Press Release of Heidelberg University
06. December 2021

In recognition of her especially meritorious service to German science, Prof. Dr Johanna Stachel, a physicist at Ruperto Carola, has been awarded the Cross of Merit (1st Class) of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. On the proposal of the Minister-President of Baden-Württemberg, the Federal President hereby honoured the nuclear and particle physicist for her life’s work. Theresia Bauer, Baden-Württemberg’s Minister of Science, Research and the Arts, presented the order on 3 December 2021 during the Physical Colloquium at Heidelberg University. Prof. Stachel had already been awarded the Cross of Merit with riband in 1999.

“In a situation in which fact-based, scientific findings are more important than ever for mastering the challenges before us, we especially need the social commitment of scientists,” said Theresia Bauer when presenting the order. With over 600 publications and many other scientific contributions, Johanna Stachel had increased the visibility of the large Faculty of Physics and Astronomy of Heidelberg University, the minister added. At the same time she paid tribute to Prof. Stachel as an “inspiring scientific teacher”. Furthermore, Johanna Stachel exemplifies what women achieve at the top level in the natural sciences and, with her work, builds “lasting bridges for international cooperation, also in areas beyond project-related scientific collaboration,” said Theresia Bauer.

A proven international expert in the field of nuclear and particle physics, Prof. Stachel works at the European nuclear research centre CERN in Geneva (Switzerland) and is primarily involved in experiments with the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in the context of the ALICE collaboration. Her special interest is in quark-gluon plasma, a primeval state of matter that today can only be generated with the aid of particle accelerators such as the LHC. As director of the ALICE Transition Radiation Detector project, she studies the behaviour of the state of matter from free quarks and gluons. In particular, her phenomenological work has made a significant contribution to defining the phase boundary between normal matter and quark-gluon plasma with the aid of experimental data. Close collaborators with her in this field are Prof. Dr Peter Braun-Munzinger of the GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research in Darmstadt and two colleagues at the Universities of Münster and Wrocław (Poland).

Johanna Stachel studied physics and chemistry at ETH Zürich (Switzerland) and at the University of Mainz, where she also earned her doctorate in 1982. Then she spent thirteen years as professor at the State University of New York at Stony Brook (US) before, in 1996, she was appointed to a professorship for experimental physics at Heidelberg University. Since 1996 Prof. Stachel has also carried out research at CERN, from 2000 as project leader and a member of the management board of the ALICE project.

The physicist is a member of various high-level scientific academies and societies, and is active in various ways in funding agencies for scientific research. Prof. Stachel has also served as a reviewer and consultant, e.g. for the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, and for different national and international scientific societies and research institutes. From 2012 to 2014 she was the first woman to head the German Physical Society (DPG), followed by a two-year term as vice-president.

Johanna Stachel’s scientific work has been awarded a number of prizes, notably the Lise Meitner Prize of the European Physical Society and, most recently, the Stern-Gerlach Medal of the German Physical Society – the highest honour given by the DPG in the field of experimental physics. In addition, in 2001 she received the Lautenschläger Research Prize, awarded for the first time, which recognises outstanding achievements in cutting-edge research.


Prof. Dr. Johanna Stachel
Physikalisches Institut
Im Neuenheimer Feld 226
69120 Heidelberg
phone.: +49 6221- 54 19 501