"Scientist of the Year” Award 2021 at the Goethe University Frankfurt goes to theoretical physicist Hannah Elfner


This news is based on a press release of Goethe-University Frankfurt

The physicist Professor Dr. Hannah Elfner studies processes involving the very smallest particles in the universe, in particular strongly interacting particle in extreme conditions of temperature and density, when they form the so-called quark-gluon plasma, a state which was probably prevalent in the Universe shortly after the big Bang. For her outstanding research on these processes, which allow us to better understand the evolution of the Universe in its first instants, the physicist is now being honored by the Alfons and Gertrud Kassel Foundation as "Scientist of the Year" 2021 at the Goethe University Frankfurt. Hannah Elfner conducts research and teaches at Goethe University in Frankfurt and the GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung in Darmstadt.

Mechanical engineer, pilot or physicist? The fact that Hannah Elfner decided to study physics after graduating from high school and that she was then soon determined to research the quark-gluon plasma is a stroke of luck for this field of research. For in her award-winning dissertation, the physicist already pointed out that the sequences in the quark-gluon plasma are far more complex than was assumed at the time. In 2016, she received the prestigious Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize for Young Scientists, among other prizes, for further insights into the extremely brief moment after the Big Bang.

At that time, she had already been researching for four years as Helmholtz Young Investigator in Frankfurt how heavy ion collisions, which experimental physicists can use to simulate processes after the Big Bang and in which the quark-gluon plasma is created, can be described with mathematical models. Appointed as one of the youngest female physics professors in Germany, Elfner occupies a dual position at the Goethe University, the GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung and the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies (FIAS). In the meantime, she teaches and conducts research in a joint permanent professorship of Goethe University and GSI, where she is involved in the "Elements" cluster project, among other things. For a few months now, she has also been coordinating the theory department at the GSI Helmholtzzentrum, where she previously headed a Helmholtz Young Investigator Group for several years.

Hannah Elfner is also a stroke of luck for her team of young scientists. In the laudation for the "Scientist of the Year" award, former and current employees impressively describe the individual attention that the physics professor gives to each and every one of her students and doctoral candidates - which is one of the reasons why Hannah Elfner is now being honored as "Scientist of the Year". University President Enrico Schleiff says: "Ms. Elfner is an excellent young scientist who is very committed to her subject and her team and whose expertise makes an ideal contribution to our research priorities. That this commitment is appreciated and supported by the Kassel Foundation naturally makes me particularly happy."

The Scientific Managing Director of GSI and FAIR, Professor Paolo Giubellino, also congratulates warmly on the award: "I am delighted about this special recognition of Hannah Elfner's scientific work. The theory department at GSI/FAIR, which Prof Elfner now leads, is an essential element for the overall success of our research Institution, constantly in close interaction with the experimental activities. The future accelerator center FAIR will provide researchers with unprecedented opportunities to study key processes defining our universe. Hannah Elfner's work is an important building block in this regard, providing essential tools for the understanding of the experimental result."

The Alfons and Gertrud Kassel Foundation awards the "Scientist of the Year" prize every two years to researchers at the Goethe University in Frankfurt and its related institutions who, in addition to their own outstanding scientific work, have also rendered outstanding services to the promotion of young scientists. Part of the prize money of 25,000 euros is therefore also to be used to promote young scientists. The award ceremony planned for early December has now been postponed until spring due to the pandemic. (BP/GU)