Dagmar Schipanski Award for Sophia Gänßle and Alexander Hunold

For their dissertations in economic theory and biomedical engineering completed summa cum laude at TU Ilmenau, Dr. Sophia Gänßle and Dr. Alexander Hunold were awarded the Dagmar Schipanski Award of the Universitätsgesellschaft Ilmenau - Freunde, Förderer, Alumni e. V. on October 7. With the dissertation award, the Friends of TU Ilmenau honor outstanding scientific work.

Zwei Personen mit Blumensträußen und Urkunde vor Publikum TU Ilmenau/Chris Liebold
Dr. Alexander Hunold (left) and Dr. Sophia Gänßle have been awarded the Dagmar Schipanski Award of the University Society for their outstanding dissertations

What are the special features of audiovisual media markets? How has competition in the entertainment industry changed in the digital age, especially due to social media? And how are superstars studied economically? Sophia Gänßle explored these questions in her dissertation thesis on "Audiovisual and Interactive Entertainment in the Digital Age - An Economic Perspective": "Although entertainment media are becoming increasingly important socially and economically, not least due to social media, there have been few economic studies on the topic to date," says the researcher, explaining the motivation for her work:

The research field of entertainment economics is currently hardly represented in economics and even in the specific streams of cultural and media economics, and there is a lack of a holistic view that also includes the concerns of consumers and the impact of the media on society.

How entertainment markets have a lasting impact on our society

The extent of consumers' need for entertainment is shown by figures from her dissertation. In 2020, Germans aged 14 and over used audiovisual media for an extrapolated nine and a half hours a day - half an hour more than in the previous year without the Corona crisis. The pure use of moving image media was five hours and 44 minutes per day in the same period. "In particular, moving image use via the Internet has increased rapidly in recent years," Dr. Gänßle said. In her work, she examined how entertainment markets move and have a lasting impact on our society. In doing so, she used modern empirical methods to derive, among other things, new insights into the star economy of social media stars, so-called influencers, on YouTube and Instagram. Her research also provides new insights into competition in markets for audiovisual goods such as video-on-demand.

With this work, Sophia Gänßle already made a name for herself in the scientific community during her doctorate with numerous publications and conference contributions at renowned international conferences. Prof. Oliver Budzinski, Head of Economic Theory, who supervised Sophia Gänßle's dissertation, is also convinced of the research talent of the scientist, who currently holds an assistant professorship in the field of digitalization and creative industries at Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands: "Despite her young career stage, Sophia Gänßle is already making a significant contribution to economic research, especially in the field of social media stars, and I am very pleased that we will continue to work closely together on research projects." She herself sees her findings as a basis for better understanding current social developments and asking broader questions: "For example, whether we as a society find current market outcomes useful and desirable, and how we want to deal with them."

New insights for the therapy of depression

In his doctoral thesis entitled "Transcranial electric stimulation - modeling, application, verification," Alexander Hundold also dealt with a very socially relevant topic: the therapeutic effects that can be achieved by specifically influencing the brain with weak currents of a few milliamperes. "As soon as such currents flow at the nerve cell membrane, the voltage at the cell membrane changes, and with it the firing rate of the nerve cells," the young scientist explains. This affects how the brain processes information, which in turn can affect behavior. "However, these physiological effects of transcranial current stimulation (TES) can vary greatly from person to person. In addition, at the time of my research, the technique still had significant shortcomings, which prevented its widespread use to date," Dr. Hunold says.

This is where the dissertation winner's research came in: To make TES more manageable, his work developed both new simulation models and new evaluation approaches - and thus new insights into how electricity is distributed in the head. In particular, the electrode techniques he developed - dry electrodes made with additive processes and textile electrodes in fabric hoods - make stimulation more flexible and patient-friendly.

"With this work, Dr. Hunold is making significant contributions to improved therapy for patients with depression, among others, but also to basic neuroscience research," said Prof. Jens Haueisen, who supervised the dissertation as head of the Institute of Biomedical Engineering and Computer Science. In his research, the young scientist cooperated with renowned German, but also international universities and research institutions such as the University of Brisbane in Australia and the Boston Children's Hospital in Harvard. Dr. Hunold was able to publish the results of his work in leading international journals and at the most important international conferences. The electrodes and hoods he developed have now been implemented as a medical product and can be used by clinics and in science.

About the Dagmar Schipanski Award

The dissertation award, which is awarded once a year by the University Society for outstanding scientific work, is endowed with a total of 5,000 euros. This year, Dr. Sophia Gänßle and Dr. Alexander Hunold share the prize money: "The level and quality of the submitted work was very high again this year," says the chairman of the University Society, Prof. Peter Scharff: "For this reason, the selection of the prize winners was not easy."

The award ceremony took place during the matriculation ceremony in the auditorium of the TU Ilmenau. On the occasion of the award ceremony, University President Prof. Kai-Uwe Sattler once again paid tribute to the great services of Prof. Dr. Dagmar Schipanski, long-time chairwoman of the University Society and former rector of TU Ilmenau, who passed away last year. In her honor, the award for the best dissertations was presented this year for the first time as the "Dagmar Schipanski Award".