Even more cutting-edge research at FAU

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Corpus linguist and mechanobiologist receive Alexander von Humboldt Professorship

Yesterday, the official awarding of the Alexander von Humboldt Professorships 2024 took place in Berlin. Two of the professorships went to Prof. Dr. Michaela Mahlberg and Prof. Dr. Benoit Ladoux, and therefore to Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU). A few days earlier, human rights expert Prof. Dr. Eva Pils had announced that she was also accepting an Alexander von Humboldt Professorship at FAU. This means that FAU has now gained eleven Humboldt Professors: currently the most in Germany.

FAU-Präsident Hornegger mit Humboldt-Professorin Michaela Mahlberg und Humboldt-Professor Benoit Ladoux
FAU-President Hornegger together with Humboldt professors Michaela Mahlberg and Benoit Ladoux.

Bavaria’s Minister for Science and Art Markus Blume congratulates FAU on this hat-trick. “FAU is the new leader in Germany’s most highly endowed science award,” says the Minister – and is delighted with Bavaria’s success in the overall ranking. “Progress is coming home: with five out of thirteen new Humboldt Professorships, Bavaria is the sole national leader! The best conditions for visionary research and a clear political commitment to innovation and progress – this is what Bavaria stands for and this is what our High-Tech Agenda stands for. This also convinces AI luminaries from lighthouses such as MIT. Two out of four new Humboldt Professorships dedicated to Artificial Intelligence show this: Bavaria is one of the international pacesetters in this revolutionary key technology,” emphasizes Blume.

At the ceremony in Berlin FAU President Prof. Dr. Joachim Hornegger explained: “I am delighted about the chance of welcoming Professor Mahlberg and Professor Ladoux to FAU officially. As a university covering the entire spectrum of academic disciplines, we are proud to offer and promote first-class research across the board. With their unique work in linguistics and mechanobiology respectively, Michaela Mahlberg and Benoit Ladoux support us in this important task. And what makes this day perfect: with Eva Pils as an outstanding human rights expert, our eleventh Humboldt Professor accepted an appointment at FAU this weekend. This means that we can also establish a new beacon in our profile field of human rights.”

The meaning of language for society: Prof. Dr. Michaela Mahlberg

The linguist and mathematician Prof. Dr. Michaela Mahlberg analyzes text corpora using computer-aided methods. She has set her eyes on two goals: to describe social conditions and to change them. At FAU, the Humboldt Professor is now the spokesperson for the Department of Digital Humanities and Social Studies (DHSS).

Learn more about Michaela Mahlberg

Pioneer of mechanobiology: Prof. Dr. Benoit Ladoux

“It fascinates me to observe cells under a microscope,” says Prof. Dr. Benoit Ladoux. He conducts research at the interface between biophysics, cell biology and engineering in the field of mechanobiology. “Seeing how they move, a gigantic number of interacting objects. And yet in the end they manage to create a mechanism that works.”

Together with his interdisciplinary team, the physicist wants to find out how cells and tissue generate and respond to mechanical forces, and how these stressors in turn impact changes in shape, migration and differentiation of cells during their development. The knowledge gained on the self-organization of cells is important, for example, in developmental biology and cancer research.

As a Humboldt Professor at FAU, Prof. Ladoux will help to transfer the findings from basic research in mechanobiology to concrete healthcare. These could for example be applied to the barrier function of the intestinal mucosa or in the area of tumor research and treatment.

Prof. Ladoux has been awarded a professorship in biophysics at FAU. He has also been invited to take on one of four management positions at the Max-Planck-Zentrum für Physik und Medizin, an interdisciplinary, joint research center of FAU, the Universitätsklinikum Erlangen and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light – a great prerequisite for working together with the two Humboldt Professors Jochen Guck and Kristian Franze, among others.

Sinologist and human rights expert

Prof. Dr. Eva Pils receives the festive award for her Alexander von Humboldt Professorship at the next possible award ceremony. Among other things, the human rights researcher is an expert on human rights protection in China.

Learn more about Prof. Dr. Eva Pils

About the Humboldt Professorship

With funding of up to five million euros, Alexander von Humboldt Professorships not only provide optimum financing but also maximum flexibility for carrying out top-level research in Germany. The aim of the most prestigious international research prize in Germany is to attract the prizewinners to institutions in the country for the long term.

FAU's Humboldt ProfessorshipsGermany's most prestigious research prize