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Press Release No. 21 | 3 May 2010
Nine New DFG Research Units Established

Topics Range from "Cloud Computing” to Comic Books and Glass Dynamics

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is setting up nine new Research Units to facilitate transregional and interdisciplinary cooperation between researchers. This decision was made by the DFG Senate at its spring session in Bonn. The new networks are intended to provide researchers with the opportunity to address current and urgent issues within their fields and to develop new approaches to these.

The new Research Units encompass all areas of science and the humanities. A wide variety of different and innovative research topics is represented, from the design of material combinations for use in lightweight construction to questions of molecular muscle analysis, the answers to which can contribute to improving our understanding of myopathies. Other topics include, for example, functional biodiversity, glass dynamics, and the cultural and aesthetic aspects of television and comic book series. Many of the projects are characterised by a high level of interdisciplinarity. Universities from Switzerland, the Netherlands, Austria and France are involved in three of the Research Units.

During the first three-year funding period, the new Research Units will receive a total of 23.9 million euros in funding. The number of DFG-funded Research Units now totals 218.

The new Research Units are as follows (listed in alphabetical order by coordinating university):

The IT-based Research Unit "Stratosphere – Information Management on the Cloud" focuses on implementing complex information data management with the help of what’s known as "cloud computing". This involves accessing remote systems via a network which is similar to a diffuse cloud. Cloud computing represents a new, flexible and up-to-date approach to using mass-produced computers in dynamically formed clusters. (Coordinator: Professor Volker Markl, TU Berlin)

The Research Unit "Structure, Function and Regulation of the Myofibrillar Z-disc Interactome" focuses on the Z-disc, a section of the smallest functional unit of muscle fibre. The groups involved, one of which comes from Vienna, aim to use a wide range of methods to perform molecular analyses on these complex and extremely dynamic protein networks. They anticipate that the results will improve our understanding of myopathies and how muscles work. (Coordinator: Professor Dieter O. Fürst, Bonn University)

Designs using combinations of materials possess tremendous potential for lightweight construction – the Research Unit "Bauweisen für CFK-Aluminium-Übergangsstrukturen im Leichtbau" [Construction Methods for CFK Aluminium Transition Structures in Lightweight Construction] designs, constructs and characterises new and improved types of bonds for combinations of aluminium and carbon fibre materials. These combinations provide tremendous potential for use in aircraft and other lightweight construction applications. (Coordinator: Professor Axel S. Herrmann, Faserinstitut Bremen e.V. (FIBRE))

The focus of the Research Unit "Towards Molecular Spintronics" is on molecular materials for future spin-based electronics. The researchers involved, who are from the fields of physics, chemistry and electrical engineering, plan to combine methods for fabricating and characterising magnetic molecules and for demonstrating prototype components. In doing so, they aim to achieve a fundamental understanding of the properties of individual molecules and to use tailor-made materials to research demonstrators for spin-based components in electrical engineering. (Coordinator: Professor Dietrich R. T. Zahn, University of Chemnitz)

The "Diversity of Asymmetric Thiamine Catalysis" Research Unit aims to unite the skills of pharmacists, chemists, biologists and engineers to analyse the fundamental molecular mechanisms involved in the conversion of what are known as thiamine diphosphate-dependent enzymes. The members of this family of enzymes catalyse reactions with very high efficiency and selectivity, which can only be sporadically obtained by purely chemical methods. The planned studies, therefore, also promise to be interesting from an industrial perspective. (Coordinator: Professor Michael Müller, Freiburg University)

The Research Unit "Popular Seriality: Aesthetics and Practice " examines a narrative form which has, since its inception in the 19th century, become a conspicuous cultural phenomenon: mass-produced series with commercial intentions featuring regular characters, such as comic books. On one hand, this Research Unit is concerned with the correlation between popular culture and serial narrative. On the other, it aims to link the analysis of aesthetic characteristics and processes with the study of the genre’s respective reception and forms of use. These projects aim to facilitate the formation of historical and media-comparative conclusions. (Coordinator: Professor Frank Kelleter, University of Göttingen)

Although it is well known that amyloid precursor proteins (APP) play a key role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease, very little is known about their normal functions within the healthy brain. This is something the Research Unit "Physiological Functions of the APP Gene Family in the Central Nervous System" aims to change. Researchers from the Rhine-Neckar/Rhine-Main area and Braunschweig will collaborate on this complex project. (Coordinator: Professor Ulrike Müller, Heidelberg University)

The Research Unit "Exploring Mechanisms Underlying the Relationship between Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning", coordinated by the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, is characterised by its strong international composition. A range of Swiss groups funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation under the DACH agreement are involved in the project, as are researchers from Dutch research locations and a French cooperation partner. This Research Unit is using the results of a long-term biodiversity experiment to analyse the mechanisms underlying the influence of plant diversity on ecosystem processes.

(Coordinator: Professor Wolfgang W. Weisser, University of Jena)

The "Nonlinear Response to Probe Vitrification" Research Unit is concerned with glass dynamics. They are particularly interested in complex structural phenomena and transport phenomena interacting with strong external fields. This group employs experimental, theoretical and simulation methods to study the nonlinear behaviour of glass-forming systems under conditions far removed from equilibrium. (Coordinator: Professor Matthias Fuchs, University of Konstanz)

Further Information

Detailed information on Research Units can be found at:

Further information is also available from the coordinators of the various Research Units.