In this section, we will annually feature the collaborations, networks, and global career paths of several US recipients of the Alexander von Humboldt Research Award.
In 2015-2016, we recognized alumni with a demonstrated commitment to: American Friends and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation; facilitating German-American collaboration; inspiring the next generation of Humboldtians; and organizing Kollegs, campus visits, and other events. We also recognize those who have contributed innovative research to their field.
For more information about the Humboldt Research Award, please click here.
Humboldt Research Awardee Profiles
Krishnendu (Krish) Chakrabarty, Ph.D., Humboldt Research Awardee, Computer Science, 2013
Germany may not necessarily have been in Dr. Krishnendu Chakrabarty’s plans as a young professor at Duke University, but a chance opportunity as a guest researcher and professor at the University of Potsdam led to a Humboldt Research Fellowship there in 2004 and ultimately to a Humboldt Research Award at the University of Bremen beginning in 2013. These experiences opened the door to valuable collaborations with German counterparts and the inspiration and freedom to pursue curiosity-driven research. Now Dr. Chakrabarty, William H. Younger Distinguished Professor of Engineering in the Edmund T. Pratt Jr. School of Engineering at Duke University, reflects on his Fellowship at the University of Potsdam as an enriching experience and a valuable step in pursuing further competitive grants for collaboration in the United States, China, Taiwan, and Japan. Dr. Chakrabarty finds that researchers in other countries often approach problems in different ways, leading him to exciting accomplishments in his work in addition to the rewards of learning about the culture, history, and language of his new surroundings. Working with new colleagues and students at other universities also helped Dr. Chakrabarty improve the quality of his work. Bringing researchers and Ph.D. students from his network in Germany back to Duke University has enriched his teaching experience and the learning environment for his Ph.D. students. Though Germany and the Humboldt Foundation were not initially in Dr. Chakrabarty’s career plans, they now play an integral role in his professional life, inspiring both his teaching and research.
Host Institute: Universität Bremen
Dr. Krishnendu Chakrabarty is a William H. Younger Distinguished Professor of Engineering in the Edmund T. Pratt, Jr. School of Engineering at Duke University, where he has worked since 1998. He received his Bachelor’s degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, India in 1990, and his M.S.E. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in 1992 and 1995, respectively, all in Computer Science and Engineering. He holds five US patents and has several pending US patents. His current research is focused on testing and design-for-testability of integrated circuits, digital microfluidics, biochips, and cyberphysical systems as well as optimization of digital print and production system infrastructure. Professor Chakrabarty has received many awards and honors, including the Humboldt Research Award and Research Fellowship, the National Science Foundation Early Faculty Award, the Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Computer Society Technical Achievement Award. He is a fellow of the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM), a fellow of IEEE, and is currently an editor-in-chief of multiple professional journals, such as the ACM Journal on Emerging Technologies in Computing Systems and IEEE Transactions on VLSI Systems.
Richard Primack, Ph.D., Humboldt Research Awardee, Biology, 2014-2016
Flexibility and Opportunity through the Humboldt Research Award
Even after four decades as a researcher, Richard Primack feels fortunate to have found his true calling as a scientist involved in conservation and ecology. Studying the biological effects of climate change is not only vital to society, but it is also an extremely exciting field of research which is constantly making major advances. Therefore, what has been an especially rewarding aspect of the Humboldt Research Award is its flexibility to pursue a variety of opportunities and projects. During his first visit to Germany, Professor Primack spent a month in Munich working on climate change projects with researchers at the Berlin Botanical Garden, and also interacting and writing a paper with colleagues at other universities in Bavaria. In June, he spent a week at the Berlin Botanical Garden, working with colleagues on long-term projects and meeting many scientists from elsewhere in Berlin and Potsdam. In coming months, he will meet with colleagues in Gottingen and Regensburg, and will continue to visit other places in Germany next year. During these visits, Professor Primack was able to encourage students in their research, provide advice to colleagues on publishing their papers, and initiate new research collaborations. According to Professor Primack, international research projects such as the Alexander von Humboldt Research Award provide an opportunity to work with people from different backgrounds and to learn new approaches to scientific problems; people have complementary skills and resources that allow novel insights and rapid progress to be made in a field. He also stresses the importance of modern day Humboldts and Thoreaus- people who can observe changes in the environment and suggest ways for society to prevent and repair the damage caused by human impact. He acts in such a role himself, constantly researching to raise awareness and improve the world around him.
Host Institute: Ludwig Maximilians Universität München
Professor Richard Primack, one of the world’s leading conservation biologists, teaches at Boston University, and has served as President of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation. He is currently Editor-in-Chief of the journal Biological Conservation, and is the author of the most widely used textbooks on conservation biology; these textbooks have also appeared as 34 foreign language editions with local co-authors adding in local content. After earning his Ph.D. in Botany at Duke University in 1976, Professor Primack’s research has focused on the impact of climate change on plant and bird life in Massachusetts. He is particularly interested in alterations in the timing of flowering and leafing-out in plants, and the spring appearance of birds and butterflies in response to a warming climate. In his studies he has made use of the observations recorded in the journals of the famous environmental philosopher Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862), author of Walden, in which he describes the two years he spent in a cabin in the woods near Concord, MA in the 1850s. In his own latest book, entitled Walden Warming: Climate Change Comes to Thoreau’s Woods, Primack uses Thoreau’s notebooks to describe the transformations that have occurred in the natural world around Walden Pond since that time because of a warming climate. Professor Primack received the Humboldt Research Award for this research, a particularly appropriate honor as Alexander von Humboldt’s (1769-1859) ability to carefully observe and detect rational explanations and patterns in nature was an inspiration for Thoreau.
