University of Cologne to recruit two new Alexander von Humboldt Professors

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Professor Kate Rigby and Professor Jan Karlseder have been selected by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation for the ’Alexander von Humboldt Professorship - International Award’. The University of Cologne, which nominated them, is currently engaged in appointment negotiations with the literary scholar and the biologist. If the negotiations are successful, Rigby will become professor of ’Environmental Humanities’ at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, and Karlseder will become professor of ’Telomere Metabolism in Aging and Cancer Initiation’ at the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences. With Rigby and Karlseder, the number of AvH professorships at the University of Cologne would increase from six to eight.

Professor Kate Rigby from Bath Spa University (UK) and the University of Monash (AUS) will be awarded the 3.5-million-euro prize in 2022 if the appointment negotiations are successful.

Kate Rigby is one of the leading international scholars in the field of interdisciplinary environmental research in the humanities, and currently heads the Research Centre for Environmental Humanities at Bath Spa University. Her interdisciplinary research combines literary and cultural studies, ethnographic approaches to ecology, religion and resilience, and historically and scientifically informed work on environment and climate. Currently, as a Marie S. Curie Cofund Research Fellow at the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS), she is exploring cultural aspects of socio-ecological and individual-psychological resilience in the face of the severe impacts of ecological crises.

’I am honoured to have been selected as the recipient of the Alexander von Humboldt Professorship. This professorship will enable me and my team to build up an innovative interdisciplinary Environmental Humanities research area at the University of Cologne and to develop new international collaborations,’ Rigby remarked.

With the establishment of a Humboldt Professorship for Environmental Humanities, the University of Cologne is further pursuing its goal of becoming a top location for interdisciplinary sustainability research. Existing research areas, for example in plant sciences, ageing research, or climate modelling, could benefit from the new area in the humanities.

Jan Karlseder currently holds the professorship of Molecular and Cell Biology at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California. An internationally recognized scientist, his research focuses on the function of telomeres in ageing and cancer. Telomeres are located at the ends of each chromosome, where they serve as protective caps. Telomeres play a central role in ageing and cancer, as their length and integrity regulate the process of cell division and mortality. He was nominated for the award by the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences and the CECAD Cluster of Excellence for Ageing Research at the University of Cologne.

’I am excited that my laboratory’s work has been honoured with the AvH Award and I am looking forward to exploring the possibilities it offers,’ said Karlseder.

Karlseder began his scientific career in his native Austria, earning a doctoral degree in genetics in Vienna. In 1996, he continued his postdoctoral studies at Rockefeller University in New York City. He joined the Salk Institute in La Jolla in 2002, where his lab explores the synergies between telomeres, the DNA damage response, and cancer-protective proliferative boundaries. His future research will focus on the interaction between telomeres, inflammation and the prevention of carcinogenesis during the ageing process.

With Jan Karlseder, CECAD now has the opportunity to recruit a renowned and globally recognized expert for the third year in a row to the Cluster of Excellence, strengthening the entire ageing research hub in Cologne. Karlseder’s work recently shed light on how our genes are regulated and how programmes change during cell division. His research thus provides an important contribution towards understanding ageing and diseases like cancer which can be traced back to genetic mutations.

An Alexander von Humboldt Professorship can be awarded to internationally leading researchers of all disciplines who are currently working abroad. The award money of 3.5 million euros (humanities) and five million euros (natural sciences) is intended for the first five years, enabling the winners to conduct pioneering research at a German university.

Dr. Anna Euteneuer
CECAD Cluster of Excellence
+49 221 478 84043