The Rolex Awards for Enterprise
Romanian-born German physicist Stefan Hell shared the 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with two US scientists for the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy, enabling scientists to study and track processes occurring inside living cells in the tiniest molecular detail and opening up a huge field of research in basic medicine, the life-sciences, biology and other areas. “I had an intuitive feeling that the resolution of light microscopes had not come to an end,” says Hell who, starting in 1994, ingeniously overcame historical limitations in light microscopy resolution. For the past 14 years, Hell has been a director of Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, where he currently heads the Department of NanoBiophotonics, and, since 2003, has also directed the Optical Nanoscopy division at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg. He is an Honorary Professor of Experimental Physics at the University of Göttingen and an Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Physics at the University of Heidelberg, having received both his diploma and doctorate in physics there. Prior to this, he worked at Heidelberg’s European Molecular Biology Laboratory, at the University of Turku (Finland), as a visiting scientist at Oxford University in the UK and, for a short period early on, as freelance inventor. In addition to the Nobel Prize and the Kavli Prize in Nanoscience the same year for his “transformative contribution to the field of nano-optics”, among Hell’s many awards is the German Innovation Award of 2006. According to the Swedish Academy, thanks to the groundbreaking research of Hell and his fellow prize-winners, “today, nanoscopy is used worldwide and new knowledge of greatest benefit to mankind is produced on a daily basis”.