Physicist Franz Pfeiffer is one of the ten winners of the 2011 Leibniz Prize, the German Research Foundation (DFG) has announced. The 38-year-old physicist, holds the Chair for Biomedical Physics at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM). The price honors his fundamental and applied research in phase-contrast X-ray imaging, which promises significant progress toward early detection of tumors. The Leibniz Prize is Germany's most renowned scientific award and brings each recipient 2.5 million euros in prize money.
The DFG cited Pfeiffer's research in biomedical imaging, and in particular his pioneering work in phase-contrast X-ray imaging. His systematic approach has laid the foundation for applications of this technique in medicine and industry, where it is expected to deliver improved image contrast with lower doses of radiation. His research is recognized as having immense potential, from fundamental biophysical investigations to applications in medical imaging and diagnosis; it could bring about a marked shift in what is possible for mammography and computed tomography.
Before Pfeiffer's trail-blazing work, such phase-contrast X-ray imaging was only possible using the synchrotron X-ray sources available at large-scale research facilities. He developed a special methodology that made it possible to use normal X-ray sources for this purpose. He then showed that the newly developed approach could be combined with the methods of computed tomography to achieve previously unattainable levels of clarity and contrast in three-dimensional views into biomedical samples.
Particularly in the early detection of tumors, the analysis of phase-contrast information promises a marked improvement in diagnostic success, since the technique offers better contrast in soft tissue. To this end, the Center for Advanced Laser Applications (CALA) - a collaborative project of TUM and LMU -- has taken shape on the TUM campus Garching near Munich, with significant participation by physicist Pfeiffer and TUM Professor Michael Molls, a medical doctor. Molls is director of the Clinic for Radiation Therapy and Radiological Oncology at the university hospital Klinikum rechts der Isar.
TUM President Wolfgang A. Herrmann congratulated the new prize-winner: "You are not only one of our top scientists, but as a member of our Senate you also serve the overall development of the university. With your innovative contributions in X-ray physics, you are setting the direction for the CALA project and the medicine of tomorrow."
Professor Pfeiffer is the eighth scientist of the Technische Universitaet Muenchen to be honored with the Leibniz Prize. A further Leibniz Prize this year went to Professor Anja Feldmann, formerly of the Institute for Informatics at the TU Muenchen, now at the TU Berlin. Another laureate is Professor Dr. Bernhard Keimer of the Max-Planck Institute for Solid State Research in Stuttgart. The physicist was honored for his research in neutron scattering and operates two scientific instruments at the neutron source of the TUM in Garching, which delivered important results for his research.
Of the ten new Leibniz Prize-winners - four women and six men - four work in the biological sciences, three in physical sciences, two in engineering, and one in the humanities and social sciences. The prizes will be awarded in Berlin on March 16, 2011.
Prof. Dr. Franz Pfeiffer
Chair for Biomedical Physics
Technische Universitaet Muenchen
James-Franck-Strasse 1, 85748 Garching, Germany