Professor Sonja Herres-Pawlis to Receive Funding From the Volkswagen Foundation


Professor Sonja Herres-Pawlis, Chair of Bioinorganic Chemistry and spokesperson for the Chemistry Department at RWTH Aachen University, has secured significant funding from the Volkswagen Foundation.


With its Momentum – Funding for Recently Tenured Professors initiative, the Foundation seeks to support diversity in research and the creativity of early-career university professors in Germany and to support the strategic development of their research activities. The chemist had submitted a proposal titled “Universal Molecular Syntax for Sustainable Machine Learning Applications,” for which he she will now receive 998,000 euros in funding over the next seven years.

Herres-Pawlis obtained her doctorate in bioinorganic chemistry in 2005 at the University of Paderborn and completed her post-doctoral lecturing qualification (habilitation) in the area of polymerization catalysis at TU Dortmund University. Subsequently she worked as a professor at LMU Munich. In January 2015, Herres-Pawlis, who completed several research stints at Stanford University, California, USA, and at ENSCM Chimie Montpellier, France, was appointed professor at RWTH Aachen University.

At RWTH, Herres-Pawlis has conducted several top-level research projects, for example in the field of active tyrosinase models and nitrene systems as well as on biomimetic electron- and charge-transfer complexes. Her work on the fastest known robust lactide polymerization catalysts will facilitate the environmentally sustainable large-scale production of tailor-made biopolymers.

Herres-Pawlis uses theoretical methods to design chemical compounds, make predictions about reactivity, and assign spectroscopic signatures. With the help of the support from the Volkswagen Foundation, she seeks to develop a molecular syntax which makes it possible to apply machine learning methods to research questions in bioinorganic and sustainable chemistry. The goal is to develop better catalysts faster and to gain a better understanding of their activity.