Female power: Lise Meitner Group Leaders

A portrait of the first nine Lise Meitner Group Leaders

June 25, 2019

Free scientific development, long-term career security and clear career prospects - these are the cornerstones of the Lise Meitner Excellence Program. In 2018, the MPG launched the four-year pilot phase of the program. Almost 300 candidates seized the opportunity to apply for Group Leader positions.

The applicants for the first call came from 42 countries; 74 percent were EU citizens and the remaining 26 percent came from non-EU countries. Candidates underwent a competitive selection process, conducted by a committee of national and international experts from various fields. Thirty-one highly qualified applicants were invited to give a personal presentation at a selection symposium. The Max Planck Society appointed twelve brilliant young female scientists on the basis of their impressive research successes to date and their demonstrably strong potential. Nine of them have already confirmed the appointments.

Dr. Maria Bergemann

Lise Meitner Group “Astrophysical spectroscopy and cosmic nucleogenesis” Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, Heidelberg Spectroscopy is a standard technique that is used in physics, chemistry and technology. Maria Bergemann has succeeded in advancing astrophysical spectroscopy in her research to date by developing new models of radiation transfer in stellar atmospheres. Using an interdisciplinary research approach, the astrophysicist is now seeking to generate new intelligent methods for pattern recognition from stellar spectra, in order to provide new constraints on the origin of chemical elements and on the evolution of our Milky Way galaxy.

Dr Gesa Hartwigsen

Lise Meitner Group “Cognition and Plasticity“ Max Planck Institute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig For a long time, the adult brain was regarded as unchangeable. This was until neuroscientists found out that synapses, nerve cells and even entire brain sections were indeed capable of selective alteration during a person’s lifetime. Psychologist Gesa Hartwigsen seeks to identify central mechanisms of this neuroplasticity, for example, when acquiring new cognitive skills or compensating for brain lesions such as after a stroke.

Meritxell Huch, PhD

Lise Meitner Group “Principles of stem cell maintenance and tissue regeneration, organoid cultures and disease modelling” Max Planck Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Dresden

Meritxell Huch conducts research into organoid cultures. Based on her previous findings on the contribution of liver and pancreatic cells to the regeneration of adult tissue, the pharmacologist has now set herself the following goal: she wants to identify the underlying biological mechanisms involved in tissue regeneration and carcinogenesis.

Dr Anna Ijjas

Lise Meitner Group “Gravitational Theory and Cosmology” Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert-Einstein-Institute), Hannover Did our universe have a beginning? Will it ever end? What is space-time like in the interior of black holes? In her research, Anna Ijjas targets the big open questions of cosmology. She combines novel theoretical ideas with modern techniques of mathematical and numerical general relativity and beyond, with the ultimate goal of making these questions empirically testable.

Prof Dr Simone Kühn

Lise Meitner Group “Environmental Neurosciences” Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin What effects does the physical environment have on the brain, behaviour and health? This is the question addressed by Simone Kühn. Her particular focus is on neuronal mechanisms – both in urban life and in extreme environments such as the Antarctic. The aim is to derive measures that sustainably enhance human well-being.

Dr Mariana Rossi

Lise Meitner Group “Simulations from ab initio approaches: Structure and dynamics from quantum mechanics” Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter, Hamburg Mariana Rossi aims to develop a new framework for the investigation of realistic bioorganic/inorganic systems with unprecedented resolution and accuracy, joining first principles of quantum mechanics for electrons and nuclei with different machine learning methods aimed at accelerating calculations. One of her main goals is to be able to predict not just structure, but also nuclear and electronic response properties of matter composed by inorganic and organic components

Dr Eleanor Scerri

Lise Meitner Group “Pan-African Evolution” Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena Archaeologist Eleanor Scerri and her team are studying human evolution and demography in Africa and South-West Asia. She combines field projects with various approaches from archaeology, genetics, biogeography and climate sciences. One particular focus of her work is West Africa, one of the least understood regions of the continent with regard to human evolution.

Laura G. Spitler, PhD

Lise Meitner Group “Universal Census of Ionized Media with Radio Bursts” Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy, Bonn Astronomer Laura Spitler’s research focuses on Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs). These include short, one-off bursts of radio radiation that last a few milliseconds at (presumably) extragalactic distances. Now Spitler aims to investigate the potential of FRBs as probes for extragalactic plasmas.

Dr Daniela Vallentin

Lise Meitner Group “Neural circuits for vocal communication” Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Seewiesen Whether riding a bicycle, sewing a seam or whistling a pure tone – most movements are perceived as effortless. Daniela Vallentin knows that this is not the case: using songbirds as an example, the neuroscientist investigates neuronal circuits that form the basis of their learning and the generation of their complex vocal behaviour.
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