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Press Release No. 17 | 12. May 2014
DFG Establishes 13 New Research Training Groups

Topics Range from Competition Economics and Cultural Transfer between Germany and Russia to the Analysis of Neural Circuits / 48 Million Euros for Initial Funding Period

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is establishing 13 new Research Training Groups (RTGs) to further support early career researchers in Germany. This decision was made by the relevant Grants Committee at its spring session in Bonn. The RTGs will receive funding of approximately 48 million euros for an initial period of four and a half years. In addition to the 13 new RTGs, the Grants Committee approved the extension of 12 RTGs for another four and a half years. Research Training Groups offer doctoral researchers the chance to complete their theses in a structured research and qualification programme at a high academic level.

In total the DFG is currently funding 208 RTGs, including 42 International Research Training Groups (IRTGs); the 13 new groups will commence work in the second half of the year.

The new Research Training Groups
(in alphabetical order by host university)

The Research Training Group "Quantum Many-Body Methods in Condensed Matter Systems" is supported jointly by researchers from RWTH Aachen University and the Research Centre Jülich. It will examine a fundamental problem in the theoretical physics of condensed matter: the researchers’ goal is to provide a description of interacting many-body systems that is as realistic and accurate as possible and to gain a better understanding of correlation effects. They will also be able to apply their knowledge, for example in the development of functional materials and in nanoelectronics. The project will acquire added value from the combination and development of different complementary methods with which to research many-body systems.
(Host University: RWTH Aachen University, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Volker Meden)

Under the heading "Philosophy, Science and the Sciences", a new Research Training Group at the Humboldt University of Berlin will be working on a project subtitled "The Dialogue among Different Forms and Models of Knowledge in Ancient Greek, Roman and Arabic Thought". The doctoral researchers intend to concentrate on medicine and mathematics and their interfaces with philosophy. There are two levels of analysis: firstly, the theoretical consideration of the relationships between philosophy and science and the humanities and secondly, the actual practice thereof.
(Host University: Humboldt University of Berlin, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Jonathan Beere)

Metrology is the science of precise and standardised measurement and is fundamentally essential for the natural and engineering sciences and furthermore for verification procedures in medicine. One area of metrology is currently developing in relation to nanosystems. Given the need to verify infinitesimally small quantities and to determine the accuracy of these measurements, new approaches are required for measuring variables in nanometrology. There is a further challenge in realising the standards for SI units, the international system for physical variables, with quantum effects in nanosystems and to base the SI units on natural constants only. The aim of the RTG "Metrology for Complex Nanosystems NANOMET" is to examine new approaches to defining standard measurement variables in complex nanosystems.
(Host University: Technical University of Braunschweig, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Meinhard Schilling)

The "Competition Economics" Research Training Group will take an in-depth look at market competition using micro-economic methods, statistical analysis of econometric data and experimental economic research. The researchers are adopting an approach drawn from industrial economics which will focus their analysis on the opportunities and limitations of competition and the origins and impact of market power in order to uncover different courses of action for competition policy and market regulation. The RTG differentiates between three main areas: "institutions", "related markets" and "consumer behaviour".
(Host University: University of Düsseldorf, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Hans-Theo Normann)

The "Nominal Modification" RTG is being set up in Frankfurt. The overarching theme of this linguistic RTG is the grammar of nominal expressions and their modifications. Nouns can be modified with various constructions, such as adjectives (the big car), prepositional phrases (the car with the sun roof) or relative clauses (the car which is standing in the car park). The researchers will analyse the underlying mechanisms, which they will be looking at from a syntactic and a semantic perspective, as well as within the context of various linguistic sub-disciplines. With this cross-linguistic approach as a basis, it is intended to create a linguistics research platform with an international profile.
(Host University: University of Frankfurt am Main, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Caroline Féry)

Light can act as an ideal trigger signal with which to initiate chemical and biological reactions and investigate the spatial or temporal processes that result. It is possible to control systems very precisely with photolabile chemical compounds, that is those that are unstable in the presence of light. Uncaging is the name given to the process whereby these chemical compounds temporarily block a desired reaction, but light can be used to remove them. The control processes used to date are not very sophisticated. It is the aim of the RTG "Complex Scenarios of Light Control" to go beyond the current state of the art and develop such scenarios which will help to examine protein and RNA folding, transport processes through cell membranes and the arrangement of proteins in three dimensions.
(Host University: University of Frankfurt am Main, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Alexander Heckel)

