases.

Dr. Chao Zhang exploited the potential offered by computer simulation. Taking quantum mechanical effects into consideration, the physicist simulated proton migration using minute particles. This required an unimaginable computational effort: with 2000 atoms, the young scientist’s simulation of proton migration was one of the largest conducted in biophysics throughout the world.


The Excellence Prize was not awarded as none of the high-calibre nominations fulfilled each and every criterion.


Dr. Nina Richter identified three enzymes that catalyze chemical reactions in biotechnological processes, at the Institute of Molecular Enzyme Technology.

Dr. John Kettler was involved in energy research at the Institute of Energy and Climate Research. He developed a test facility for a process that identifies toxic agents, such as lead, cadmium or mercury contained in waste drums filled with radioactive material.


In her PhD project at the Institute of Biotechnology, Dr. Dörte Rother (former: Gocke) studied enzymes which can be used for the production of important chemical building blocks, for example as starting materials for various pharmaceuticals.

The fabrication and analysis of semiconductor devices was the topic of Dr. Sebastian Feste’s PhD thesis at the Institute of Bioelectronics. Feste succeeded in making an essential contribution to the field of silicon nanoelectronics.


Dr. Julia Frunzke worked on her PhD at the Institute of Biotechnology. She was honoured for her excellent research contributions to the molecular understanding of the adaptability of industrially and agriculturally relevant bacteria.

Dr. Thomas Kirchartz developed a new universal theory for the description of different types of solar cells in his PhD project at the Institute of Energy and Climate Research, which he confirmed by means of experiments. The new models provide a basis for selectively optimizing the efficiency of fuel cells further.

Additional Information


For questions regarding the Jülich Excellence Prize contact:

Dr. Christine Haunhorst
Corporate Development
Tel. 02461 61-96930