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Laleh Haghverdi receives the 2017 Helmholtz Doctoral Prize and Erwin Schrödinger Prize

Dr. Laleh Haghverdi has been awarded this year’s Helmholtz Doctoral Prize in health research for her outstanding work and Erwin Schrödinger Prize. In her dissertation, Geometric Diffusions for Reconstruction of Cell Differentiation Dynamics, at the Helmholtz Zentrum München Institute of Computational Biology, she focused on data analysis methods in the area of single-cell sequencing. The prize was awarded during the Helmholtz Annual Meeting in Berlin on September 14.

Source: Michael Reinhardt

Todays modern sequencing technologies make it possible to determine the transcription of individual cells. This plays an important role for many research fields because it allows insights into the mechanisms that regulate cell differentiation. The development of new statistical methods to analyze the data acquired in this way is Laleh Haghverdis research field. The young scientist applied the existing concept of diffusion maps to single-cell data analysis. The diffusion pseudotime method that she developed makes it possible to arrange cells on a virtual time axis along which they display continuous changes in the transcriptome. This in turn allows a reconstruction of which genes are transcribed one after another and how the development paths of different cell types branch out. “Laleh’s scientific findings and the methods that she has developed are vitally important for a number of scientific investigations. I am proud that this outstanding young researcher was a part of my research group and that we are going to continue to work together in various projects,” says Prof. Dr. Dr. Fabian Theis, Director of the ICB und the prizewinner’s doctoral supervisor.

The researcher is one of a total of six prizewinners from the Helmholtz Association’s different research fields. The other prizewinners are:

Benjamin Korth, UFZ (research field: energy)

Dr. rer. nat. Emma Järvinen, KIT (research field: earth and environment)

Estefania Munoz Diaz, DLR (research field: aeronautics, space and transport)

Dr. Christoph Bäumer, FZJ (research field: key technologies)

Johann Haber, DESY (research field: matter)

Personal information:
Laleh Haghverdi earned her bachelor’s degree in physics in Iran and then completed her master’s degree in physics at the University of Cologne. With the objective of shifting her scientific focus to the field of systems biology and data analysis, in 2012 she began her doctoral work in the “Machine Learning” research group at the Helmholtz Zentrum München’s Institute of Computational Biology. Since January, Haghverdi has been conducting research at the European Bioinformatics Institute in Cambridge as a postdoc.

About the Helmholtz Doctoral Prize:
To provide talented young scientists with focused support and to attract them to research for the long term, the Helmholtz Association has awarded a doctoral prize in each of the six Helmholtz research fields each year since 2013. Each successful candidate receives a one-time payment of 5,000 euros. In addition, a flat rate of 2,000 euros per month is provided for travel and material expenses during a stay abroad at an international research facility for up to six months.

Erwin-Schrödinger-Prize 2017:
Haghverdi, Marr, Schroeder and Theis received the 2017 Erwin Schrödinger Prize, endowed with 50,000 euros, at the Helmholtz Association’s annual conference on September 14. With this award, the Helmholtz Association and the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft, a donors' association for the promotion of humanities and sciences in Germany, honor outstanding scientific or technically innovative achievements in areas bordering on various disciplines in medicine, the natural sciences, and engineering in which representatives of at least two disciplines have participated.

Find out more on the official website: https://www.stifterverband.org/pressemitteilungen/2017_09_15_schroedinger-preis