Röntgen prize for Dr. Merle Röhr


Dr. Merle Röhr receives the Röntgen Prize of the University and University Association of Würzburg for her outstanding achievements. She conducts research in the field of solar technologies.

Röntgen Prize winner Merle Röhr (center) with her laudator Frank Würthner and University Vice President Caroline Kisker. (Picture: Heiko Becker / Universitätsbund Würzburg)
Röntgen Prize winner Merle Röhr (center) with her laudator Frank Würthner and University Vice President Caroline Kisker. (Picture: Heiko Becker / Universitätsbund Würzburg)

Dr. Merle Röhr heads a junior research group at the Center for Nanosystems Chemistry at Julius-Maximilians-Universität (JMU) Würzburg. Here, she has used quantum chemical methods to gain important insights that can be used for the development of organic solar cells.

The object of her research is the structure of the so-called antenna aggregates, which are involved in bacterial photosynthesis. These aggregates can collect the energy of sunlight with exceptional efficiency. The researcher received funding for this work from the Klaus Tschira Boost Fund.

Merle Röhr also gained new insights into the energy conversion processes that take place in synthetic nanosystems. Such systems consist of specifically arranged dye molecules. They are used in an attempt to achieve "artificial photosynthesis". This would make it possible to produce fuels such as hydrogen directly from the energy of sunlight - without the detour via electricity.

Merle Röhr (37) has now been awarded the Röntgen Prize of JMU and the Würzburg University Association for her scientific successes and her exemplary career. The prize is endowed with 5,000 euros and is awarded annually to outstanding young researchers at JMU.

The prizewinner was presented with the award at the Unibund's festive concert on November 15, 2023 in the Neubaukirche. The laudatory speech was given by Professor Frank Würthner, Head of the Center for Nanosystems Chemistry and the Chair of Organic Chemistry II.

From Berlin to Würzburg in 2013

Merle Röhr, born in 1986, comes from Oldenburg in Lower Saxony. She studied chemistry and physics at Humboldt University in Berlin and completed her doctorate in theoretical physics at Freie Universität Berlin in 2016. In 2013 she moved to JMU.

Most of her 33 publications were written in Würzburg. She has been involved in many ways at the university, for example as spokesperson for the Young Chemists' Forum or as organizer of the Young Investigator Seminar established in 2016 at the Center for Nanosystems Chemistry. She is also a sought-after cooperation partner in numerous projects at the faculty in which experimental researchers need help interpreting their results using quantum chemical methods.

„Functional landscapes" as an innovative approach

"That's why the faculty quickly decided in 2018 which young scientist should receive funding from JMU's Emil Hilb Program in order to develop an independent research profile," said Frank Würthner in his laudatory speech. And Merle Röhr quickly succeeded in doing so.

An innovative approach to so-called "functional landscapes" taken in her habilitation project is particularly important conceptually. The scientist develops and uses AI-based algorithms and quantum chemical methods to predict which dye aggregates should be of particular functional interest for solar technology.

The structures proposed by Merle Röhr are currently being used by several groups at the Würzburg chemistry department that are working on the conversion of solar energy into other forms of energy in the Bavarian research network "Solar Technologies go hybrid".

"After four years of independent research, Merle Röhr is about to complete her habilitation in theoretical chemistry. This deserves all the more respect when you consider that she has given birth to two children during this time, which, together with all the problems of the corona pandemic, must have kept a young mother very busy," says Würthner.


Dr. Merle Röhr, Center for Nanosystems Chemistry, University of Würzburg, merle.roehr@uni-wuerzburg.de

Website of Merle Röhr

By Robert Emmerich