Jean’ne Shreeve, Ph.D., Humboldt Research Awardee, Inorganic Chemistry, 1978
It is Always the People
“Professional recognitions are a wonderful route to becoming acquainted with a large number of people in the world’s chemical community,” according to Fluorine Chemist Jean’ne Shreeve, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Idaho. She speaks from personal experience, first as an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Cambridge, and later as a Humboldt Research Awardee at the University of Göttingen. Great Britain and Germany were the two strongest countries for fluorine chemistry research at the time. The friendships formed and opportunities granted for collaborating, living, and traveling abroad have proven ever renewable at meetings around the world and in building on joint scientific undertakings. Professor Shreeve attributes her good fortune as a Distinguished Chemistry Professor, Department Head, Research and Graduate Studies Vice President to a very strong work ethic and terrific graduate school experience. She also benefited from the mentorship of her supervisor Professor Malcolm Renfrew, research hosts, and other great acquaintances around the world, and the “wonderful, hard driving and dedicated” 150+ graduate students and postdoctoral fellows at the University of Idaho, all of whom have had a major impact on her personal and professional life. She finds working with the next generation of science practitioners to be refreshing, as their approaches to problems, old and new, are exciting and different. It is the “sparks of their enthusiasm can be discovered and blown in to the ‘fire in the belly’ of chemistry.” As a leader in various chemical and scientific societies, Professor Shreeve strives to improve service to members, by ensuring their opinions are heard, the breadth and quality of the publications is expanded, and the best science is supported.
Host University: University of Göttingen
Dr. Jean’ne Shreeve is University Distinguished Professor and Jean’ne M. Shreeve Professor of Chemistry at the University of Idaho, where she has worked for 54 years. She has also been Head of the Chemistry Department and Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies at the University of Idaho. She received her Ph.D. in Inorganic Chemistry from the University of Washington in 1961, after which she worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Cambridge. She is a member of numerous scientific societies, including the American Chemical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Association of Women in Science, the Royal Society of Chemistry, and the Idaho Academy of Science, among others. Dr. Shreeve has served as chair of the President’s Committee on the National Medal of Science. She received the Humboldt Research Award for Science in 1978, and worked as a guest professor at the University of Göttingen. Professor Shreeve has authored or co-authored over 550publications in refereed journals; her accomplishments in fluorine chemistry have led to over 340 refereed technical publications, and in energetic materials to more than 150 publications, as well as several national and international awards for teaching and research.
Jelena Vuckovic, Ph.D., Humboldt Research Awardee, Electrical Engineering and Applied Physics, 2010
Fresh Perspective and New Collaborations
As the director of the Nanoscale and Quantum Photonics Lab at Stanford University and the recipient of variousawards related to her innovative research, Dr. Jelena Vuckovic is no stranger to international scientific collaboration. Dr. Vuckovic was a Humboldt Research Awardee at the Humboldt-Universität Berlin, where she explored Germany’s innovative and world-renowned programs in quantum optics and nanophotonics. She believes awards such as those from the Humboldt Foundation not only recognize scientific success, but also serve as a tool for scientists to establish collaborations and refresh research directions. The connections Dr. Vuckovic made in Germany have also allowed her, through the Feodor Lynen Fellowship Program, to bring highly talented German students and postdoctoral scholars to her research group at Stanford. She sees two of her most important roles as connecting people with similar research interests to work on related projects and mentoring students and postdoctoral scholars in her research group. Dr. Vuckovic finds the mentoring process to be very rewarding and enjoys guiding young scientists from their undergraduate degrees to director positions in their own labs, forging life-long friendships with students through shared scientific research and interests that even extend to future collaborations. In this way, she continues to support the next generation of scientists.
Host Institute: Humboldt-Universität Berlin
Dr. Jelena Vuckovic is a Professor of Electrical Engineering and by courtesy of Applied Physics at Stanford, where she leads the Nanoscale and Quantum Photonics Lab. She is also a faculty member of the Ginzton Lab, Bio-X and the Pulse Institute at Stanford. Upon receiving her PhD degree in Electrical Engineering from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in 2002, she worked as a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford. In 2003, she joined the Stanford Electrical Engineering Faculty, first as an assistant professor (until 2008), then an associate professor with tenure (2008-2013), and finally as a professor of electrical engineering (since 2013). As a Humboldt Prize recipient, she has also held a visiting position at the Institute for Physics of the Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany (since 2011). In 2013, she was appointed as a Hans Fischer Senior Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies of the Technical University in Munich, Germany. In addition to the Humboldt Prize (2010) and the Hans Fischer Senior Fellowship (2013), Vuckovic has received many awards including the Marko V. Jaric award for outstanding achievements in physics (2012), the DARPA Young Faculty Award (2008), the Chambers Faculty Scholarship at Stanford (2008), the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE in 2007), the Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award (2006), the Okawa Foundation Research Grant (2006), and the Frederic E. Terman Fellowship at Stanford (2003). Vuckovic is a member of the scientific advisory board of the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics – MPQ (in Garching, Germany) and of the scientific advisory board of the Ferdinand Braun Institute (in Berlin, Germany). She is also a member of the editorial advisory board of Nature Quantum Information and ACS Photonics, and was on the editorial board of the New Journal of Physics.