November 5, 2021

Congratulations to the winners of the FMI Science Prizes 2021

Our three internal FMI Science Prizes were awarded last week during our Annual Meeting, which took place at the FMI this year. The Ed Fischer Prize, the Max Burger Prize and the Ruth Chiquet Prize recognize respectively the best thesis, the best postdoc study, and an innovative new method or tool.


Lea Dümpelmann - a former PhD student in the Bühler lab and now an Innosuisse postdoc at Uni Bern in collaboration with the Inselspital Frauenklinik and Scailyte - was awarded the Ed Fischer Prize 2021, which recognizes the best thesis defended in the previous year. This prize is named after Nobel laureate Ed Fischer who was an inaugural member of the FMI Scientific Advisory Board; Ed passed away this year, aged 101.

Lea studied how small RNAs can trigger transcriptional silencing of protein-coding genes in fission yeast. She discovered an epigenetic mechanism that allows yeast cells to transmit a silencing memory across generations. In other words, yeast can ‘remember’ that a specific gene had been repressed in their ancestors and repress it again under certain conditions. This distinct form of epigenetic memory may have evolved to allow population adaptation to dynamic environments.

The award committee considered Lea’s work as very exciting science with significant results.

» Read more about Lea’s PhD work


Rebecca Jordan – a postdoctoral researcher in the Keller lab – was awarded the Max Burger Prize 2021, which recognizes an outstanding paper by a postdoctoral fellow in the previous year. This prize is named after Max M. Burger who was Director of the FMI for almost 15 years (1987-2001).

Rebecca is interested in how visual and motor information is processed in the visual cortex. In this study, she discovered a subset of neurons in the visual cortex, which are in charge of working out differences between what we expect to see based on movement and what we actually see. Her study contributes to a better understand of how the brain tells the difference between self-generated and externally generated sensations.

The award committee not only appreciated the relevance of the results, but also the fact that this study was done in a relatively short period of time and that Rebecca was the only author on the paper in addition to her group leader.

Original publication:
Rebecca Jordan, Georg B. Keller. Opposing influence of top-down and bottom-up input on excitatory layer 2/3 neurons in mouse primary visual cortex Neuron (2020) 108(6):1194-1206.e5.

» Read more about Rebecca’s study


Kuo-Hua Huang – a former postdoctoral researcher in the Friedrich lab and now a group leader at the Institute of Molecular Biology of the Academia Sinica in Taipei, Taiwan – was awarded the Ruth Chiquet Prize 2021, which recognizes scientists who developed an innovative new method or tool in their field that has had significant impact and shows high creativity and thinking outside the box. The award is named after the late Ruth Chiquet-Ehrismann who was a group leader at the FMI (1985-2015) and was successful at pursuing non-mainstream topics that nonetheless had major biomedical impact.

Kuo developed a new virtual reality tool that allows to manipulate the sensory environment of zebrafish, while simultaneously following their behaviors and neuronal activity. His tool helps to explore how ‘a model of the world’ is implemented in the brain and how it is modified by experience.

Virtual reality approaches had been developed for other species but not yet for adult zebrafish due to many challenges. The award committee was impressed how Kuo overcame those – with ingenious ideas, interdisciplinary working, and a risk-friendly attitude. His new tool also generated important results with a lasting impact.

» Read more about Kuo’s project

» List of former Fischer/ Burger/ Chiquet prize winners


FMI Lea Dümpelmann, winner of the Fischer Prize 2021

FMI Rebecca Jordan, winner of the Burger Prize 2021

FMI Kuo-Hua Huang, winner of the Chiquet Prize 2021

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