Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize goes to Leipzig climate researcher Sebastian Sippel

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Junior  Sebastian Sippel. Photo: Antje Gildemeister, Leipzig University
Junior Sebastian Sippel. Photo: Antje Gildemeister, Leipzig University

This year, four female and six male scientists will receive the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize, Germany’s most important award for researchers in the early stages of their careers. One of them is Sebastian Sippel, Junior Professor for Climate Attribution at the Institute for Meteorology at Leipzig University. This was decided by the Joint Committee of the German Research Foundation (DFG).

The winners will each receive ¤200,000 in prize money, which they can use for up to three years to pursue their research. In total, 168 researchers from all disciplines were nominated. The award ceremony will take place on 4 June 2024 in Berlin.

Junior Professor Sebastian Sippel’s research focuses mainly on improving the understanding of climate variability, extreme events and their changes at global and regional scales. To what extent are extreme weather events such as droughts, heavy rain, storms and hail linked to climate change? This is the question that the geo-ecologist and climate scientist is trying to answer. This places him in the emerging research field of climate attribution, which assesses the relative contributions of various causal factors to a climate event. His research also focuses on how global climate change affects the water and carbon cycles and how they interact.

Reacting to the DFG’s decision, Sippel says: "I need a moment to collect myself. This is unexpected, but obviously I am overjoyed. It’s great to be recognised for all my hard research work, which began almost exactly a decade ago when I started my doctoral thesis. And of course the prize itself will be a further boost. We have pressing issues to address and big plans."

Rector Professor Eva Inés Obergfell says: "This prize is an extraordinary honour. Sebastian Sippel is one of our top climate scientists. We are all’interested in the answer to the question of how extreme weather events are linked to climate change, and he is a key part of this. Here in Leipzig, interdisciplinary research into the link between biodiversity and climate change has grown rapidly in recent years. This is one of the reasons why we are submitting a corresponding cluster proposal as part of the Excellence Strategy of the German federal and state governments."

Awarded by the German Research Foundation, the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize is a distinction for young researchers and provides an incentive for further excellent achievements in their scientific work. It is intended to encourage recipients to pursue their scientific careers. This is the third time that the prize has gone to a researcher from Leipzig University. Biologist Nico Eisenhauer was honoured in 2014 and chemist Jonas Warneke in 2022.