Leonie Mück and Christoph Schüll receive MAINZ Award for excellent doctoral theses in the field of materials science

Graduate School of Excellence "Materials Science in Mainz" rewards outstanding dissertations


The doctoral award of the Graduate School of Excellence "Materials Science in Mainz" (MAINZ) was given this year to Dr. Leonie Mück and Dr. Christoph Schüll. Mück received the award for predicting and proving the existence of the cyclical SiS2 molecule and Schüll for his work in the area of branched polymer structures. The MAINZ Award for excellent dissertations in materials science comes with EUR 2,000 in prize money and has been presented for the fifth time since 2009. The winners are two former doctoral candidates of the Graduate School MAINZ, who were members of the work groups of Professor Jürgen Gauß and Professor Holger Frey.

In her thesis "Highly Accurate Quantum Chemistry: Spin-Orbit Splittings via Multireference Coupled-Cluster Methods and Applications in Heavy-Atom Main-Group Chemistry", Leonie Mück demonstrated extraordinary scientific insight along with originality and a great amount of creativity. In a project that she supervised, she was able to predict the existence of a cyclical form of the SiS2 molecule and to initiate corresponding experiments at Harvard University in the USA, which confirmed the prediction. She also contributed extensively to the "Journal of Unsolved Questions" (JUnQ). This is a unique journal issued by doctoral candidates who see it as their duty not only to publish articles but also actively examine fundamental aspects of research such the consequences of obtaining negative results and of academic misconduct. Mück now works as an Associate Editor of the journal Nature.

The topic of Christoph Schüll's thesis was hyperbranched polyethers, a subject he approached from a completely new perspective. Various collaborations with researchers from other disciplines resulted in several pioneering publications. Seen as particularly innovative was one article that combined both theory and synthesis entitled "Polydispersity and Molecular Weight Distribution of Hyperbranched Graft-Copolymers via 'Hypergrafting' of ABm Monomers from Polydisperse Macroinitiator Cores: Theory Meets Synthesis." This was the first discussion of what properties can be expected for polymer molecules that result from the reaction of functional polymer chains with AB2 monomers. The article thus sets out the basic requirements for the creation of a wide diversity of materials through polymer grafting, materials that could also be used as biomedical products. Schüll is currently working for the company 3M.

Funding of the Graduate School "Materials Science in Mainz" (MAINZ) was approved in the Excellence Initiative of the German federal and state governments in 2007 and its funding proposal was again successful in the second round of the initiative in June 2012. MAINZ combines work groups from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU), the University of Kaiserslautern, and the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in Mainz. The school is dedicated to the training of graduates in the field of materials science. It employs an innovative program that provides for outstanding scientific and technical training of doctoral candidates, for the promotion of complementary core skill as well as for high-level materials research.

In order to be eligible for a MAINZ Award, candidates must complete their doctoral degree with distinction and obtain the MAINZ Certificate by completing the MAINZ training program.