Press release 2020/330 from

Today, the Joint Committee of the German Research Foundation (DFG) awarded the 2021 Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize to four female and six male researchers. One of them is Nico Eisenhauer, Professor of Experimental Interaction Ecology at Leipzig University since 2014 and head of a working group at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig. The awards are endowed with 2.5 million euros each.

“The Leibniz Prize for Nico Eisenhauer honours his outstanding work on the effects of global change on biodiversity and ecosystem functions,” reads the DFG’s justification. At the age of 40, the youngest prizewinner is “already one of the leading scientists in his field”. The jury found that Eisenhauer’s research has yielded “significant advances in ecological theory and a fundamental understanding of the functional significance of biodiversity”. 

In 2014, Eisenhauer already received the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize and was appointed professor at Leipzig University. He is the spokesperson of the Jena Experiment, one of the world’s best-known biodiversity studies. In 2016 he was awarded a prestigious Starting Grant by the European Research Council (ERC).

Eisenhauer shared his initial thoughts on the news this afternoon: “I can hardly believe it, this is amazing! I am very happy for my fantastic team, which I can now continue to employ and support. We want to further advance functional biodiversity research, including in our MyDiv experiment in Bad Lauchstädt. It is important to focus more on research into soil biodiversity.”

“An international star”

Professor Beate Schücking, Rector of Leipzig University, commented on the news: “Nico Eisenhauer is one of the best researchers Leipzig University has, one who has already made outstanding achievements at a young age. Leipzig is shaped by his research interests in how environmental and climate change affect biodiversity. I congratulate him from the bottom of my heart and I share his delight.”

Professor Christian Wirth, head of the Special Botany and Functional Biodiversity department at Leipzig University and iDiv spokesperson, said: “I have known Nico Eisenhauer since his doctoral period in the ‘Jena Experiment’ – he was an academic prodigy back then. Today he is an international star tackling the Herculean task of functional biodiversity research. He wants to know how the invisible yet bewilderingly vast biodiversity in soils keeps our ecosystems running – a question that concerns all of humanity. To this end, he masterfully employs the entire gamut of iDiv’s integrative concept, from large-scale experiments to global synthesis.”

About the prize

The Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize is the most important research award in Germany. The Leibniz Programme, established in 1985, aims to improve the working conditions of outstanding researchers, expand their research opportunities, relieve them of administrative tasks, and help them employ particularly qualified early career researchers. 

The awards are endowed with 2.5 million euros each. The prizewinners can use this money for their research work for up to seven years, following their own ideas and without bureaucratic red tape. The 2021 Leibniz Prizes will be awarded during an online event on 15 March.