Sixth Humboldt Professorship for FAU

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Dr. Kristian Franze. (Bild: FAU/Boris Mijat)

Prof. Dr. Kristian Franze has been selected for Germany’s most prestigious international research award

Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) is celebrating yet another success during the last few weeks of 2019. For the third time in a row and for the sixth time overall, a researcher nominated by the University has been selected by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation for a Humboldt Professorship – Germany’s most prestigious international research award with the highest grant. Dr. Kristian Franze is set to receive a grant of five million euros for his research into physical biology.

From our eyes to the brain and all the way down to our toes – our bodies are full of nerve cells. They decide how we perceive the world and control our responses. But how do nerve cells know in which direction they are supposed to extend and which cells they should connect with? And what can influence or disrupt the function of these nerve cells and, in the worst case, trigger disease? This is where Kristian Franze’s research has broken new ground. He has demonstrated that nerve cells are not only crucially influenced by chemical signals, which has long been known, but also by mechanical forces. Tissue stiffness, for example, plays an important role in nerve function and development and can also change after injury. Improving our understanding of these processes could help to stimulate nerve growth through previously destroyed tissue and, one day, even lead to therapies for paraplegia.

Kristian Franze is one of the world’s leading scientists investigating the impact of mechanics on the nervous system and he has had a decisive influence on this growing research field. At FAU, he is set to introduce concepts from physics into medical research, creating a globally-unique interdisciplinary centre combining both research fields. As a Humboldt professor, Franze will become Director of the Institute of Medical Physics and Micro Tissue Technology at FAU. At the same time, he will become a member of the Executive Board of the Max-Planck-Zentrum für Physik und Medizin, which was founded by FAU in conjunction with the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light (MPL) and Universitätsklinikum Erlangen. (A detailed press release about the Max-Planck-Zentrum für Physik und Medizin is available here.)

About the award winner

Born in Germany, Kristian Franze has been a reader at the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom, since 2017. After completing a degree in veterinary science at the University of Leipzig, where he completed a doctoral degree in physics in 2007, a Humboldt Foundation Feodor Lynen Research Fellowship took him to the University of Cambridge as a postdoctoral researcher. He subsequently worked at the University of Leipzig before returning to Cambridge in 2011 to continue his academic career as a lecturer. He has received numerous international awards for his research including an ERC Consolidator Grant in 2018.

About the award

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation awards this professorship to internationally leading researchers from all disciplines who are currently working abroad. The aim of Alexander von Humboldt professorships is to enable German universities to bring top researchers to Germany and to offer them a long-term perspective for their work here. The professorships are funded by the Federal Ministry for Education and Research and are endowed with up to five million euros over five years. Further information about Humboldt Professorships is available on the website.

Further information:

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