Biophysics News

Here you can find recent information from our staff and around our work.


On November 21st, 2019 Dr. Sebastian Meyer and Dr. Sonja Schellhammer (TU Dresden) received the Christoph Schmelzer Award 2019. They were honored for their excellent Thesis on the field of tumor therapy using ion beams.


Franziska Papenfuß and Tabea Pfuhl received the „Giersch Excellence Award“ of the HGSHire graduate School. This price is awarded from the Giersch foundation for doctorate students during their PhD related reserarch phase for excellent research achievements. Franziska Papenfuß investigates the uptake of Radon by pain patients undergoing Radon therapy and the corresponding dose distribution in the body. Tabea Pfuhl dedicates her research to the impact of the energy distribution of secondary electrons to predict the effectiveness of ion radiation within a biophysical model developed at GSI, which is used e.g. in particle therapy. The award ceremony took place at Oct. 28, 2019 in the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies (FIAS).


The paper "The Biophysics Collaboration for research at FAIR and other new accelerator facilities" of Marco Durante, Yolanda Prezado and VincenzoPatera was published in Frontiers in Physics.


1st ESA-FAIR Summer School completed at GSI

After two intense weeks of lectures and experiments at ESOC and GSI, the 1st ESA-FAIR Summer School was closed on October 1, 2019, with the award ceremony at GSI. Eighteen students from 8 different countries submitted beam time applications in different fields of space radiation research. The proposals were evaluated by a ESA-FAIR panel. The panel found all the proposals outstanding and worth implementation within the IBER program, funded by ESA to study space radiation protection at GSI (

After careful selection, the best proposal award was granted to Dr. Emiliano Bolesani from the Hannover Medical School (Germany) who will generate heart organoids from human stem cells and expose them to heavy ions  to assess the risk of cardiovascular disease in astronauts. Second best proposal was about microbiology, in particular the irradiation of arctic ice to isolate radioresistant microorganisms that could be present on the icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn. The experiments was proposed by Dr. Ligia Fonseca Coelho from IST in Lisbon, Portugal. The project ranked third was about hibernation and radioresistance, and was proposed by Dr. Timna Hitrec from the University of Bologna (Italy).The school was enormously appreciated by the students and the faculty, which included lecturers from GSI, ESA and other European institutes such as DLR, SCK-CEN (Belgium) and the University of Darmstadt. The second edition fo the school is slated for September 2020 in Darmstadt. School webpage:


Opening for joint ESA-FAIR Summer School: Focus on cosmic radiation research(GSI - press release) They are the first participants in a new high-quality offer for international young scientists: Currently 15 young researchers from eight countries come together for the first time during the "ESA-FAIR Radiation Summer School" to work intensively on the topic of cosmic radiation. The Summer School for radiation research was jointly established by the European Space Agency ESA and the international accelerator center FAIR (Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research GmbH), which is currently being built at GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung.


Summer School for Cosmic Radiation Research (ESA press release) The study of cosmic rays and their effects on humans, electronics and materials is a key contribution to a promising spaceflight, so that astronauts and satellites in space receive the best protection in the exploration of our solar system.This week, 15 young researchers from 8 countries and from various scientific disciplines will meet at ESA's satellite control center in Darmstadt to explore cosmic radiation through the Radiation Summer School organized by GSI / FAIR and ESA. More (German only)


ESA workshop at GSI to launch the new experimental program IBER-19

The European Space Agency (ESA) signed a MoU with GSI/FAIR to use the accelerator facilities for space radiation protection. The current plans for moon exploration, already planned in 2024, make this experiments urgent to understand the space radiation risk and find appropriate countermeasures. Within the MoU, ESA is funding the Investigations on Biological Effects of Radiation (IBER) program that supports European investigators  to perform radiobiology experiments at GSI on space radiation protection (  On September 9, 2019, GSI has hosted a workshop to discuss the results of the previous experiments in the FAIR-phase-0 beam time in February-April 2019 and to plan the future experiments in 2020. Over 30 investigators from Germany, Italy, Belgium, Czech Republic and Romania attendee the workshop and presented the result of the experiments, covering cancer risk, CNS damage, alterations in heart rhythm, shielding and effects on ultra-resistant organisms (rotifers).  The next experiments will use protons, carbon and iron ions at very high energy in the FAIR-phase-0 beamtime window in February-March 2020


21st Christoph-Schmelzer-Award. The Association for the promotion of ion therapy accepts nominations for the 21st Christoph-Schmelzer-Award for outstanding master (diploma) theses and PhD theses related to tumor therapy with ion beams. Deadline: September 30th, 2019. More


Prof. Marco Durante is the recipient of the 2019

Marco Durante is the recipient of the 2019 Martin Schneider award of the University of Texas Medical Branch (TX, USA). Prof. Durante will deliver the Schneider Memorial Lecture on August 5, 2019, in Galveston.


