Hector Science Award for Peter Hegemann

Monday, 01 February 2016

Honoring for one of the “fathers” of optogenetics

Hans-Werner Hector, Peter Hegemann, Theresia Bauer © Hector Foundation

Hans-Werner Hector, Josephine Hector, Peter Hegemann, Theresia Bauer © Hector Foundation

UniCat Professor Dr. Peter Hegemann of HU Berlin has received the Hector Science Award 2016 endowed with 150,000 €. The jury honors his outstanding accomplishments in the field of optogenetics. This field of research involves the control of genetically modified cells by light.

During the award ceremony in the hotel “Europäischer Hof” in Heidelberg Theresia Bauer, minister of science in Baden-Württemberg, recognized Hegemann’s courage to break new ground with his research and to give great impetus in science. In the name of the federal state government Theresia Bauer thanked the founders Josephine and Dr. h.c. Hans-Werner Hector, who awarded this “grand distinction for excellent researchers” now for the eighth time.

Peter Hegemann has been a member of the Berlin-Brandenburg Cluster of Excellence UniCat since its foundation. His research is part of UniCat Research Field E4. He is also head of the Working Group on Experimental Biophysics at the Institute of Biology at Humboldt-Universität in Berlin.

As one of the founders of optogenetics, Peter Hegemann has fundamentally advanced life and neurosciences. The technology facilitates detailed insight into the functions of specific cells and tissue using light. In this context, the identification of channel rhodopsins as light-dependent ion channels was essential. These proteins can be transplanted into living tissue. Subsequently, light can be used to switch nerve cells on and off and to thus study the functions of cells, cell types, and tissue. This new technique of optical visualization of the circuits of neural pathways is applied worldwide, for example in research on neurological diseases such as epilepsy and Parkinson's.

The Hector Stiftung was founded by Hans-Werner Hector and his wife Mrs. Josephine Hector. Hans-Werner Hector is a mathematician and one of the founders of the software corporation SAP. The foundation is a non-profit institution under public law and is subject to the supervision of the regional council of Baden-Wuerttemberg.