June 17, 2020 | News | Award

Diego Alburez-Gutierrez Receives Otto Hahn Medal

Diego Alburez-Gutierrez is Research Scientist and Research Area Chair in the Laboratory of Digital and Computational Demography. © MPIDR

Diego Alburez-Gutierrez, researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, receives the Otto Hahn Medal for his PhD dissertation. The medal was awarded digitally, with a cash prize of 7,500 euro, for methodological innovations for studying the long-term consequences of mass killings on local populations.

“My work focuses on the persisting demographic inequalities between people in the Global North and South”, says Diego Alburez-Gutierrez. His thesis focused on an extreme case: the demographic consequences of genocide for the indigenous Maya-Achi people of Guatemala.

Thousands of Mayan people were murdered by government-backed forces during the country’s civil war in the 1980s. Working with local organizations, Diego Alburez-Gutierrez collected hundreds of family trees from survivors to document the physical and sexual violence suffered by the Maya Achi. The Guatemalan anthropologist and demographer spent one year in the field working with survivors of the genocide to reconstruct and analyze the genealogical data.

“I hope that this award will increase awareness of the terrible events that happened in Guatemala”, says Diego Alburez-Gutierrez, “and that survivors will one day find justice”.

He completed his doctoral work, “Beyond excess mortality: the demographic life of a Mayan community after a war of massacres,” at the London School of Economics and Political Science. The work was supervised by Arjan Gjonca, Tiziana Leone, and Ernestina Coast.

Since January 2019, Diego Alburez-Gutierrez has been employed as a Research Scientist and Research Area Chair (Aging and Generational Processes) at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany. He specializes in inter-generational demography. His work uses mathematical modeling, micro-simulation techniques, and empirical analysis to explore changes in the experience of life events such as kin availability, family bereavement, and caring responsibilities around the world.

The Max Planck Society has honored up to 30 young scientists and researchers each year with the Otto Hahn Medal for outstanding scientific achievements since 1978. The award comes with a monetary sum of 7500 euros as recognition. The prize is intended to motivate especially gifted early career researchers to pursue a future university or research career.

Since 1978, more than 1000 scientists and researchers have been awarded the Otto Hahn Medal. Normally, the award is presented during the general meeting in the following year. The 2020 event was postponed to the following year due to the corona pandemic.


Press and Public Relations

Silvia Leek


+49 381 2081-143

Award Winner

Research Scientist Laboratory of Digital and Computational Demography

Diego Alburez-Gutierrez


+49 381 2081-175

The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.