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Alumnus wins 2024 Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize

Alan Flurry

Peter Schreiner has received one of Germany's most prestigious research awards.

University of Georgia alumnus Peter Schreiner has received one of Germany’s most prestigious research awards. The Joint Committee of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) announced the recipients of the 2024 Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize, which was awarded to 10 researchers – three women and seven men. The winners will each receive €2.5 million in prize money.

Schreiner earned his master’s degree in chemistry at UGA in 1991 and his Ph.D. in chemistry in 1995. Currently he is a University Professor and Liebig Chair in the Institute of Organic Chemistry at Justus Liebig University Giessen in Giessen, Germany.

Schreiner receives the Leibniz Prize 2024 for his outstanding work in physical organic chemistry, through which he has made pioneering contributions to reaction control. Schreiner’s research has had a lasting impact on the overlapping fields of organic, physical and theoretical chemistry.

The award portraits of the winners cited Schreiner’s extraordinary accomplishments in establishing the mechanism of “tunnel control” of chemical reactions, a previously undiscovered driving force that can be used to steer chemical reactions in a way that would not have been predicted either by the established principle of kinetic control or by that of thermodynamic control.

“Using synthesized compounds and accompanying theoretical calculations, Schreiner and his research group were also able to prove that chemical reactions – including very fundamental ones – are significantly influenced by the so-called dispersion interaction,” the citation reads. “Textbooks previously described this interaction as ‘weak’ in terms of its relevance to chemical processes. These findings have far-reaching implications, such as in the synthesis of new materials.”
“The award particularly recognizes and underlines the many creative moments and hard work of my co-workers and collaborators over the last 25 years,” said Schreiner, who earned a doctoral degree working with Henry “Fritz” Schaefer at UGA in computational chemistry, after receiving his first Ph.D. at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg (Germany, 1994). “I am overjoyed to accept this award on behalf of everyone and, above all, I look forward to what is to come.”

Peter Schreiner has held a chair at the Institute of Organic Chemistry at the University Giessen since 2002, prior to which he was faculty member at the University of Georgia. He spent his postdoctoral period from 1996 to 2000 at the University of Göttingen. He has received many distinctions and funding awards for his research work, including the German Chemical Society’s Adolf von Baeyer Medal (2017) and an ERC Advanced Grant (2022).

“We at the University of Georgia are immensely proud of the many research accomplishments of professor Peter R. Schreiner,” said Henry “Fritz” Schaefer, Graham Perdue Professor of Chemistry and director of the Center for Computational Chemistry in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. “The Leibniz Prize is one of the half dozen most prestigious awards in all academia, but we expect yet more acclaim to come for professor Schreiner.”

“Having worked with Peter for more than a decade here at the University of Georgia, I am not surprised by him winning this prestigious award,” said Gregory H. Robinson, Foundation Distinguished Professor of Chemistry in the Franklin College. “Due to his keen intellect and boundless work ethic, Peter has long had been a visionary in synthetic organic chemistry. This prestigious award is most appropriate for our friend and colleague.”

Winners of the Leibniz Prize were previously chosen from among 150 nominees by the selection committee responsible. Of the 10 prize winners, two work in the humanities and social sciences, three in the life sciences, four in the natural sciences and one in engineering sciences. They are entitled to use these funds for their research work in any way they wish, without bureaucratic obstacles, for up to seven years. The award ceremony for the Leibniz Prizes will be held in Berlin on March 13, 2024.

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