The RTG "Functional Diversity of Cofactors in Enzymes" will focus on cofactors. Cofactors are various molecules and molecule groups which contribute to a (bio)chemical reaction and which are required for the catalytic activity of many enzymes. What role do these cofactors play in complex enzyme reactions? The RTG is seeking to answer this question and thus gain in-depth understanding of catalytic mechanisms. In the long term, answering this question might also lead to establishing and optimising biotechnological production processes.
(Host University: University of Freiburg, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Andreas Bechthold)

"Transfer of Culture and Cultural Identity – German-Russian Contacts in the European Context" is the title of a German-Russian International Research Training Group in which partners from Freiburg and Moscow are cooperating. The aim at both locations is to recast the long tradition of national, bilateral and international research on German-Russian cultural contacts as a concept of interdisciplinary and international research into cultural transfer. It is intended to augment the subject area of cultural contact between Germany and Russia, particularly in terms of its feedback effect on the building of a cultural identity. Contact between Germany and Russia will also be examined systematically against the background of the European dimension.
(Host University: University of Freiburg, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Elisabeth Cheauré, Spokesperson for the Partner Institution: Professor Dr. Ekaterina Dmitrieva, Russian State University for the Humanities, Russian Federation)

The researchers in the Research Training Group "Biochemical, Biophysical and Biomedical Effects of Reactive Oxygen and Nitrogen Species on Biological Membranes" have been drawn from biochemistry, biophysics, biology, medicine and pharmacy to investigate the creation of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (ROS/RNS) and their chemical effects on membranes and their interaction with membrane components such as lipids and proteins. The work of this RTG will make the mechanisms whereby ROS/RNS cause damage to cells better understood.
(Host University: University of Greifswald, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Christiane A. Helm)

The new Research Training Group "Quantum-Mechanical Noise in Complex Systems" researches the quantum-mechanical noise intrinsic in fundamental physical systems. In physics, the term "noise" means a disturbance variable with a broad non-specific frequency spectrum. The experimentalists and theorists will work together on three overlapping areas: noise in low-dimensional, quantum-mechanical systems, the physics below the standard quantum limit and finally noise and correlations in highly complex systems.
(Host University: University of Hanover, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Michael Oestreich)

"Physical Modelling for Virtual Manufacturing Systems and Processes" is the title of a German-American International Research Training Group in which researchers in Kaiserslautern, Berkeley and Davis will cooperate with the aim of simulating manufacturing environments. This will include simulation at every level and using every kind of simulation technology, from molecule dynamics to the virtual factory. Technologies and methods used in manufacturing systems will be used and improved, as will the performance of simulation systems in connection with physics-based models. Furthermore, the researchers will look at particular aspects of visualisation and data mining, i.e. the systematic application of statistical methods to a body of data.
(Host University: Technical University of Kaiserslautern, Spokesperson: Professor Dr.-Ing. Jan C. Aurich, Spokespersons for the Partner Institutions: Professor Dr. David Dornfeld, University of California, Berkeley, USA, Professor Dr. Bahram Ravani, University of California, Davis, USA)

How does the nervous system work? How is information stored and processed in it? What effect do illness and injury have on its function? Neuroscience seeks to answer these questions. However, because the nervous system is so complex, the answers found to these questions to date are fragmentary. To understand the complex interactions, the nervous system must be researched as a whole. This is the task of the RTG "Neural Circuit Analysis on the Cellular and Subcellular Level". The doctoral researchers will consider all the various aspects equally in their training, from the molecular and the cellular to the circuit level. However, the core research areas, which are concerned with investigations into the basic function of the nervous system, particularly the neural processing of sensory signals and neural control of movement and energy homoeostasis, will be clearly designated.
(Host University: University of Cologne, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Ansgar Büschges)

The activation and selective transformation of chemical substances still present challenges to chemists, particularly where molecules with limited reactivity are concerned. In recent years, thanks to new research approaches, there has been success in developing new methods for activating and transforming inert substrates at a molecular level. It is these methods that the German-Canadian International Research Training Group "New Trends in Molecular Activation and Catalysis" will be looking at in Münster and Toronto. The RTG is sub-divided into "Frustrated Lewis Pair (FLP) Reactivity" (frustrated Lewis pairs are combinations of a lewis acid and a lewis base) and "Synthesis and Catalysis" with theoretical chemistry as an interdisciplinary function.
(Host University: University of Münster, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. F. Ekkehardt Hahn, Spokesperson for the Partner Institution: Professor Dr. Douglas W. Stephan, University of Toronto, Canada)

Further Information

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More details about the funding programme and funded Research Training Groups is available at:

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