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Press Release No. 41 | 20 September 2018
DFG to Fund Nine New Research Units

Topics range from precipitation estimates and the brain’s energy supply to Tourette syndrome / Total of approximately €21 million for first three-year funding period

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is establishing nine new Research Units, following a decision by the Senate and the Joint Committee in Bonn. Research Units enable researchers to pursue current and pressing issues in their research areas and to take innovative directions in their work. They can be funded for a maximum of two three-year periods.

In the initial funding period, the nine new groups will receive a total of approximately €21 million, including a 22 percent programme allowance for indirect project costs. This brings the number of Research Units currently funded by the DFG to 203.

The New Research Units
(in alphabetical order by spokesperson’s university)

The aim of the Research Unit “Near-Realtime Quantitative Precipitation Estimation and Prediction (RealPEP)” is to improve the prognosis of precipitation. The team of researchers, from the fields of meteorology, atmospheric research and hydrology, will draw on data that has only been available for the last few years. The project is designed to improve very short-term and medium-term precipitation forecasting and the prediction of local flooding.
(Spokesperson: Privatdozent Dr. Silke Trömel, University of Bonn)

Ambiguity – in relation to phenomena, situations and impressions – is playing an increasingly important role as a research concept in cultural studies. The Research Unit “Ambiguity and Difference: Historical-Cultural Dynamics” will investigate the manifestation of ambiguity from a comparative historical perspective, covering a period from the Late Middle Ages to the present day. The focus will be on cultures in the Mediterranean region, Turkey and the ‘Orient’, Silesia, North America and South Africa.
(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Benjamin Scheller, University of Duisburg-Essen)

The human brain requires a lot of energy. When the energy available is insufficient to meet its needs, the result may be brain damage, disability or even death. Little research has been done into the early processes caused by insufficient energy supply to the synapses. The Research Unit “Synapses under Stress: Early Events Induced by Metabolic Failure at Glutamatergic Synapses” will therefore investigate early cellular responses following interruption of the energy supply with a view to contributing to the development of treatments for stroke-induced brain damage.
(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Christine R. Rose, Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf)

The Research Unit “Sensitivity of High Alpine Geosystems to Climate Change Since 1850 (SEHAG)” seeks to study the impact of climate change on high alpine geosystems. The research team will examine a range of geoscientific aspects, such as surface structures, the biosphere and the hydrosphere, to produce a comprehensive analysis of change processes in high alpine regions. They will look at the period from 1850 to the present day and make prognoses covering the period to 2050.
(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Michael Becht, Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt)

Chromosomes contain DNA in which genes are coded. Any instability in the chromosome therefore causes numerous errors, which has been identified as a factor in diseases such as cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. The Research Unit “Chromosome Instability: Cross-Talk of DNA Replication Stress and Mitotic Dysfunction” aims to achieve a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms of chromosome mutations and thus pave the way for new approaches to treatment.
(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Holger Bastians, University of Göttingen)

How does the brain integrate current sensory stimuli, past experiences and future behavioural options? And how do individual neurons, their synapses and neural circuits contribute to this process? Most previous research has considered these three levels separately. The Research Unit “Dissection of a Brain Circuit: Structure, Plasticity and Behavioral Function of the Drosophila Mushroom Body” intends to examine neurons, synapses and neural circuits together, using as an example part of the brain of the fruit fly Drosophila.
(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. André Fiala, University of Göttingen)

Gilles de la Tourette syndrome (GTS) is characterised by motor and vocal tics. Patients may involuntarily use obscene gestures or language, or repeat phrases or words in a reflex-like manner. Several studies indicate that certain regions of the brain play an important role in the development of tics. However, there is no overarching concept for understanding the disorder, which in addition to tics may affect perception and control of action. The Research Unit “Cognitive Theory for Tourette Syndrome – A Novel Perspective” aims to contribute to such a concept and in particular analyse in greater detail the relationship between tics and the premonitory urges that affected individuals experience.
(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Alexander Münchau, University of Lübeck)

The Research Unit “Large-Scale and High-Resolution Mapping of Soil Moisture on Field and Catchment Scales – Boosted by Cosmic-Ray Neutrons” aims to improve the measurement of soil moisture, the water that remains in the soil after percolating water has moved to deeper zones or contributed to the formation of new groundwater. Measuring soil moisture makes it easier to predict groundwater formation and evaporation. In recent years a physically based, non-invasive method for measuring soil moisture has emerged in the form of Cosmic-Ray Neutron Sensing (CRNS). The research team seeks to fill in gaps in existing research relating to this new technique and add to our fundamental understanding of soil moisture and processes in the water cycle.
(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Sascha E. Oswald, University of Potsdam)

The regulation of the metabolic switch in cyanobacteria is the focus of the Research Unit “The Autotrophy-Heterotrophy Switch in Cyanobacteria: Coherent Decision-Making at Multiple Regulatory Layers”. Cyanobacteria have the ability to live as both autotrophs and heterotrophs, adapting their metabolism to the prevalent conditions. They use photosynthesis and exploit light as an energy source but can also utilise organic nutrients as heterotrophs do. The Research Unit will investigate the existence of both metabolic systems in the bacterial cell and find out what mechanisms the organism uses to switch between the two types of metabolism.
(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Karl Forchhammer, University of Tübingen)

The three Research Units extended for a second funding period

(in alphabetical order by spokesperson’s university, with a link to project descriptions in GEPRIS, the DFG’s online database of current projects):

Further Information

Media contact:

Further information will be provided by the spokespersons of the established units.

Additional information on DFG Research Units: