Awards for outstanding young researchers

June 26, 2023

Constanze Depp and Dmitriy Borodin from the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Multidisciplinary Sciences in Göttingen receive the Otto Hahn Medal of the Max Planck Society (MPS) for excellence in their dissertations. Borodin is also honored with the Otto Hahn Award for the exceptional quality of his research, Depp additionally receives the Peter Hans Hofschneider Prize. The research organization presented the awards at its annual meeting in Göttingen on June 21.

Reaction rates on catalysts

The scientific discipline of surface chemistry studies how reactions occur on surfaces of different materials. It helps us understand, for example, how iron oxidizes, how fuel cells work, or how exhaust gases and environmental toxins can be controlled and eliminated. In reactions catalyzed by metal surfaces, a large number of elementary chemical processes take place. Their rate determines which reaction a catalyst facilitates, how fast it converts it, and what product is ultimately formed in the reaction. Many different theoretical models predict the rates of reactions under various conditions. However, few experimental methods exist that can verify these predictions.

Dmitriy Borodin dedicated his doctoral thesis to this gap: He developed experimental techniques and models that allow the reaction rates on surfaces to be studied with the highest precision. The results are particularly relevant for industrial catalysis, exhaust gas control, and electrochemistry.

Borodin studied chemistry at the University of Göttingen and spent a research period at the German Aerospace Center in Stuttgart. He completed his PhD in the Department of Dynamics at Surfaces of Alec M. Wodtke at the MPI for Multidisciplinary Sciences in 2021. Borodin is currently working as a postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Quantum Nanoscience in Seoul, South Korea. The Otto Hahn Award will enable the chemist to establish his own research group at an MPI of his choice. Particularly gratifying for the Göttingen MPI: For the second time in a row, the MPS is awarding an Otto Hahn Award to a young scientist who has completed his doctorate in the Department of Dynamics at Surfaces.

Alzheimer’s and myelin

It starts with memory lapses and ends with helplessness and the loss of one’s personality: Alzheimer’s dementia. The disease is characterized by the accumulation of a certain protein fragment in the brain – amyloid β (Aβ). The protein clumps together and forms so-called amyloid plaques. These are suspected of damaging nerve cells. The biggest risk factor for Alzheimer’s dementia is increasing age. It is still unclear why older people in particular are susceptible to Aβ accumulation in the brain.

In her doctoral thesis, Constanze Depp researched whether the loss of myelin – the insulating layer around nerve cells in the brain – could be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s. With age, myelin changes its structure and degenerates. Depp was able to show that defective myelin increases Aβ deposits in the brain. The findings can be used as a basis for new therapeutic approaches to treat Alzheimer’s disease.

Constanze Depp studied molecular biosciences with a focus on neurosciences at the University of Heidelberg and spent a research period at the University of Oxford (UK). In 2021, she completed her PhD in the Department of Neurogenetics of Klaus-Armin Nave at the MPI for Multidisciplinary Sciences. She is now a postdoctoral researcher at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard (Cambridge, USA) and at the Boston Children’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School (Boston, USA). In addition to the Max Planck Medal, Depp will receive the Peter Hans Hofschneider Prize, which honors outstanding work in the field of molecular medicine. (kf)

About the Otto Hahn Prizes

Since 1978, the MPS annually awards the Otto Hahn Medal to young researchers for exceptional scientific achievements and outstanding doctoral theses. The prize is endowed with 7,500 euros. With the Otto Hahn Award, the MPS honors particularly outstanding laureates by giving them the opportunity to take over the leadership of a research group at an MPI of their choice following their stay abroad. The award is intended to pave the way for a long-term scientific career in Germany.

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