The biochemist Prof. Dr. Ute Hellmich of the Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz (JGU) received the Fulbright-Cottrell Award for her achievements in research and teaching. The award is the most important transatlantic prize for excellence in teaching and research. It is awarded by the German-American Fulbright Commission. The two prize-winners – apart from Hellmich, Prof. Dr. Steffen Schumann from the Georg-August-University of Göttingen – receive a grant of 63,000 euros from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) for a three-year teaching and research project The opportunity to attend the annual Cottrell Scholars Conferences in the USA. The official award ceremony took place during a ceremony organized by the Fulbright Commission in Berlin.
The award honors the combined research and teaching performance of young German scientists who are engaged in teaching assignments in the field of chemistry, physics, astronomy and biochemistry. In the USA, the Cottrell Scholar Award has already existed since 1994. “The public image of a scientist is decisively influenced by his research, but a very large part of our daily work is in the training and support of students and doctoral students,” explains Hellmich. “The fact that the Fulbright-Cottrell Award honors excellence in research and also explicitly in teaching is therefore something very special and I am very pleased with the recognition.”
Prof. Dr. Ute Hellmich convinced with her project application “From local alterations to global changes: ABC transporters to study molecular determinants of protein function and dynamics”. This is about the molecular dynamics of membrane proteins, that is, how the small machines in the membrane of our body cells control the uptake or release of substances such as, for example, food or poisons. “In order to achieve a directed movement, the membrane proteins have to move in a completely controlled manner, comparable to a sluice, which can only be open on one side,” says Hellmich. “We want to understand how these machines work and, at the same time, teach our students the beauty of biochemistry and the joy of doing so, using the example of these molecular machines.”
Ute Hellmich, born in 1981 in Heidelberg, studied biochemistry at the Goethe University in Frankfurt and subsequently promoted the interaction of membrane proteins with lipids. They stayed abroad to the University of Cambridge and Harvard University. Since January 2015, Hellmich has been a junior professor for membrane biochemistry at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, a professorship funded by the Carl Zeiss Foundation. The biochemist is also guest scientist at the Center for Biomolecular Magnetic Resonance (BMRZ) at the Goethe University in Frankfurt. Her team is currently working on the functional dynamics of multi-agent transporters and ion channels in parasites.