Excellent achievements in research, studies, teaching and transfer

On the occasion of its academic festive day, the Dies Academicus, the KU once again honored outstanding achievements in research, studies, teaching and transfer. A total of twelve prizes were awarded to graduates, young researchers and lecturers at the ceremony in the Aula. The prize money was provided by foundations and banks.

Sara Hasti
Sara Hasti with Vice President Meier

Sara Hasti was awarded this year's German Academic Exchange Service prize for foreign students. The music student performed at the beginning of the ceremony with her Kamancheh, the traditional instrument of her home country Iran. Before she started studying at the KU, she had already obtained degrees in Tehran and worked as an instrumental teacher. She continued this commitment in Eichstätt, for example as a music teacher for mother-child courses. She founded a piano-Kamancheh ensemble, composes her own songs and has been invited to perform as an instrumentalist at several concerts in Germany. Her achievements in her studies are outstanding, as is her social commitment – for example in the umbrella organization of musicology students.


Florian Hartwich (left) with founder Michael Gutmann

The sustainable use of marshlands is of great importance for achieving climate protection objectives. In his Master's thesis, Florian Hartwich described and evaluated the condition of a regional low moor west of Nassenfels. He was awarded the Sustainability Prize of the Fritz Gutmann Brewery Foundation for this scientific achievement. Hartwich, who now works as a marshland manager for the government of Upper Bavaria, was able to demonstrate in his thesis that the low moor site under investigation, like many other degenerated wetlands, is subject to severe peat decomposition due to drainage. Without intervention in the peatland water balance, people will soon have to stop cultivate the strip of land.


Merz and Müller
Marius Müller (left) and Irina Merz with Vice President Meier

The Maximiliana Kocher Foundation Prize for final theses in the field of History was awarded twice this year: In the field of political science, the prize was awarded to Irina Merz. In her Master's thesis, she analyzed the socio-ecological impact of lithium mining in the tri-border region of Bolivia, Chile and Argentina in the context of the expansion of e-mobility. She examined the political, legal and environmental framework conditions at national, European and international level. One result of her work is that the socio-ecological costs of promoting electromobility are being passed on to countries in the global South. After having completed her Master's degree in International Relations, Irina Merz now works as a consultant for sustainability strategy at the Heidelberg Center for the Environment.

In the field of history, the Maximiliana Kocher Foundation prize was awarded to Marius Müller. His Master's thesis entitled "Jesuits and Jews in global contexts. On the perception and function of Judaism in Joseph Stöcklein's missionary magazine 'Der Neue Welt-Bott’ (1726-1758)" links two subject areas: the more recent history of the Jesuit mission with a focus on cultural studies and Jewish history in a non-European context. The work examines the perception and interpretation of non-European Jewish communities by the missionaries during their travels. Müller, who is now a research associate at the Paris Lodron University in Salzburg, came across a repertoire of long-standing anti-Jewish images typical of the time, which have survived to the present day.

Franziska Imhoff with Thomas Bauer from Volksbank-Raiffeisenbank Bayern Mitte

Franziska Imhoff was awarded the Volksbank-Raiffeisenbank Bayern Mitte prize for the best Master's thesis. In her thesis, the graduate of the Master's degree program in Tourism and Sustainable Regional Development showed how members of a rural returnee movement in Upper Lusatia take an active role in shaping and experiencing their new home. While urban-rural migration movements as such have already been well researched, the award-winning Master's thesis was dedicated to the intensive experiences of new arrivals and returnees as well as their everyday ties to "their" rural places. Franziska Imhoff is now a research assistant at the KU and is working on her doctorate in the DFG Research Training Group "Practicing Place".


Prof. Danzer (center) accepted the award on behalf of Christina Langer (with Vice President Hogreve, left, and Bernhard Färber from Sparkasse Ingolstadt Eichstätt).

Dr. Christina Langer received the prize of the Sparkasse Ingolstadt-Eichstätt for the best doctoral thesis. In her thesis, she examined both the supply side and the demand side of the labor market and investigated the question of how skills acquired during training affect the labor market success of graduates and which skills are sought by companies. Among other things, she analyzed millions of job advertisements. The cumulative doctoral thesis consists of four publications, one of which appeared in the renowned Harvard Business Review. Christina Langer, who is now a postdoc at the Stanford Digital Economy Lab in California, has also presented her research at Harvard University and Stanford University. Numerous national and international media have reported on her research project.


