Two of the best German researchers are from Jena

Leibniz Prize winners 2020 Dr Johannes Grave (r.) and Dr Markus Reichstein. ImagLeibniz Prize winners 2020 Dr Johannes Grave (r.) and Dr Markus Reichstein. Image: Jan-Peter Kasper (University of Jena)

The Leibniz Prize goes to the Professors Johannes Grave and Markus Reichstein

"The Leibniz Prize is something like a ’little Nobel Prize’. And as two of these awards are being presented to professors of the Friedrich-Schiller-University this year, it proves the strength of our research and it is an incentive to persue our strategy," Walter Rosenthal, the President of the  University of Jena, Germany says and adds: "My congratu­lations to Johannes Grave und Markus Reichstein for their outstanding achievements in research."

The art historian Johannes Grave and the biogeochemist Markus Reich­stein are among the award winners of this year’s Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Programme of the German Research Foundation (DFG). On 5 December the DFG released the names of the ten prize winning academics who were selected from 114 nominations. The laureates each are awarded a grant of 2,5 million euro. The Leibniz laureates can spend the grant flexibly over a time period of seven years.

How to look at a picture

Johannes Grave is only the third art historian to receive this award since its intro­duction in 1986. He moved this year from the University of Bielefeld to a professorship for Modern Art History focussing on the Age of European Romanticism at the Jena University. One of his main research topics are questions around the theory of visual perception and the temporality of viewing a painting. "When we look at a picture we never see all of it at once, but little by little we observe different, sometimes contradictory things," the art historian explains. "It is possible that even after a short moment we don’t concentrate on the painted figures any more but on the brush strokes instead. Many pictures let just this process work in their favour. By enmeshing us into these temporal processes of percep­tion they can finally gain power over us." Thus Grave analyzes how pictures exercise their power and why they have such an individually diverse impact. Apart from his work as a University Professor, Grave, who for a number of years has been working with the "Klassik Stiftung Weimar", wants to play a part in the museum world of Thuringia. There he would like to engage with his expert knowledge about his second research topic, the cultural history of the Age of Goethe and the Age of Romanticism. "For this period Weimar and Jena were incredibly important. There is also a lot of material that hasn’t been compre­hensively researched." The Leibniz Prize will give him the means and opportunity to do this. "For me this award will be an incentive to continue to work along these lines, to con­nect the reflection on general questions of the theory of visual perception and specific art historical studies about individual works. The Leibniz Prize provides ideal conditions to broaden the view and to research other European Romantic periods along with the German art of the Age of Romanticism."

Mass transfer between land surface and atmosphere

Markus Reichstein has been the director and scientific member at the Max Planck Institut for Biogeochemistry since  2012, and since 2014 he has been honorary professor for Global Geoecology of the Friedrich Schiller University Jena. He expolores how the exchange of energy, water and carbon between the surface of the land and the atmosphere can be recorded and understood on a global level. For this purpose Reichstein uses innovative methods, that combine ecology and artificial intelligence (AI). Therefore unsurprisingly, he is one of co-founders of the  Michael Stifel Center for Data-Driven & Simulation Science Jena (MSCJ). In particular Reichstein researches how these exchange processes are being changed by the natural variability of the climate as well as through human influence. Here the 47 year old scientist set new standards with groundbreaking sucesses in the consolidation of global data from meteorological towers and the further processing of the new products with other data streams, for instance from remote sensing. Herefrom, models were developed with the help of which the mass transfer between the surface of the land and the atmosphere can be extrapolated from local up to global scales. With this method Reichstein and his colleagues for the first time published global estimates in regard to vegetable biomass production. They recognized current trends in the global water evaporation and they were able to show how extreme weather events influence the general behavior of the global car­bon and temperature cycles. "It is a good sign that the Earth System Science has been decorated with an award, it shows that it is on eye level with the other classic sciences", Reichstein happily says. He will use the prize money for - amongst other things - "in­terdisciplinary work with climate scientists, ecologists and social scientists on climate extremes and their manifold challenges".

Seven Jena Award Winners

With Grave und Reichstein there is more than half a dozen Leibniz Prize winners at the Friedrich Schiller University. The following Jena professors have received the most important German research award:

  • Christoph Markschies (2001 - now in Berlin)
  • Andreas Tünnermann (2005)
  • Falko Langenhorst (2007)
  • Karl Lenhard Rudolph (2009)
  • Christian Hertweck (2015)

The Leibniz Prize award ceremony of the DFG will take place on 16 March 2020 in Berlin.