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Dr. Marja Timmermans, plant geneticist, begins Alexander von Humboldt Professorship in Germany

Cold Spring Harbor Lab

Cold Spring Harbor, NY — Professor Marja Timmermans, a distinguished plant geneticist who has spent most of her career at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), has begun a new phase of her work as an Alexander von Humboldt Professor at Germany’s Tübingen University.

Timmermans, born in the Netherlands, was one of five foreign researchers awarded an Alexander von Humboldt Professorship at a ceremony held in Berlin May 12th. Germany’s most prestigious international research prize was presented by that nation’s Research Minister, Professor Johanna Wanka, and President of the Humboldt Foundation, Professor Helmut Schwarz. As an experimentalist, Timmermans will receive 5 million euros over five years in support of her work.

Timmermans has made several internationally acclaimed discoveries. Her research has explained key mechanisms behind leaf development in plants, and most recently, demonstrated the mobility of small RNA molecules and how this establishes leaf polarity—the process through which leaves flatten and develop distinct top and bottom surfaces optimized for photosynthesis. (Read more about Timmermans’ research) She began her career at CSHL in 1998, was named assistant professor in 2001 and professor in 2009. As of April 2015 she assumed the position of Alexander von Humboldt Professor in Tübingen, the university that nominated her for the honor.

“The Humboldt Professorship is one of the world’s most prestigious and selective honors that can be bestowed upon a researcher,” said Bruce Stillman, Ph.D., CSHL’s President. “Marja Timmermans’ pathbreaking work on plant development is precisely the kind of innovative work that should be held out as exemplary. Naturally, we will miss Marja, but wish her the very best as her research now moves forward in Tübingen.”

“With our Humboldt Professorships, we provide freedom for outstanding research work,” said Minister Wanka. “This year the award winners impressively demonstrate how diverse excellent research is—from Classical and Ancient Studies all the way to Molecular Genetics. They will enrich our research landscape.” (View videos of the award ceremony in Berlin.)

Each year the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation awards the Humboldt Professorship to up to 10 internationally leading researchers from all disciplines who work outside of the Federal Republic of Germany. The Professorship is financed by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

Written By: Peter Tarr, Senior Science Writer | | 516-367-8455

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation

Every year, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation enables more than 2,000 researchers from all over the world to spend time researching in Germany. The Foundation maintains a network of well over 26,000 Humboldtians from all disciplines in more than 140 countries worldwide—including 51 Nobel Laureates. Visit

About Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Founded in 1890, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory has shaped contemporary biomedical research and education with programs in cancer, neuroscience, plant biology and quantitative biology. Home to eight Nobel Prize winners, the private, not-for-profit Laboratory employs 1,100 people including 600 scientists, students and technicians. The Meetings & Courses Program annually hosts more than 12,000 scientists. The Laboratory’s education arm also includes an academic publishing house, a graduate school and the DNA Learning Center with programs for middle and high school students and teachers. For more information, visit