Dr. Helen Zeidler with Prof. Stüwe from the Sutor Foundation (right) and Vice President Hogreve

The Professor Sutor Foundation Prize for Social and Political Ethics was awarded for the second time at the Dies Academicus – and the founder of the prize and Honorary Senator Bernhard Sutor, who died in January of this year at the age of 93, was also remembered.  Dr. Helen Zeidler’s thesis is motivated by highly relevant economic policy issues: Against the backdrop of climate change and other global crises, society is facing dramatic challenges that will also change the way we live. Helen Zeidler explained that the individual behaviors that are widespread in Western societies, such as food waste, are associated with substantial economic costs for society. From this, she derived the research question for her work: How can consumers change detrimental behavior or how can effective (state) regulation be designed? Helen Zeidler is now a postdoc at the TU Munich.


Dr. Manuel Rausch (center) with Vice President Hogreve (left) and Andreas Steppberger from the Eichstätt University Society

The Eichstätt University Society's prize for the best habilitation was awarded to Dr. Manuel Rausch. He habilitated with a thesis on mathematical models of confidence in perceptual decisions. The habilitation thesis examines two related research questions: How can confidence in perceptual decisions be described mathematically and what implications do mathematical models of confidence have for the measurement of metacognition ability? Manuel Rausch concludes that mathematical models of confidence are promising both for understanding confidence and for measuring metacognition. Rausch has been researching at the Competence Center for Empirical Methods at Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences since 2023.


Professor Dr. Janusz Surzykiewicz
Professor Dr. Janusz Surzykiewicz (left) with Prof. Dr. Ulrich Hemel from the Bickhoff Foundation

The Maximilian Bickhoff University Foundation is once again supporting the organization of a symposium with prize money. The prize is awarded to Professor Dr. Janusz Surzykiewicz, holder of the Chair of Social and Health Pedagogy. He is planning a conference entitled "Suffering, illness, crisis as a challenge for our time: Spirituality and religion as a means of salvation?" International experts from science, healthcare and pastoral care will discuss the significance of spirituality and religion as a means of salvation and what practical recommendations for action can be derived from this.


Dominik Engl
Dr. Dominik Engl (left) with Bernd Regler from the Liga Bank Foundation

Dr. Dominik Engl was awarded the prize for excellent teaching. The research associate at the Chair of Mathematics/Analysis designed and programmed a computer game to motivate students to engage in self-reflective learning and strengthen their creative problem-solving skills. The computer game is entitled "Lyapunov's direct method" – this central mathematical concept from the stability theory of autonomous differential equations is at the heart of the game. Players navigate their characters through a maze, open doors and gates by solving mathematical puzzles, and collect keys in the form of mathematical definitions and theorems.


Vice President Hogreve with Dr. Marina Tsoi, Maria Müller-Pulsfuß and Professor Dr. Rowena Roppelt (from left)

Furthermore, KU lecturers were honored for their outstanding commitment in the area of knowledge transfer. One prize went to the team of Dr. Marina Tsoi, Maria Müller-Pulsfuß and Professor Dr. Rowena Roppelt  of the School of Transformation and Sustainability, who are jointly coordinating the Jesuit Worldwide Learning project at the KU. This cooperation with the Jesuit order aims to give people in remote and disadvantaged communities around the world access to higher education. This target group mainly includes refugees, displaced persons and people affected by poverty. The aim is to promote educational equality and equal opportunities and to bring about long-term and sustainable change in communities.


Professor Dr. Nadja Ray with Vice President Hogreve

Another transfer prize was awarded to Professor Dr. Nadja Ray, holder of the Chair of Geomatics and Geomathematics. Ray established a series of transfer activities at the Mathematical Institute for Machine Learning and Data Science. In 2023, for example, she brought the Day of Mathematics to the KU for the first time, working closely with Audi and Airbus and thus also strengthening the exchange between industry and the newly founded KU Institute. At the beginning of 2024, the exhibition "I AM AI" on artificial intelligence was on display at the Georgianum in Ingolstadt – also thanks to Nadja Ray. The exhibition attracted numerous visitors, including many school classes. Nadja Ray also contributes her expertise to panel discussions, Girls' Day and the "Long Night of Business and Science".