On 6 November 2023, Prof. Beatriz Roldán Cuenya was awarded the Manchot Research Professorship. This award is presented annually by the Jürgen Manchot Foundation to outstanding scientists. In addition to honoring the scientific work, the foundation enables the award winner to teach at the Chemistry Faculty of the Technical University of Munich. In his laudatory speech, Prof. Ulrich Heiz (Faculty of Chemistry) paid tribute to the prizewinner’s outstanding scientific career and the importance of her research work for the energy transition. “Beatriz’s passion for chemistry and physics has been a stroke of luck because her research addresses some of the most critical issues of our time. Surface science and catalysis, particularly the study of nanomaterials and their application in various catalytic processes, contribute to developing eco-friendly catalysts and materials for renewable energy,” said Heiz.

Prof. Gerhard Kramer (Vice President for Research and Innovation, TUM) presented the award to Prof. Beatriz Roldán Cuenya. (Image: T. Nilges/TUM)

Roldán Cuenya specializes in investigating catalytic reactions, especially in operando methods, on nanoscale surfaces, aiming to better understand molecular interactions with surfaces at the atomic level. She recognized early on that, in catalysis research, more is needed to examine materials only before and after a reaction, which was the standard practice for a long time. It is crucial to understand what happens in the meantime. She laid the foundation for her research and the methods she uses today at the University of Central Florida in Orlando from 2004 to 2012, where she developed the “Orlando Machine”, as she calls this multi-talented device. This construction houses nearly a dozen different methods, from electron microscopy to scanning probe microscopy, mass spectrometry, and X-ray spectroscopy. Equipped with this toolbox, Roldán Cuenya studied the dynamic behavior of catalysts relevant to applications such as extracting hydrogen from water or producing methane from carbon dioxide and hydrogen. Her commitment is to create optimal catalysts for these purposes.

Prof. Ulrich Heiz and Prof. Beatriz Roldán Cuenya.

Today, she is director of the Fritz Haber Institute in Berlin, where she leads the Department of Interface Science, overseeing a research team of over 70 members. As the first female director in the institute’s more than 100-year history, Roldán Cuenya addresses topics related to catalysis research and the most urgent issues of our time: understanding materials in detail and benefiting from this knowledge. This is to design more efficient and durable catalysts and find less expensive material combinations. “Your research has strong relevance to our topics, and we hope that collaborations, networks, and exchange opportunities will arise, potentially triggering catalytic effects that will benefit science and society in the future. With the Manchot Research Professorship, we would like to express our appreciation for your scientific achievements while strengthening the connection to TUM and the e-conversion Cluster of Excellence,” emphasizes Heiz as one of the coordinators of e-conversion in his speech.

We warmly congratulate Prof. Beatriz Roldán Cuenya on this special award and wish her all the best and ongoing success for her work and research!