MAINZ Award for Christina Birkel and Christian Ohm

MAINZ Graduate School PhD Award given for outstanding dissertations in Materials Science


The PhD Award of the Graduate School of Materials Science in Mainz (MAINZ) was given this year to Christina Birkel and Christian Ohm. Christina Birkel received the award for her work on new methods of synthesizing nanoparticles from antimony compounds. Christian Ohm was recognized for his dissertation in the field of organic chemistry. The MAINZ Award, valued at EUR 1,000, has been presented annually since 2009 to scholars producing outstanding doctoral theses in the materials sciences.

Christina Birkel obtained her doctorate in the work group of Professor Dr. Wolfgang Tremel at the Institute of Inorganic Chemistry and Analytical Chemistry of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU). Her research involved the development of new techniques to synthesize nanoparticles consisting of intermetallic compounds, specifically combinations of antimony with zinc and iron. Unlike conventional solid-state reactions, the main problem in synthesizing nanoparticles is to prevent particle agglomeration and uncontrolled crystal growth. According to her dissertation supervisor, Christina Birkel has obtained a wealth of high-quality results in recent years, a fact that is also evidenced by the acceptance of four of her articles by highly respected journals. The young researcher is currently completing her postdoctoral phase working in the group around Professor Galen Stucky at the University of California, Santa Barbara, USA, which is one of the world's leading groups in the field of solid-state chemistry.

Christian Ohm entered completely uncharted territory with his dissertation, supervised by Professor Dr. Rudolf Zentel of the Institute of Organic Chemistry at JGU, on the use of microfluidic techniques to create liquid-crystalline colloids. Working in collaboration with Dr. Christophe Serra of the University of Strasbourg in France, he was able for the first time to employ various microfluidic techniques to create spheres and fibers of liquid crystalline polymers that react with reversible form alterations on exposure to temperature changes. His work has been outlined in six articles published in renowned peer-reviewed journals.

Funding of the Graduate School of Materials Science in Mainz (MAINZ) was approved in the Excellence Initiative of the German federal and state governments in 2007. Its renewal proposal was also successful in the second round of the initiative in June 2012. Combined in MAINZ are work groups from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, the University of Technology in Kaiserslautern, and the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research. The school is dedicated to graduate training in the area of materials research and employs an innovative program that includes an excellent scientific and technical training of doctoral candidates, the promotion of complementary core competencies as well as high-level materials research.