Volker Springel was born in Backnang, Germany, on November 18, 1970. From 1991 to 1996 he studied physics at Universität Tübingen, the University of California Berkeley, and the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics. In 2000 he received his PhD in Astrophysics (summa cum laude) from the Ludwig Maximilian Universität in Munich.
Springel’s father was a civil servant and his mother was a bank clerk. He discovered he had a talent for physics around the age of 16, when a teacher assigned him some problems—and then, impressed by the results, entered him in the International Physics Olympiad, an annual competition for high school students. In 1989, Springel won a Bronze Medal, and the following year a Silver Medal. That same year he placed second place in physics in Jugend Forscht, an annual youth science competition in Germany and the largest competition of its kind in Europe. At this point, Springel says, he was “hooked” on physics. At UC Berkeley he took a cosmology course “by chance,” an experience that narrowed his field of interest to galaxy formation.
Among other honors, Springel has received a Starting Grant from the European Research Council (worth $1.5 million euros), the Golden Spike Award of the High Performance Computing Center in Stuttgart, and the Award for Astronomical Software by the German Astronomical Society. In 2016 he was elected to the German National Academy of Sciences. In 2020 he was elected as a foreign member to the US National Academy of Sciences. He has published more than 400 peer-reviewed papers, which have been cited 63,000 times.