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Press Release No. 45 | 10. November 2014
DFG Establishes 14 New Research Training Groups

Topics Range from Urban Water Circulation Systems and Malignant Skin Tumours to European Dream Cultures / 60 Million Euros in Funding for an Initial 4.5 Year Period

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is establishing 14 new Research Training Groups (RTGs) to further support early career researchers in Germany. This was decided by the responsible Grants Committee during its autumn session in Bonn. The RTGs will receive funding of approximately 60 million euros for an initial period of four and a half years. In addition to the 14 new RTGs, the Grants Committee approved the extension of seven 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 207 RTGs, including 45 International Research Training Groups (IRTGs); the 14 new groups will commence work in 2015.

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

The number of parasite infections among humans and animals is increasing worldwide. Contributing factors include greater immunity to medication, global warming and the rise in international travel. The Research Training Group "Parasite Infections: From Experimental Models To Natural Systems" seeks to step up both research and scientific training in the field of parasitology. It will investigate the biological, medical and veterinary aspects of parasite infections in equal measure. The research programme will examine the issue on three levels: molecular, cellular and organismic. The participants will focus on a small number of selected host and parasite systems, which it will analyse.
(Host University: Free University of Berlin, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Susanne Hartmann)

The "Urban Water Interfaces (UWI)" Research Training Group will examine urban water circulation systems. The water quality and quantity of urban water supply systems is beset by many problems especially in big cities. For example, climatic and demographic developments can exacerbate water shortages at peak times and result in higher concentrations of new substances that are difficult to degrade in the water circulation system. It will therefore be all the more important to manage urban water supplies effectively in the future. The researchers in this RTG will focus on examining natural and technical interfaces, collaborating closely with natural and engineering scientists, as it is precisely at these interfaces that the key processes in water circulation systems in large cities take place. This will result in the development of model concepts and simulation tools for forecasting so that the new knowledge can be used to manage urban water systems.
(Host University: Technical University of Berlin, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Ing. Reinhard Hinkelmann)

Intensive research is key in many areas and often has to be carried out under time pressure. However, there has literally been an explosion in the volume of information in recent years and electronic sources are becoming increasingly complex, highly heterogeneous and present a varying quality of information. The purpose of the "Adaptive Preparation of Information from Heterogeneous Sources" Research Training Group is to use automated processes to extract structured knowledge from very different text sources and compile it in a dossier. The RTG will develop methods that will allow the searches to be adapted to different kinds of text and subject areas. In a second step, the results can then be transmitted to various user groups and translated into different languages. These methods will initially be applied to educationally relevant subjects, by way of example.
(Host University: Technical University of Darmstadt, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Iryna Gurevych)

In 2012, evidence of the Higgs particle was seen for the first time at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, in Switzerland, approximately 50 years after physicist Peter Higgs and his colleagues had first theoretically predicted its existence. This discovery was a milestone in electroweak symmetry breaking research. However, some fundamental questions remain unanswered: Are all the characteristics of the Higgs particle discovered consistent with the forecast by the standard model in elementary particle physics? How does it fit into extended models? Which particles form dark matter? Can the Large Hadron Collider particle accelerator in Geneva find them, and how do they fit into theoretical models? The "Mass and Symmetries after the Discovery of the Higgs Particle at the LHC" Research Training Group hopes to help answer questions of this nature. The Research Training Group will also make specific contributions to the work of the ATLAS experiment at CERN, which is involved in the accurate measurement of the Higgs particle and the search for new particles.
(Host University: Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Stefan Dittmaier)

The International Research Training Group "Cold Controlled Ensembles in Physics and Chemistry" will analyse cold and ultracold atomic and molecular systems. These systems play a key role in experimental and theoretical atomic, molecular and optical sciences in understanding quantum properties and quantum dynamics. The researchers involved come from Germany and Canada and work in different areas of physics and physical chemistry. This will allow a wide range of different experimental methods and theoretical approaches to be used in the Research Training Group, which, in turn, is expected to produce synergy effects. The IRTG also plans to discover new ways to produce and characterise cooled atomic and molecular systems.
(Host University: Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Frank Stienkemeier, Partner Institution: University of British Columbia, Canada)

Biological organisms ensure their long-term survival by reacting to new and changing environmental conditions by genetic adaptation or by relocating their habitats. However, does this also apply to anthropogenic change, that is change caused by humans? Not much is currently known about the survival of populations when humans make changes to the environment, which makes reliable forecasting difficult. The "Biological Responses to Novel and Changing Environments (RESPONSE)" Research Training Group will therefore look at plastic and genetic capacities for "in situ" reactions – that is the immediate and local reactions of organisms – and the factors which facilitate or restrict the ability to populate new habitats.
(Host University: Ernst Moritz Arndt University of Greifswald, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Klaus Fischer)

The "Inter-Confessionality in the Early Modern Era" Research Training Group will examine the penetrability between the confessions in the 16th to 18th century. The researchers will be looking particularly at theological, literary, political and artistic phenomena, which define or overcome the boundaries between the confessions as they form or which are common to them. The RTG will analyse how fine arts or sacred music document theological precepts, on the one hand, and how, on the other, they change and influence them via different media. In terms of geography, the RTG will not just consider the German regions associated with the Reformation, but will also look at Italy as the heartland of Catholic Reform, England with its Anglican state church or the Ottoman Empire as the centre of Greek Orthodoxy.
(Host University: University of Hamburg, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Johann Anselm Steiger)