Prof. Claudia Fournier (Biophysics/group leader “Immune system and tissue radiobiology) was appointed by BMU (Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety) as an expert and member of the German delegation to the Annual Meeting of UNSCEAR.The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), set up by resolution of the United Nations, publishes reports, which provide a scientific basis for the recommendations of the ICRP (International Commission on Radiological Protection) on radiological protection concerning ionizing radiation.


The first meeting of the International Biophysics Collaboration took place at GSI and FAIR. More than 200 researchers, scientists and students from all over the world attended the three-day conference. The Collaboration exploits the opportunities offered by FAIR and other new accelerator facilities in biomedical applications of ion beams. Astronaut Reinhold Ewald was among the top-class speakers.(GSI Press release)


Call for scientific proposals AO-IBER-2019 now open


Celine Schielke won the poster award at the Young Scientists' GSI-FAIR Poster Colloquium 2019 with her poster "Ionizing radiation alters cerebral organoid formation". The awards will be presented at the beginning of next week's GSI-FAIR Colloquium on Tuesday, June 25, at 16:15.


Astronaut safety: Research by GSI and FAIR for the best protection from space radiationIt’s light, solid and could play an important role in future space missions into the depths of space: lithium hydride, a salt-like chemical compound of lithium and hydrogen. Crucial indications for the possible suitability of lithium hydride as a shielding material against cosmic radiation have now been found by research partners in Germany and Italy. The international team including the scientists Marco Durante, Christoph Schuy, Felix Horst and Uli Weber from the Department of Biophysics at the GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung in Darmstadt as well as other partners has published its findings in the “Radiation Research” journal.


Marco Durante nominated member for the ICRP

Prof. Marco Durante, Director of the Biophysics Department at GSI, has been nominated member of the International Commission of Radiological Protection (ICRP), the International organisation providing recommendations and guidance on radiological protection from ionising radiation. Prof. Durante will join the Task Group 115 on Risk and Dose Assessment for Radiological Protection of Astronauts. The goal is to provide recommendations for the space agencies (including NASA, ESA, JAXA, Canadian, Russian and Chinese space agencies) on dose limits for astronauts in exploratory-class missions. In fact, at the moment different space agencies apply different career or mission-specific limits, making an International mission to moon and Mars essentially impossible.


The radiation showstopper for Mars exploration

An astronaut on a mission to Mars could receive radiation doses up to 700 times higher than on our planet – a major showstopper for the safe exploration of our Solar System. A team of European experts is working with ESA to protect the health of future crews on their way to the Moon and beyond.


The 22nd Annual Meeting of the German Society for Biological Radiation Research (DeGBS) will take place on 23-25 September 2019, in Mannheim under the scientific direction of PD Dr. Carsten Herskind. The topics of the conference cover a wide range from the mechanisms of biological radiation effects of ionizing and non-ionizing radiation to applications in radiation protection and radiotherapy.The deadline for abstracts is May 27, 2019. More information about registration and abstract submission can be found on the meeting's homepage:


Researching cosmic radiation: ESA and FAIR establish joint Summer School(GSI press release) It is a new high-quality offer for international young scientists and at the same time a further important step for cosmic radiation research: The European Space Agency (ESA) and the international accelerator center FAIR (Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research), which is currently being built at GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung in Darmstadt, will establish a joint Summer School for Radiation Research. The "ESA-FAIR Radiation Summer School" has now been initiated by decision of both institutions.


Health risk from cosmic rays is a limiting factor for astronautical missions to the moon or Mars. A team of radiation biologists around Felicitas Rapp investigate how radiation affects the brain and whether cannabis-like substances can protect astronauts from damage in an ESA and DLR-funded research project at the GSI Helmholtz Center for Heavy Ion Research in Darmstadt. More  (German only)


The paper “Is the dose-averaged LET a reliable predictor for the relative biological effectiveness?” by Rebecca Grün, Thomas Friedrich, Erik Traneus and Michael Scholz has been selected as an Editors’ Choice Highlight for the February 2019 issue of the journal “Medical Physics”; the article is available free-to-read here.


Research on tumor therapy with oxygen ions: GSI doctoral candidate is honored

Clinical and radiobiological studies for tumor therapy with heavy ions began at GSI over 20 years ago. Today the objective of such research at GSI and FAIR is to continue improving this successful therapy and to use it in increasingly customized ways in medical applications. One of the researchers with this objective is Dr. Olga Sokol, a scientist in the Biophysics Department at GSI. One of the focuses of her research is the use of oxygen ions in tumor treatment. This was the main thrust of her doctoral dissertation, for which she was recently honored with the Giersch Award for outstanding doctoral dissertations in 2018. More