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Bessel Research Awardee at LMU

München, 09/15/2017

Materials scientist Omar Saleh has received one of the Humboldt Foundation’s Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Prizes, enabling him to spend a sabbatical in the team led by LMU physicist Professor Tim Liedl, a specialist in the field of DNA origami.

Source: Courtesy Image

Professor Omar Saleh, a materials scientist from University of California in Santa Barbara (UCSB), is the latest in a long line of visiting researchers who have chosen to spend a research sabbatical at LMU’s Department of Physics. Funding for the visit was provided by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, which has conferred one of its prestigious Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Prizes for Research on him – following his nomination for the award by Professor Tim Liedl of LMU's Soft Condensed Matter Group. In addition to working with Liedl, Professor Saleh will also serve as Visiting Fellow at LMU’s Center for Advanced Studies (CAS).

Omar Saleh’s research focuses on the physics of soft matter and biological colloids. His major interest is in understanding the properties of polymers – long chain-like molecules made up of repeating subunits. The DNA that serves as the genetic material of all higher organisms including ourselves is found in the cell nucleus in the form of the iconic, spiral-wound double helix. Each of its two strands is a polymer containing four different subunits, which are collectively referred to as nucleotide bases. The physical characteristics of DNA polymers, Saleh explains, provide insights into the properties and dynamics of the filamentous proteins that confer elasticity and mobility on the cells in biological systems. “We at Santa Barbara have recently started on a project designed to create a kind of artificial cell nucleus,” he adds. With the help of Liedl’s group, whose strengths lie in the fields of DNA self-organization and synthetic biology, he hopes to make significant progress toward this goal during his stay in Munich.

Saleh is an Associate Professor in the Materials Department at UCSB and Director of its Biomolecular Science and Engineering Program. He studied Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, obtained his Ph.D. at Princeton University, and did a postdoc at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, before he moved to Santa Barbara.

Scientists and scholars from abroad “who are internationally renowned in their fields and completed their doctorate less than 18 years ago” may be nominated for the Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award, which honors candidates with outstanding research records. Nominations may be submitted by established academics in Germany. Successful nominees “are invited to spend up to 1 year cooperating on a long-term research project with specialist colleagues at a research institution in Germany.” The Prize is worth 45,000 euros and approximately 20 awardees are selected each year.