Mainz geoscientist Dorrit Jacob has been awarded Heisenberg Professorship by the German Research Foundation

New chair for carbon geomaterials will focus on diamonds and biominerals


Geoscientist Dr. Dorrit Jacob has been awarded a Heisenberg Professorship by the German Research Foundation (DFG). Dorrit Jacob, an expert in biomineralization working at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU), has been appointed to a professorship that will be funded for the next five years by the German Research Foundation and will subsequently be permanently established at Mainz University. "We congratulate Dr. Dorrit Jacob on her appointment to one of the renowned DFG Heisenberg Professorships," says JGU President Professor Dr. Georg Krausch. "At the same time, the university is demonstrating its clear commitment to the further development of the geosciences." Fundamental structural changes have been made to earth system research at Mainz over the past few years and the university has gained a national reputation in the field thanks to its Geocycles Research Center. The new chair for carbon-based geomaterials represents a continuation of this development while also emphasizing two further directions.

Dorrit Jacob's work focuses on two very different aspects of the carbon cycle: One occurs in the depths of the Earth while the other takes place on the surface – the creation of diamonds and biominerals. Living organisms use organic and inorganic materials to form biominerals such as pearls, corals, and mollusk shells. These can also be used to investigate paleoclimatic conditions as they record evidence of temperatures. Knowledge of the mechanisms underlying the formation of minerals helps scientists in various disciplines to reconstruct evolutionary processes and the history of the Earth. The Biomineralization research group headed by Dorrit Jacob since 2006 cooperates with other teams working in the fields of paleontology, paleoclimatology, molecular biology, analytical chemistry, anthropology, and gem research.

"Dr. Dorrit Jacob's professorship will provide for continuity in our interdisciplinary Geocycles initiative and also improve equality statistics at the JGU Institute of Geosciences, which currently does not have a single female professor," explains Professor Dr. Wolfgang Hofmeister, dean of Faculty 09: Chemistry, Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Geosciences. "Dr. Jacob has significantly extended her field of isotopic geochemistry into the realm of biomineralization and thus is predestined for interdisciplinary research."

"The exciting thing about our research is that we are able to use cutting-edge analytical methods to explore as far as the nano level to gain fundamental insight into mineralization processes, such as those used by mollusks to form their exoskeletons," says Dorrit Jacob, describing her specialization. She has experience in the use of several micro- and nano-analytical procedures, has published more than 50 articles in peer-reviewed journals, including Nature and Science, and is internationally renowned in her field. Her research is facilitated by the excellent equipment provided in the laboratories at JGU. There is no other location in Germany with the same range of equipment supporting micro- and nano-analysis.

Dorrit Jacob works within the Earth and the Anthropocene (ERA) Cluster of Excellence, which is currently in the final round of the German Federal Excellence Initiative.

Dr. Dorrit Jacob is the first female scientist in Rhineland-Palatinate to be awarded a DFG-funded Heisenberg Professorship and the first female Heisenberg Professor at JGU. Since initiating the program in 2005, the German Research Foundation has awarded Heisenberg Professorships to a total of 125 scientists.