Eugene Kim is awarded Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize

German Research Foundation honors Kims research on genome packaging

March 28, 2024

Eugene Kim has been an independent Max Planck Research Group Leader at the Max Planck Institute of Biophysics since 2021. She investigates how proteins organize the DNA of living organisms in their cell nuclei and thus ensure the protection and preservation of genetic information. For her outstanding achievements, the German Research Foundation (DFG) awards her the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize, one of the most important distinctions for early-career researchers in Germany.

Text: Katharina Käfer

“I am very honored to receive this year's Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize. All credits go to my amazing team! “ emphasizes Eugene Kim. "I am very grateful to the DFG for recognizing our research and encouraging our efforts to reveal the mechanisms of 3D genome folding and maintenance."

Reproduction and evolution of living organisms - from humans to bacteria - are based on preserving, adapting and transmitting genetic information. The genetic material is stored in the form of DNA in almost every single cell of an organism, or more precisely in the nuclei. The cell nucleus is only a few thousandths of a millimeter in size but contains DNA of about 2 meters length. Twisted space-savingly, the threadlike DNA forms the characteristic X-shaped chromosomes that we find in biology textbooks. During the cell’s life cycle, the chromosomes must be continuously loosened and compacted, for example to duplicate the genetic information during cell division. How does the cell manage this? Eugene Kim's team at the Max Planck Institute of Biophysics is interested in unraveling this mystery. The scientists are focused on  SMC (Structural Maintenance of Chromosomes) proteins, which are the key players for organizing and maintaining the chromosomes. By using dyes for labeling, they can visualize the DNA and the proteins involved with high-resolution microscopes and thus observe the packing process in detail. Understanding these processes could in future provide new insights into how rare developmental disorders and certain types of cancer arise and can be treated.

About Eugene Kim

Eugene Kim is a physicist by training. She did her PhD at the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Light in Erlangen and Friedrich Alexander University in Erlangen-Nuremberg. During her time as a postdoctoral fellow at the Kavli Institute of Nanoscience in Delft in the Netherlands, Kim was awarded a highly renowned Marie Skłodovska-Curie Fellowship and started her research on structure and dynamics of chromosomes using high-resolution single-molecule microscopy. Her group also uses electron cryo-microscopy to study the structures of SMC complexes linked to their genome folding activity. Furthermore, the team develops novel single-molecule tools for resolving the dynamics of protein-protein interactions in a complex environment.

Further reading

Press release of the Max Planck Society:

Press release of the German Research Foundation (DFG):

Other Interesting Articles

Go to Editor View