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Research collaborations

New Humboldt Laureates at LMU

München, 03/16/2015

Physicist Eugene Demler and neurobiologist Harold Zakon have arrived in Munich to carry out collaborative projects with LMU researchers. Both visitors are funded by the Humboldt Foundation.

Professor Eugene Demler (Harvard University, USA) comes to LMU as the recipient of a Humboldt Research Award. His host is Professor Immanuel Bloch, who holds the Chair of Experimental Physics at LMU and is a Director of the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics. LMU also welcomes Professor Harold Zakon (University of Texas at Austin, USA), who has received a Carl Friedrich von Siemens Research Award, which is jointly funded by the Humboldt Foundation and the Carl Friedrich von Siemens Foundation. Zakon‘s host in Munich is Professor Benedikt Grothe, who holds the Chair of Neurobiology at LMU’s Biocenter.

Eugene Demler
Eugene Demler is well known internationally for his outstanding theoretical research in condensed matter and ultracold atom physics. Among his most notable contributions are model calculations that point to novel explanations for high-temperature superconductivity, as well as studies devoted to the physics of quantum systems made up of ultracold atoms and molecules. His investigations of quantum magnetism, the properties of non-equilibrium quantum many-body systems or the realization and characterization of topological phases of matter have also had a significant influence on the development of condensed-matter physics. Demler’s pioneering work has also laid the foundations for the experimental realization of quantum magnetism using ultracold quantum gases.

Many of his publications have opened up entirely new areas of research, while others have inspired collaborations between theoreticians and experimentalists that have led to the first practical demonstrations of fundamental effects in quantum many-body systems. In this last area, Demler‘s work has also had a direct impact on experiments carried out by Bloch’s research group. In collaboration with Bloch‘s team, Demler intends to use his sojourn in Munich to explore new directions in the physics of ultracold gases.

Eugene Demler received his PhD from Stanford University (USA) in 1998. After a short postdoctoral stay at the University of Santa Barbara, he was recruited to Harvard University in 1999. In 2005 he was appointed to full Professor of Theoretical Physics.

Harold Zakon
Harold Zakon is a widely renowned for his contributions neurobiology and behavioral biologist. His primary research focus is behavioral neurology, which is devoted to investigating the neural mechanisms that underlie natural patterns of animal behavior. Zakon’s research career began with studies of electrical communication in electric eels. In this system, he discovered that exposure of the fish to sex hormones altered the electrical activity of a specific set of nerve cells. He subsequently developed an interest in the molecular evolution of voltage-dependent sodium channels, which play a crucial role in the electrical activity of excitable cells in the nervous system. Zakon is currently engaged on a study of the links between evolutionary modifications in the stimulus-response patterns of voltage-gated sodium channels and adaptation to environmental conditions. In a noteworthy study, he recently showed that species-specific alterations in the structure of a particular sodium channel effectively confer resistance to bark-scorpion venom. Instead of causing intense pain as in other species, in the grasshopper mouse the toxin binds to a variant channel that prevents transmission of the pain-inducing signals and results in analgesia. During his stay at LMU, Zakon plans to explore the nature of the molecular adaptations that account for the extreme rapidity of synaptic transmission between certain nerve-cell types in the mammalian auditory cortex.

Harold Zakon obtained his doctorate in Neurobiology and Behavioral Biology from Cornell University (USA) in 1981, and went on to do a post-doc at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (University of California at San Diego, USA). From 1983 until 1999 Zakon worked in the Zoology Department at the University of Texas in Austin. In 1999 he became the first Director of the newly established Section on Neurobiology at that institution, where he has remained since.