Fritz Haber Institute Hosts Four Humboldt Research Fellows

March 09, 2020

In February 2020, the Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society welcomed four new research fellows who have been awarded a Fellowship for Postdoctoral Researchers by the Humboldt Foundation. According to the latest rankings, the FHI hosts more Postdoctoral Humboldt Fellows than any other research institution outside of higher education.

Every year, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation enables more than 2,000 researchers from all over the world to spend time conducting research in Germany. So far more than 30.000 fellowships have been awarded accross all disciplines to researchers from more than 140 countries worldwide – including 55 Nobel Laureates.

According to the latest Humboldt Ranking, the Fritz Haber Institute has hosted more postdoctoral fellows than any other research institution outside of higher education: 37 in total between 2012 and 2016. This year four distinguished scientists will join the institute. The FHI is delighted that it has again been picked to host Humboldt Fellows. “The Humboldt-Foundation awards fellowships to extraordinarily qualified scientists, and we are happy to host them. They add immense value to the research groups they have joined here”, says Managing Director Prof. Gerard Meijer.

The FHI welcomes Dr. Juan Jesús Navarro Ocaña, who will conduct new interdisciplinary research at the intersection between physics and chemistry in the Department of Interface Science together with Beatriz Roldán. The experimental physicist, who received his PhD from the Autonomous University of Madrid, researches the catalytic characteristics of copper and its behaviour in the electrochemical process of CO2 reduction. The knowledge thus gained could become relevant in the field of sustainable energy production. Because in this reduction the CO2 molecule breaks apart and interacts with other molecules to form hydrocarbons and alcohols, which can then be used as fuel. Dr. Navarro chose to spend his postdoctoral fellowship at the FHI because of the institute’s state-of-the-art technical facilities and international atmosphere. “There are few places in the world where this type of research is conducted – that‘s what makes the Fritz Haber Institute so unique,” says Navarro.

Dr. Tommaso Pincelli will join Dr. Ralph Ernstorfer’s research group “Structural & Electronic Surface Dynamics” in the Department of Physical Chemistry. Pincelli says that he chose to come here because the FHI has a “strong background and lively collaborative ties in the field of electron and spin dynamics.” The Italian experimental physicist, who received his PhD from the University of Milan, studies the spin (meaning the intrinsic angular momentum) of charge carriers in solids. He investigates how such particles – mostly electrons – move within and in between different materials. This fundamental research aims to deepen our understanding of quantum mechanical properties. Notwithstanding, Pincellis work may have practical applications. “In the end, I explore electrical conduction. My work can promote the development of new electronic devices that will push technology to new efficiency, miniaturization and functionality.”

Dr. Woosun Jang joins Robert Schlögl’s Department of Inorganic Chemistry, where he is excited to work at the intersection of theoretical and experimental chemistry. He received his PhD in Materials Science and Engineering from Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea. At the FHI, Dr. Jang provides theoretical support such as computational simulation to experiments conducted in heterogenous catalysis. His two ultimate goals are to understand the complex electronic structure of working catalysts and to drive the design of novel catalysts for methane reformation. Similar to the CO2 reduction that Dr. Navarro works on, methane reformation is a chemical synthesis that produces hydrocarbons, which are rapidly gaining importance as sources of green energy.

Dr. Samuel Palato joins Julia Stähler's Independant Research Group "electron dynamiX".

With their respective focus on catalytic operations for the production of hydrocarbons and the movement of charge carriers in and in between solids, these projects are ideal fits to the Fritz Haber Institute’s energy-centered research profile.

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