Press Release No. 9 | 28 March 2014
DFG to Establish Five New Research Units
Topics Range from Composite Structures to Personnel Decisions to Metastatic Cancer Progression / About Eleven Million Euros in Funding for Three Years
The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) will establish five new Research Units. This has been decided by the DFG Senate at its March meeting. The purpose of these research consortia is to offer scientists and academics the opportunity to devote themselves to topical questions in their disciplines and to establish innovative research directions. Like all DFG Research Units, the new groups will collaborate across locations and disciplines. In the initial three-year funding period they will receive a total of nearly eleven million euros. The DFG now supports 198 Research Units overall.
The new Research Units in detail
(in alphabetical order by coordinating university)
Fibre-reinforced polymers, i.e. load-bearing fibre structures embedded in a plastic matrix, are especially suitable for the production of high-performance composite materials, such as those used in lightweight construction, in particular due to their outstanding macroscopic mechanical properties and low weight. Using nanotechnology, the compressive and flexural strength and other properties of these materials can be improved even further. The underlying processes will now be studied in the new Research Unit “Acting Principles of Nano-scaled Matrix Additives for Composite Structures” – along the entire process chain from individual particles to the component, both experimentally and by simulation.
(Coordinator: Prof. Dr.-Ing. Michael Sinapius, Braunschweig Institute of Technology)
How do certain individuals end up in key positions in society? And what conflict potential is associated with this, e.g. due to the fact that the consequences of personnel decisions often cannot be known at the time they are made? Over the course of history, the way in which personnel decisions happen has changed considerably. On closer inspection, however, there are a limited number of selection mechanisms (procreation/birth, random draw, election, co-optation, competition, appointment), which are combined in ways specific to each era. Research to date has analysed personnel decisions mostly on a case-by-case basis, but not the underlying logic and the dynamics of how they have changed in the historical overview. The Research Unit “Personnel Decisions for Key Positions in Society” now wants to close this very gap.
Coordinator: Prof. Dr. Andreas Fahrmeir, Goethe University Frankfurt)
The new Research Unit “Neurobiology of Affective Disorders: A Translational Perspective on Brain Structure and Function” will focus on affective disorders that are characterised primarily by a clinically significant change in mood. These illnesses include major depressive disorder (MDD) and bipolar disorder (BD), both of which exact high costs to society. Scientists have suspected for some time that both genetic and environmental causes play a role in these diseases. The Research Unit will therefore examine multiple genes under multiple environmental conditions, and to this end combine interdisciplinary expertise from medicine, genetics, biology and psychology.
(Coordinator: Prof. Dr. Tilo Kircher, University of Marburg)
“Biogenesis of Thylakoid Membranes: Spatiotemporal Organization of Photosynthetic Protein Complex Assembly” is the name of a new Research Unit that will deal with thylakoids – membrane systems in the chloroplasts of plant cells or in bacteria, in which the light reaction of photosynthesis occurs. Thylakoids are the most complex energy-converting membranes of all, and while there is a wealth of scientific knowledge about their structure and function, little is known about how they form. This process of biogenesis and its underlying step-by-step interaction between proteins, lipids, pigments and inorganic cofactors will now be investigated by the scientists of this new Research Unit.
(Coordinator: Prof. Dr. Jörg Nickelsen, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich)
Metastasis formation in cancer represents one of the main problems of clinical oncology. Advances in the treatment of patients with cancer will require better understanding of the cellular mechanisms of metastasis. The new Research Unit “Selection and Adaptation during Metastatic Cancer Progression” wants to contribute to this goal. Its main focus will be on early dissemination, i.e. the wide distribution of disease symptoms or pathogens in an organ system, or the metastasis of tumour cells of the primary tumour. One of the group’s projects will be based at the Weizmann Institute in Israel.
(Coordinator: Prof. Dr. Christoph Klein, University of Regensburg)