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Kassel Foundation prize 2014 goes to Harald Schwalbe

July 2014. Harald Schwalbe received on 18 July 2014 the "Scientist of the Year"-award from the Kassel Foundation for his research achievements. Harald Schwalbe's commitment to teaching and his ability for strategic thinking and political acumen resulting in many successful grant applications were also praised by the reviewers. Thirty percent of the entire EU research funds raised by the Goethe University Frankfurt were grants won by Harald Schwalbe.

"I am very grateful for this recognition of the work of my group" said Harald Schwalbe. His research focuses on the structure of complex biological molecules, proteins and ribonucleic acids, which he investigates using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). Time-resolved NMR spectroscopy in particular has allowed the group to observe very fast processes such as the folding of a protein on a molecular level. Applied aspects of Harald Schwalbe's research include contributions to the design of medical drugs and finding out how tuberculosis-causing bacteria, Salmonella or prions manage to overcome the human immune system.

Harald Schwalbe will donate the prize money from the Kassel foundation to the winter retreats for students ("Winterschulen") of the Department of Biochemistry, Chemistry and Pharmacy. "Teaching and research are interconnected" explains Harald Schwalbe his decision "and our research results were only possible because to our excellent undergraduates, PhD students and postdocs."

His longstanding dedication has strongly contributed to the international standing of Frankfurt's Center for Biomolecular Magnetic Resonance (BMRZ). In 2014 alone a € 24 million grant was won for a 1.2 Gigahertz spectrometer and dedicated research extension, which will allow BMRZ to maintain and expand its international standing as a leading European research facility.

Harald Schwalbe was born in 1966 and studied Chemistry at the Goethe University Frankfurt. After completing his PhD in Frankfurt in 1993 he worked at the University of Oxford, UK, until 1995. He returned to Frankfurt for his habilitation before accepting in 1999 a position as assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA. Following promotion to associate professor in 2001, Harald Schwalbe returned to Germany in 2002 after accepting the offer of the professorship for organic chemistry and chemical Biology at the Goethe University.

In addition to his own research and teaching activities Harald Schwalbe has contributed in many ways to university self-governance and research management: he has been member of the senate, dean of the department, founder and managing director of BMRZ, director of the Cluster of Excellence Macromolecular Complexes as well as coordinator of several DFG-funded collaborative research centers (SFBs) and of five EU research projects.

The „Scientist of the Year“-award was introduced by the Alfons und Gertrud Kassel foundation in 2012 to celebrate its fifth anniversary. The € 25,000 prize money consist of  € 5000 dedicated to the support of young academics and € 20,000 that are at the awardee's personal disposal. 

Prof. Dr. Harald Schwalbe
Institute of Organic Chemistry and Chemical Biology
Center for Biomolecular Magnetic Resonance (BMRZ)
Goethe University Frankfurt