Humboldt professorship for the TU Darmstadt

Dr Alexandre Obertelli receives Germany's most highly endowed research award

2018/06/07 by

The TU Darmstadt is awarded an Alexander von Humboldt Professorship for the first time; it is also the first one in the state of Hesse. The nuclear physicist Dr Alexandre Obertelli, nominated by the TU Darmstadt, is one of five scientists from abroad who have just been selected for Germany's most highly endowed international research award.

Dr Alexandre Obertell. Picture: Sandra Junker

The Alexander von Humboldt Professorship, which is endowed with up to five million euros each, is awarded to the world's leading researchers of all disciplines who have so far worked in another country. They are to conduct forward-looking research at German universities in the long term. The award is granted by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and financed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

"This is the first Alexander von Humboldt Professorship for the TU Darmstadt and also the first in the state of Hesse”, commented TU President Professor Hans Jürgen Prömel. “This is a very prestigious award for the TU Darmstadt and the Department of Physics”, says Prömel. “Dr Alexandre Obertelli will contribute to the development of the university as a top research location for physics. And he will play an important role in the development of the FAIR particle accelerator facility of GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung in Darmstadt,” says Prömel.

Born in France, Alexandre Obertelli previously worked at the Institute of Research into the Fundamental Laws of the Universe (IRFU) at the Commissariat à l’énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives (CEA) in Paris‐Saclay, France, from 2006 as a Senior Researcher. In between times, he conducted research in the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory (NSCL) at Michigan State University, USA, and at the RIKEN Research Institute in Japan. His work has gained him numerous grants, including an ERC Starting Grant and an ERC Consolidator Grant from the European Research Council. He is a member of various programme advisory boards, such as CERN in Switzerland.

The Humboldt Professorship enables German universities to offer top international researchers competitive general conditions for research and to sharpen their own international profiles in the global research market at the same time. The award is granted on the precondition that the new Humboldt Professors are given long-term prospects for their research in Germany. To date, a total of 68 researchers, including twelve women, have been appointed to a Humboldt Professorship, facilitating their move to Germany.

Experimental nuclear physics – research focus

How were chemical elements – the building blocks of our world – originally formed? What are the processes behind their formation? In the context of these fundamental questions in nuclear and atomic physics Alexandre Obertelli studies so‐called exotic nuclei, atomic nuclei with a comparatively disproportionate number of protons or neutrons. They have barely been researched so far. A deeper understanding of their properties could provide insights into the development of elements in the universe because neutron‐rich atomic nuclei play a central role in the formation of heavy elements. In this connection, Obertelli led experimental investigations on the reactions and structures of exotic nuclei which have now become a benchmark in nuclear physics. He has also developed and implemented spectroscopic measuring methods for characterising extremely neutron‐rich isotopes. In his role as a Humboldt Professor at TU Darmstadt, he is set to expand the field of physics of rare isotopes into a world‐leading research location. He will also be involved in the development of the FAIR particle accelerator facility at GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung in Darmstadt, which is currently under construction and will become fully operational in 2025.