Malignant skin tumours are a growing health problem throughout society, due to both environmental factors and an ageing population. The aim of the "Hallmarks of Skin Cancer: Cancer Cell Dissemination, Primary Resistance, Novel Targets" Research Training Group will therefore be to contribute to a better understanding of the biology of skin cancer. The researchers will be interested in the molecular and cellular mechanisms of tumour cell dissemination, that is the spread and distribution of tumour cells. Furthermore, they will be looking at resistance to apoptosis, a kind of programmed cell death and at the immune response to tumours. The end result could be new therapeutic treatments.
(Host University: Ruprecht-Karls University of Heidelberg, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Sergij Goerdt)

Research in the International Research Training Group "Guided Light, Tightly Packed: Novel Concepts, Components and Applications" will be concerned with optical waveguides and related technologies with which light can be controlled in ultracompact structures, which permit light to be generated, guided and detected, that is shown to be present, with high precision and efficiency. To this end, German and Canadian researchers will be working on new optical fibre structures, the physical principles of precision laser processing and artificial materials with made-to-measure optical properties. With new scientific findings in optics constantly emerging, the subject offers huge potential for innovation; for example, light wave conductors are of key significance for telecommunications networks.
(Host University: Friedrich Schiller University of Jena, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Andreas Tünnermann, Partner Institutions: Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS), Université Laval and University of Toronto, Canada)

Fibre-reinforced plastics have some important applications as lightweight materials. They can be designed in a number of different ways and can also be used in load-bearing structures. However, the complex manufacturing processes are problematic, as are the material properties and, above all, connecting them to areas of material with varying rigidity, which can be continuously and/or discontinuously reinforced. The German-Canadian Research Training Group "Integrated Engineering of Continuous-Discontinuous Long Fiber Reinforced Polymer Structures" will concentrate on this latter issue. Using modelling and simulation, researchers from both countries will take an integrated approach to working on continuous-discontinuous long fiber reinforced polymers, starting with manufacturing-led design and materials development and including production and post-processing.
(Host University: Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Ing. Thomas Böhlke, Partner Institutions: Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, McMaster University, University of Toronto, University of Windsor, Western University, Canada)

The "Molecular Architectures for Fluorescent Cell Imaging" Research Training Group plans to develop made-to-measure fluorescence probes by combining research into organic synthesis, chemical biology, optical spectroscopy and cell biology. The researchers from the above fields want to design the complete development line of these fluorescence probes, from design and synthesis, bioconjugation, structure discovery, photophysics and intracellular transport to in-vivo imaging within the Research Training Group. The synthetic fluorescence probes will then be tested in biological processes and organisms (such as mice or zebra fish).
(Host University: Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Hans-Achim Wagenknecht)

Biological components can be redesigned or even newly designed – to the point of creating artificial cell-like systems – with the aid of synthetic biological methods. It is expected that synthetic biological approaches will be used more frequently in order to make new discoveries about the complexity of individual cells, living organisms and whole ecosystems more efficiently. Better understanding of biological processes is essential in order to discover the causes of disease, find new therapies and establish new biotechnological procedures. The "Synthetic Biology" Research Training Group will not only analyse these processes in detail, but also provide impetus for the development of synthetic cellular switches or synthetic proteins and even for the establishment of cell-free synthetic biological systems.
(Host University: Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Kirsten Jung)

The International Research Training Group "Functional Hybrid Materials (ATUMS)" is concerned with both classes of material: structure-controlled nanoparticles with adjustable properties and conductive polymers. The hybrid materials that result from combining them have special functionalities and enormous practical potential. For instance, new semi-conductor systems can be expected in the field of organic and inorganic synthesis. The examination of these materials also plays a key role in applied research. Fields of application include the more efficient use of solar power, the conversion and storage of renewable energies as well as the provision of new, cheaper electronic components for future forms of communication. German and Canadian researchers will collaborate in this International Research Training Group.
(Host University: Technical University of Munich, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Bernhard Rieger; Partner Institution: University of Alberta, Canada)

The subjects to be examined by the Research Training Group "European Dream Cultures" include aesthetic descriptions of dreams and the history of dreaming in literature, culture and the media. The core research area of the Research Training Group is specific dream-related aesthetics and poetry in Post-Antiquity European culture. Starting with descriptions of dreams in literature, the researchers involved want to analyse the interactions between the aesthetics of dreams, culture and the history of knowledge. Comparisons between different types of media will be used to describe dreams represented in painting, photography, film and music with the ultimate aim of producing a systematic interpretation of the history, aesthetics and poetry of the depiction of dreams.
(Host University: Saarland University, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Christiane Solte-Gresser)

Further Information

Media contact:

  • DFG Press and Public Relations,
    Tel. +49 228 885-2443,
    presse@dfg.de

Further information will also be provided by the spokespersons of the Research Training Groups.

Contact at the DFG Head Office:

More details about the funding programme and the funded Research Training Groups can be found under:

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