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Headlines Published on 17 November 2004

Title Marie Curie rewards scientific excellence

This year’s Marie Curie Excellence Awards have gone to five leading scientists – who will each receive up to €50 000 in prize money – to reward their groundbreaking contributions to science, which range from the cosmic proportions of galaxy formation, to the microscopic dimensions of quantum physics.

The inspirational Marie Curie, one of the greatest scientists that ever lived  © Source: The Nobel Foundation
The inspirational Marie Curie, one of the greatest scientists that ever lived
© Source: The Nobel Foundation
Two Germans, two Italians and an Israeli have won the 2004 Marie Curie Excellence Awards for their work on the creation of galaxies, the neural root of human empathy, the localisation properties of chaotic quantum states, new catalysts, and internal avalanches in various materials.

“The EU has some of the best scientists in the world. We have to recognise their excellence,” commented acting Research Commissioner Louis Michel. “The Marie Curie Awards address this issue by showing how bright European researchers… can achieve outstanding results.”

Awarded by a six-member grand jury, this Commission-organised prize aims to gain public recognition for the outstanding achievements of scientists who have reached a level of exceptional excellence in their given field. Researchers of any nationality are eligible, provided they have taken part in an EU training and mobility programme for a minimum of 12 months.

This year’s winners included the Italian Benedetta Ciardi for her work on the effect that the radiation of the first stars had on the different gases in the Universe and on the process of galaxy formation. German Christian Marc Keysers won a prize for his research into the neural processes behind how and why people empathise with one another.

Another German Jens Marklof received his award for quantum physics research, particularly relating to the localisation properties of chaotic quantum states, as did Israeli Gadi Rothenberg for his investigation of new catalysts using a combination of advanced computational and experimental methods. Italian Stefano Sapperi made waves for his investigations into internal avalanches and crackling noises in various materials.

Curie’s children
Marie Curie (1867-1934) is one of the greatest scientists that ever lived and is a role model for generations of researchers in Europe and across the globe. Besides discovering radium, she pioneered the use of radiation in medical treatment and risked her own life on World War I battlefields. She was also the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize, which she won twice, and the first woman – in spite of being born in Poland – to be laid to rest in France’s Pantheon alongside the French Republic’s ‘greatest men’.

In their own way, each of the award winners is carrying on this great woman’s scientific excellence, passion and pioneering spirit. “From the time I started studying physics at university, I quickly realised the enormous satisfaction that can be got from exploring unknown territory and cracking previously unsolved problems,” Marklof observed.

“Research offers new challenges every day and gives the opportunity to work with talented and enthusiastic people – there is no other occupation like it,” Rothenberg enthused.

By giving the continent’s top brains the international recognition they deserve and providing them with the moral and financial impetus to take their work further, the wider objective of these awards is to increase the attractiveness of European research careers and to enhance the visibility of European research results.

“Public communication of science is an important academic responsibility and this award will provide a vehicle for public lectures that can convey the excitement of fundamental research,” added Marklof.

The awards are also designed to help researchers take their work to new levels. “I believe that the Marie Curie Award will contribute enormously to the further development of my research and career… It will allow me to take some steps towards forming my own research groups in Europe,” Ciardi explained.

Source:  EU sources

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