November 8, 2023

Nobel prize winner Südhof new FIAS Laureate

Lecture, award, and prize-giving ceremony thanks to Giersch Foundation

The third attempt now succeeded: Nobel Prize winner Thomas Südhof received the "Senior Fellow Laureatus" award from the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies (FIAS) on 8 November 2023. The award ceremony had been postponed several times due to Covid. FIAS Director Eckhard Elsen was now able to hand over the certificate and cup. The prize money of 10,000 euros was donated by the Giersch Foundation.

Before the award ceremony, the prizewinner, head of Südhof Laboratory at Stanford University Medical School, gave a sophisticated lecture on his current research. In the packed hall at FIAS, the biochemist described detailed findings on the storage of information in memory. The basis for his research was the observation that mice prefer cocoa flavour to cinnamon flavour. A "lead mouse" with a preference for cinnamon can permanently change this preference in observing mice. Using elaborate experiments, Südhof's group was able to track and identify the molecular and genetic changes required for this in the mice's brains down to the details. The result is a confusing network of pathways across countless areas of the brain that are necessary at certain times to anchor the taste preference. "This is only one specific form of memory formation," Südhof qualifies the complex findings. But it is a complicated combination of odour, social factor, and permanence.

The lecture was embedded in this year's "Giersch International Conference" at FIAS, which, under the motto "Condensed complexity - the essence of information processing and cognition?", deals with the common principles of cognition and information processing in many fields of research, including neuroscience and biology as well as physics, machine learning and quantum computing. A generous donation from the Giersch Foundation made this conference possible, as well as the "Giersch Winter School" for students on the preceding days.

FIAS Director Elsen emphasised the manifold support of the founding couple Carlo and Karin Giersch, who had the FIAS building constructed, among other things. Together with Foundation Chairman Stephan Rapp and in front of an audience of 120, he presented the Laureatus Prize to Thomas Südhof, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine in 2013 together with colleagues for his work on the vesicle transport system. This transport pathway via tiny vesicles is important in the hormone and immune system, but also in nerve conduction and thus Südhof's current field of research.

Congress information: News / FIAS

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Nobel Prize winner Thomas Südhof (right) honoured by the Giersch Foundation's Chairman Stephan Rapp (left) and FIAS Director Eckhard Elsen (centre)
Nobel Prize winner Thomas Südhof (right) honoured by the Giersch Foundation's Chairman Stephan Rapp (left) and FIAS Director Eckhard Elsen (centre)