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Press Release No. 56 | 20. December 2017
DFG to Fund Eleven New Research Training Groups

Topics range from cyber-physical production systems to interactions between trees / €134 million for doctoral programme

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is establishing 11 new Research Training Groups to further support early career researchers in Germany. They include an International Research Training Group with a university in China. This was decided by the responsible Grants Committee during its winter session in Bonn. The collaborations will be funded for an initial period of four and a half years. During this period they will receive approximately €48 million in funding, including a 22% programme allowance for indirect costs arising in each research project. The 11 new groups will start work in April 2018.

In addition to the 11 new collaborations, the Grants Committee approved the extension of 18 groups for another four and a half years; they will receive approximately €86 million, bringing the total amount of funding awarded by the Committee to €134 million. Research Training Groups offer doctoral researchers the opportunity to complete their theses in a structured research and qualification programme at a high academic level. In total the DFG is currently funding 223 Research Training Groups, including 42 International Research Training Groups.

The new Research Training Groups in detail (in alphabetical order by their host universities, including the name of the applicant universities):

In mathematics and computer science, complexity occurs in many forms: as combinatorial complexity, or the number of mathematical structures; as descriptive complexity, or the ability to code or visually represent a structure concisely; and as algorithmic complexity, which relates to runtime and memory requirements. The Research Training Group ‘Facets of Complexity’ intends to use the cross-connections between these three approaches, traditionally treated independently, to gain important new insights, which are equally relevant to mathematics and theoretical computer science.
(Host university: Free University of Berlin, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Günter Rote; Additional applicant universities: Humboldt University of Berlin, Technical University of Berlin)

What influence do geometric boundaries and their surface characteristics have on chemical reactions? The effect of boundaries on chemical reactions is already exploited in catalysis. However, we lack a basic understanding of exactly how reaction mechanisms are influenced by geometry and surface properties. The Research Training Group ‘Confinement-Controlled Chemistry’ intends to answer this question using a combination of experiment and theory. Its aim is to make boundary effects predictable and thus usable in a wide range of applications, for example in environmental science, energy research and biomedicine.
(Host university: University of Bochum, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Karina Morgenstern)

The Research Training Group ‘Microbial Substrate Conversion’ intends to shed light on the conversion of substrates – the starting materials for catalysis – by microbial enzymes and in dependence on specific spatially and temporally variable reaction conditions. The researchers, from microbiology, molecular biology, biochemistry, biophysics and neighbouring fields, will work both in vitro and with living micro-organisms. They aim to achieve a better understanding of the enzymes in question and the fundamental mechanisms of their metabolic pathways.
(Host university: University of Bochum, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Franz Narberhaus)

Cyber-physical production systems, or CPPS, consist of a combination of networked system components, both digital (cyber) and physical. Their architecture allows modifications to be made to the system very quickly. However, they also require new forms of human-technology cooperation, especially in terms of the competence, health and trust of CPPS operators. In the framework of the Research Training Group ‘Conducive Design of Cyber-Physical Production Systems’, experts in engineering, psychology and occupational science will develop new methods for human-technology cooperation and evaluate them in prototype systems.
(Host university: Technical University of Dresden, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr.-Ing. Leon Urbas)

A Research Training Group in pure mathematics based in Düsseldorf and Wuppertal will apply ‘Algebro-Geometric Methods in Algebra, Arithmetic and Topology’ to problems in algebraic geometry. The participating mathematicians’ main objects of study are homogeneous spaces, algebraic varieties in connection with the representation of groups, moduli spaces of quiver representations, Brauer groups and algebraic cobordism.
(Host university: Heinrich Heine University of Düsseldorf, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Stefan Schröer; Additional applicant university: University of Wuppertal)

How do regulatory networks of coding and non-coding ribonucleic acids (RNAs) determine the life-cycle of messenger RNA that conveys information from the cell nucleus to the ribosomes? This question will be investigated by the Research Training Group ‘Regulatory Networks in the mRNA Life Cycle: From Coding to Non-coding RNAs’ using RNA-mediated gene regulatory networks in model organisms such as mammals, yeasts and plants. Their investigations will range from the molecular basis of gene expression – the process by which genetic information is utilised by the cell – to disease-related questions in molecular medicine and innovative applications of RNA biotechnology.
(Host university: University of Gießen, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Albrecht Bindereif)

What factors and mechanisms in woodlands cause the positive effects of biodiversity? The International Research Training Group ‘TreeDì – Tree Diversity Interactions: The Role of Tree-Tree Interactions in Local Neighbourhoods in Chinese Subtropical Forests’ aims to answer this question by investigating interactions between individual trees. These range from aboveground and underground competition and complementary resource usage to reciprocal support. The participating researchers from Germany and China will use a 38-hectare experimental platform which was laid out as part of a DFG-funded Research Unit. This consists of subtropical trees divided into parcels containing different combinations of tree species, providing an optimum object of study for the international collaboration.
(Host university: University of Halle-Wittenberg, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Helge Bruelheide; Additional applicant universities: Friedrich Schiller University Jena, University of Leipzig; Cooperation partner: Graduate University of Chinese Academy of Science, China)

Adverse childhood experiences (ACE) such as sexual and physical abuse or neglect have major short- and long-term impacts on an individual’s emotional and physical health. However, the causal relationships involved are not sufficiently understood. The Research Training Group ‘Impact of Adverse Childhood Experience on Psychiatric and Somatic Disorders across the Lifespan’ therefore aims to investigate the impact of the nature, time and intensity of ACE on the development of subsequent psychosomatic disorders and the underlying mechanisms. Ultimately this could lead to psychosocial and pharmacological treatment approaches and public health programmes to address the consequences of ACE.
(Host university: University of Heidelberg, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Christian Schmahl)

Toxic gaseous substances which are inhaled, for example in the workplace, can cause serious lung damage. However, the specific damage pathways in the cells are not yet understood and lung damage is currently only treated symptomatically. The Research Training Group ‘Targets in Toxicology – Deciphering Therapeutic Targets in Lung Toxicology’ will break new ground in toxicology by investigating the damage mechanisms of acute and chronic toxic lung damage at cellular level with a view to improving treatment options in the long term.
(Host university: University of Munich (LMU), Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Thomas Gudermann)

The need for mathematical models, methods and efficient software for prediction, monitoring and optimisation has grown significantly in recent decades in a range of fields, from medicine to materials science. The Research Training Group ‘IntComSin Interfaces, Complex Structures, and Singular Limits in Continuum Mechanics – Analysis and Numerics’ will study all facets of modelling to better understand complex phenomena and processes, which typically include boundaries, multiscale problems and small parameters (singular phenomena). The research programme comprises three areas: boundaries, complex structures, as well as singular limits and dimension reduction.
(Host university: University of Regensburg, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Harald Garcke; Additional applicant university: Friedrich Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg)

The Research Training Group ‘MOMbrane: The Multifaceted Functions and Dynamics of the Mitochondrial Outer Membrane (MOM)’ aims to address a central research area in cell biology. The researchers will focus on the mitochondrial outer membrane, or MOM, which forms the boundary between the organelle and the rest of the cell’s interior and controls numerous interactions between mitochondria and the rest of the cell. If the MOM or the proteins it contains are defective, they can trigger various diseases. This collaboration intends to investigate in more detail how diseases are caused by defective cellular processes. The researchers will work closely with the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot (Israel).
(Host university: University of Tübingen, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Doron Rapaport)

Further Information

Media contact:

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

Programme contact at the DFG Head Office:

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

A list of the 18 Research Training Groups which have been extended for another funding period is available in German only at:

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