FAU engineer awarded Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize

Dr. Silvia Budday vom Lehrstuhl für Technische Mechanik. (Bild: Studioline)

Dr. Silvia Budday receives most prestigious research prize for young researchers

The German Research Foundation (DFG) has awarded young researcher Dr. Silvia Budday from the Chair of Applied Mechanics at FAU the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize – the most prestigious research award for early career researchers in Germany. The official prize-giving ceremony will be held on 4 May.

Investigating cerebral folds

In her research, Dr. Silvia Budday focuses on the mechanics of our brains. Why does our brain have folds? What effect do these grooves and their mechanical properties have? The young researcher has designed 3D computer models of the brain based on small cubes representing the various areas within the brain. These models make it possible to observe the mechanics of individual areas within the brain. This technique could be used to simulate operations or enable diseases to be diagnosed more accurately. Diseases such as epilepsy or schizophrenia are often linked to deformities in the brain which have an impact on its functions. Certain diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s also alter the mechanical properties of the brain. In many instances, however, symptoms only appear once it is already too late. These models could help them to be detected earlier. Budday is also using her method to work in close collaboration with the Institute of Anatomy and the Chairs for Biomaterials and Biophysics at FAU to identify replacement materials for soft tissues, for instance hydrogels, which have similar mechanical properties to natural tissue. She is making an important contribution in the area of tissue engineering.

‘Brain tissue is classed as an ultra soft material, whose challenging properties make it very hard to model. Dr. Silvia Budday has succeeded in making it possible for us to gain a clear and comprehensive picture of brain tissue in simulations,’ says Prof. Dr. Paul Steinmann, Chair of Applied Mechanics. ‘Comparing results from experiments with her work on modelling brain tissue is an extremely valuable resource for the fields of biomechanics and neuromedicine.’

Bavarian minister of science Bernd Sibler praises the significance of the award winner’s research. ‘Dr. Ing. Budday is working in a new, innovative area of research, providing invaluable pioneering work. By conducting significant fundamental research which is at the same time highly relevant for clinical application, Dr. Ing. Budday is the ideal example of a researcher who is committed every day to making the world a better place for us all. As the Bavarian minister of science, I am naturally very proud that an award winner like this, one of the leading global players in her area, is based in the federal state of Bavaria. We do all we can to offer researchers outstanding conditions for developing innovative ideas, for example by investing over a billion euros in our innovation campaign Hightech Agenda Bavaria.’

About the award-winner

You only have to look at her career to date to realise that Silva Budday is a highly talented young researcher. She studied mechanical engineering at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, where she won the Irene Rosenberg award for the best graduate. Her doctoral thesis, which she completed at FAU in 2017, received a distinction from not one, but two academic societies. In 2018 she also won the Bertha Benz award, received funding from the Emerging Talents Initiative and the Emerging Fields Initiative and was accepted onto the DFG’s Emmy Noether programme. Just last year, Budday gained the prestigious status of head of junior research group at the Faculty of Engineering at FAU.

Heinz Maier-Leibnitz prize: Incentive for young researchers

Supporting young researchers in pursuing their academic career: Since 1977, the DFG has awarded ten prizes a year, worth 20,000 euros each, to outstanding young researchers. The prize money is provided by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The Heinz Maier-Leibnitz prize is named after the physicist and former President of the German Research Foundation. Further information about the prize is available on the DFG website.

Further information:

Dr. Silvia Budday