Outstanding recognition: Karlheinz Langanke appointed honorary member of the European Physical Society


It is a great honor for a renowned research personality and at the same time a recognition of the outstanding quality of science at the GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung and the future accelerator center FAIR: The theoretical nuclear astrophysicist Professor Karlheinz Langanke has been appointed honorary member by the European Physical Society (EPS). This honor is bestowed on only a few scientists worldwide, as the list of EPS honorary members never exceeds 30 living persons. At its recent meeting, the EPS Council decided to elect Karlheinz Langanke to this exceptional circle, which now consists of 19 members, including seven Nobel laureates. The honorary membership is a tribute to his first-class achievements in physics and his scientific life's work.

Professor Karlheinz Langanke works in the field of theoretical nuclear astrophysics, in particular on the theoretical calculation of nuclear reactions in supernovae and in stellar element synthesis. Born in 1951, he studied physics at the University of Münster, where he also obtained his doctorate and habilitation. As a postdoc he went to the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), where Nobel laureate Willy Fowler inspired his interest in nuclear astrophysics. From 1987 to 1992 he held a professorship at the University of Münster, and in 1992 he joined the faculty at Caltech as a senior research associate. In 1996, he accepted a chair at Aarhus University in Denmark. Since 2005, he has held a joint professorship at the Technical University of Darmstadt and at GSI, where he also served as Research Director and, for two years in 2015/16, as  Scientific Managing Director.

The Scientific Managing Director of GSI and FAIR, Professor Paolo Giubellino emphasizes: "I am truly delighted about the election of Professor Karlheinz Langanke as Honorary Member of EPS. He is a towering figure in our field of science and has played a key role in shaping the scientific program of GSI and FAIR. He is an outstanding scientist who addresses important challenges in nuclear physics with his projects and commitment. With the admission to this prestigious circle of EPS honorary members, his scientific work and his international standing are justly honored. At the same time, the award demonstrates the scientific strength at GSI and FAIR. Karlheinz Langanke’s seminal contributions to the microscopic description of nuclear processes in astrophysical environments has a profound impact on our modern understanding of stellar evolution, supernovae dynamics and nucleosynthesis. Karlheinz initiated and built up world-leading activities in nuclear astrophysics in Darmstadt, which in the future will constitute the backbone of research at our new facility FAIR, from which we expect fundamental new insights into the origin of the elements in the Universe and of the astrophysical objects which produce them. The work of Prof Langanke is therefore creating an important and long lasting legacy.”

Professor Karlheinz Langanke's scientific work has evolved during his scientific career on many topics in nuclear astrophysics ranging from hydrostatic burning phases in stars to understanding the dynamics and associated nucleosynthesis of explosive events such as supernovae. Arguably his most important research is concerned with  the electron capture on nuclei which is the dominating process working against the gravitational collapse in the core of a massive star leading to a supernova explosion. He developed the strategy and techniques to describe this process at the extreme density and temperature conditions occurring in the collapsing star. His results are now incorporated in modern supernova simulations with important consequences for the dynamics of the collapse.  Furthermore, Langanke also developed the research field of neutrino-nucleus reactions for astrophysical applications in nucleosynthesis and neutrino detection on Earth. He also realized  the important role that fission yields play in r-process nucleosynthesis and together with GSI experimentalists developed the first set of fission yields for r-process nuclei.

For his scientific work, Professor Karlheinz Langanke was awarded, among others, the 2012 Lise Meitner Prize of the European Physical Society and the 2015 Benjamin Lee Professorship Award of the Asian Pacific Center for Theoretical Physics. He was elected member of the Academia Europaea and appointed honorary member of the Hellenic Nuclear Physics Society. Karlheinz Langanke has been called to numerous international advisory committees at leading laboratories worldwide.

He is the author of numerous major scientific publications and review articles. In addition he represented the field of nuclear astrophysics at many major conferences and regularly lectures in schools on all continents, sharing his enthusiasm for Nuclear Astrophysics with the next generation of researchers. (BP)

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