The orbits of dwarf galaxies, forces in materials such as Teflon, tracing history through pollen, a new protective layer at root tips – these are the topics for which the Swiss Academy of Sciences (SCNAT) has awarded the Prix Schläfli 2020 to the four most important insights gained by young researchers at Swiss universities. Alice Berhin (Biology), Oliver Müller (Astronomy), Robert Pollice (Chemistry) and Fabian Rey (Geosciences) receive the prize for the findings arrived at in their dissertations. Four of the candidates for the Prix Schläfli award were also selected as Young Scientists at the internationally prestigious 70th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting.
Alice Berhin discovered a completely new structure of plant roots in her dissertation at the University of Lausanne – a 21st century sensation. In his dissertation at the University of Basel, Oliver Müller showed that dwarf galaxies can also move around their parent galaxies in an orderly fashion, thus challenging the standard model of cosmology. In his dissertation at ETH Zurich, Robert Pollice analysed how materials such as perfluoroalkanes, including Teflon, hold together – a first step towards reducing environmental pollution and health risks. In his dissertation at the University of Bern, Fabian Rey described the land use and vegetation history of the Burgäschi and Moos lakes from the Bernese region of the Swiss Plateau more precisely than ever before. For this purpose, he analysed hundreds of thousands of pollen grains.