Munich, Nov 14, 2022
The award recognizes the work of Lena Daumann in the biological role of rare earth elements and her work on the role of iron in epigenetics.
"It was a great experience to return to the site of my postdoc after 7 years and talk about my independent work," the professor reports. "I was also able to interact with colleagues and students during my two-week stay there. Berkeley is a very special place whose scientific atmosphere always inspires me."
In her research, Daumann focuses on rare earths such as neodymium and dysprosium, which are considered indispensable for the strong magnets in wind turbines or electric cars. Recycling these elements is currently still difficult, which is why the professor is looking into the possibility of a more sustainable and cost-effective alternative.
She is studying single-celled organisms that need rare earths such as neodymium or dysprosium to live. These single-celled organisms incorporate the metals into enzymes that only they possess and would otherwise not be able to function. The next step is to gain a more precise understanding of the bacteria's metabolism, for which the bacterial media are analyzed. In addition, the substances that have been released by the bacteria to bind the rare earth elements will also be considered. These bacterial molecules will be used for recycling and serve as a bioinspired template to enable more sustainable recovery and separation of the rare earth elements.
The chemist holds the professorship of bioinorganic chemistry and focuses on the role of metals in biological processes and their applications. In 2020, she received an ERC Starting Grant. A year earlier, she was awarded the Ars Legendi Faculty Award for Excellence in University Teaching.