Laureate 2011

Laureates 2011

Prof. Dr. Petra Schwille© David Ausserhofer

Biophysicist Prof. Dr. Petra Schwille receives the prize for her substantial research achievements in the field of biomedicine. Her two-photon cross-correlation spectroscopy, a method for making molecular mechanisms visible at the cellular level, has provided answers to fundamental biomedical questions. Prof. Dr. Schwille will be presented with the award on 29 November at the Haus der Wissenschaft.

The project

Over the course of her scientific career, Prof. Dr. Petra Schwille has worked to develop her “two-photon cross-correlation spectroscopy”. This technology enables researchers to study the real-time interactions of the smallest molecules in living cells.
Prof. Dr. Schwille was able to demonstrate the membrane dynamics of lipids and proteins in artificial membranes and in bacterial cells. Her work has also allowed her to study receptor-ligand pairs directly in the cells of live fish and thus for the first time ever in an intact multicellular organism.
In conjunction with her research team, Prof. Dr. Schwille continues to develop and hone her methods further, combining them with other techniques such as atomic force microscopy. This enables the researchers to compare extremely high-resolution images of cell membranes with the latter’s biophysical behaviour. These methods and technologies play a fundamental role in expanding our knowledge of cells’ functions and their basic molecular structure.

About Prof. Dr. Petra Schwille

Prof. Dr. Petra Schwille is a Professor and the Head of the Biophysics Department at the TU Dresden. She was born in 1968 and studied physics in Stuttgart and Göttingen from 1987 to 1993. Between 1993 and 1996, she obtained her doctorate, studying under Nobel Laureate Manfred Eigen in Göttingen and at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, amongst others.
As a postdoctoral scholar, she spent two years in Watt Webb’s laboratory at Cornell University, USA, one of the pioneers in applying laser physics techniques to biomedicine. Based on Webb’s preliminary work, Prof. Dr. Schwille developed a new technology: two-photon cross-correlation spectroscopy.
From 1999 to 2002, she was the Junior Research Group Leader at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen. In 2002, she became Professor of Biophysics at the TU Dresden. She has been a Fellow at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden since 2005.
Prof. Dr. Schwille has received numerous awards, including the Philip Morris Research Prize and the Leibniz Prize of the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG). She is also the mother of three children.

Explanations and hints

Picture credits

  • David Ausserhofer