Freie Universität celebrated its 67th anniversary on December 4. This anniversary is traditionally marked with Ernst Reuter Day. During the ceremony, which was held at the university’s Henry Ford Building, the Ernst Reuter Prizes for outstanding dissertations were awarded, this year to five graduates of Freie Universität. Two scholars were also given the Award for Excellent Supervision for their excellent work supervising doctoral candidates. The Deutschlandstipendium program also celebrated a milestone: Now in its fifth year, the program welcomed 95 new scholarship recipients.
The President of Freie Universität, Professor Peter-André Alt, gave a speech recalling important events at the university in the past year. He pointed to the opening of the new building dedicated to “small departments” as one milestone, saying that the building had turned out wonderfully. Alt also recalled the visit by German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in October, when Steinmeier gave a well-attended speech at the university’s Max Kade Auditorium to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations and engaged in dialogue with students. Another of the year’s milestones was the launch of the “Welcome to Freie Universität Berlin” program at the start of the winter semester. The program aims to make it easier for refugees to study in Germany by offering general information and classes in German language and culture. Alt said that the success of Freie Universität was not just apparent from new buildings and programs, however, pointing out that it also has a measurable component: “We have risen steadily in the major international rankings and have once again raised more external funding.”
Ernst Reuter Prizes for outstanding dissertations
Each year during the events surrounding Ernst Reuter Day, four outstanding dissertations are awarded the Ernst Reuter Prize. This year, there were so many excellent works submitted that five winners were chosen. Joanna Olchawa, a graduate in art history, was selected for her work on the importance of aquamaniles in the 12th and 13th centuries. An aquamanile is a type of jug or ewer that was used for hand washing at churches and during ceremonies held by secular rulers in the Middle Ages. These vessels are modeled on animal figures, either real or imaginary. Olchawa’s dissertation explored the importance of these types of ewers. “I am proud that by selecting my dissertation, the judges have chosen a work on medieval studies, even though the field is becoming less prominent overall,” she said.
In his dissertation at the Department of Law, Stephan Hauer studied to what extent it is relevant, in issues of liability law and the scope of liability for damage or losses, whether the party that has caused the damage or loss has liability insurance. “Stephan Hauer has produced a pioneering work par excellence in the field of legal studies,” said Gunter Gebauer of the Ernst Reuter Prize panel, praising the dissertation. Gebauer, a sports philosopher emeritus from Freie Universität, gave the address honoring the five award winners.
Daria Antonenko wrote her dissertation at Charité on the subject of neuronal correlates of speech processes in the young brain and the brain undergoing healthy aging. In her research, she used MRI scans of the brain to study how human speech comprehension and production change during the aging process.
In his work, titled “Equilibration and thermolization in quantum systems,” physicist Christian Gogolin studied the extent to which the transition between solid and fluid physical states can be understood through quantum mechanics.
In her dissertation in veterinary medicine, Jana Janssen studied horse roundworm to determine whether certain proteins impede anti-parasitic treatment through increased prevalence and structural changes. Olchawa expressed thanks on behalf of all of this year’s winners: “This award is not only a great honor, but it also strengthens our historical awareness of the importance of following Ernst Reuter’s example and displaying courage in the toughest situations and becoming involved.”
Awards for outstanding supervision of doctoral candidates
The Dahlem Research School Award for Excellent Supervision was also presented during the Ernst Reuter Day events. This award is granted to scholars who provide outstanding supervision for doctoral projects. This year’s honorees are philosophy professor Anne Eusterschulte, of the Friedrich Schlegel Graduate School of Literary Studies, and business administration professor Georg Schreyögg, of the research training group titled “Research on Organizational Paths,” whose work was concluded last year. Schreyögg is an advisor who “is tirelessly dedicated to his doctoral candidates,” Markus Edler of the Dahlem Research School said in his address. Eusterschulte, who studied art before going on to study philosophy, serves as an example that “people should try out a lot of different things in life and always do what interests them,” Edler said.
The Deutschlandstipendium goes to 95 new recipients
As part of the celebrations for Ernst Reuter Day, 95 new Deutschlandstipendium recipients were also welcomed to the program. This scholarship, created by the German federal government in 2011, provides financial and intellectual support to students with outstanding academic performance and high levels of social involvement. Jessica Magenwirth, a student of veterinary medicine, received the Deutschlandstipendium in 2011, one of the first students at Freie Universität to do so. The scholarship allowed her to travel to Rwanda, Uganda, and Congo, where she worked and did research at animal rescue centers with an organization called Gorilla Doctors. “Right from the start, Freie Universität has always placed a heavy emphasis on providing individual support to scholarship recipients,” Magenwirth said.
The “Unität” choir, led by Sven Ratzel, provided musical accompaniment for the event. With songs from Coldplay and Eurythmics, the singers and pianist Daniel Markovski kicked things off and set a festive mood – and then, at the end of the event, they made for a vibrant transition to the subsequent reception with their performance of “Bohemian Rhapsody.”