Press Release No. 40 | 2 October 2014
DFG Establishes Nine New Research Units
Topics Range from Hedonic Media Products and Gravity Waves to Needs-Based Distribution and Synaptic Plasticity / Around 16 Million Euros in Funding for the First Three Years
The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is establishing nine new Research Units. This was decided by the DFG Senate during its autumn meeting in Bonn. The research collaborations will offer researchers the opportunity to pursue current and pressing issues in their research areas and to establish innovative work directions.
As with all DFG Research Units, the collaboration between the new units will be interdisciplinary and span multiple locations. In the initial 3-year funding period, they will receive approximately 16 million euros in total. This brings the number of Research Units funded by the DFG to 189.
The new Research Units
(in alphabetical order by host university)
How do we identify needs and decide how they are distributed? Can needs-based redistribution be sustainable? The Research Unit "Needs-Based Distribution and Distribution Procedures" intends to answer this and other questions to deliver a normative theory of needs-based distribution. The participating researchers, representing the fields of economics, political science, philosophy and psychology, will focus on two key assumptions: that it is easier for the individual to accept distribution principles if they are transparent, and that acceptance of the distribution result is greater the more expertise is employed in the distribution process. On the basis of these premises, the group intends to carry out tailored analyses of the welfare state.
(Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Stefan Traub, University of Bremen)
In Germany there have been repeated warnings about a growing lack of skilled workers, especially with respect to the job market for academics in the natural and engineering sciences. This is due not only to the comparatively low number of students enrolling in these subjects but also the – internationally speaking – high drop-out rate. Why is this the case? Are universities too demanding, or do students lack the necessary prerequisites? The Research Unit "Academic Learning and Success in the Initial Phase of STEM Degree Courses" will seek answers to these questions from the different perspectives of educational science, psychology and didactics in science and engineering. The researchers will focus initially on the choice of university course, study requirements and learning prerequisites before moving on to theoretically based interventions to reduce high drop-out rates.
(Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Elke Sumfleth, University of Duisburg-Essen; Deputy Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Detlev Leutner, University of Duisburg-Essen)
Photonic networks are becoming increasingly common in the communication, lighting and energy sectors for the optical transmission, storage and processing of information. There are growing calls for new developments in optical packaging. Although there are examples of optical systems being used to advantage, for example the excellent transmission of very large volumes of data, there are still unresolved issues relating to signal transfer to nodes in photonic networks. The Research Unit "Optical Packaging for Module-Integrated Bus Systems" intends to examine these problems and lay the foundations for the production of three-dimensional, optically functionalised mechatronic components.
(Spokesperson: Professor Dr.-Ing. Jörg Franke, University of Erlangen-Nürnberg)
Gravity waves are waves whose propagation is dominated by gravitational acceleration. On Earth, this is the force caused by gravitation and inertia. It plays a key role in the prediction of earthquakes, more so than the magnitude of a quake. Gravity waves also play a central role in the distribution of water vapour in the stratosphere, which in turn has a significant impact on the climate. The Research Unit "Multiscale Dynamics of Gravity Waves (MS-GWaves)" intends to improve the theoretical understanding of the multiscale dynamics of gravity waves as well as their mathematical modelling and accurate computation.
(Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Ulrich Achatz, University of Frankfurt am Main)
In 2013 the number of electric vehicles around the world doubled. In Germany, partly because of the country's move away from fossil fuels, electric mobility is a vitally important issue. The Research Unit "Low-Loss Electrical Sheets for Electric Mobility" will investigate the electromechanical properties of electrical sheets in the context of the complete manufacturing process chain from raw material to finished engine. The group's primary aim is to reduce power loss in electric motors of all kinds. The participating researchers intend to investigate the reciprocal effects between material properties, processing technologies and application conditions. Ultimately they hope to produce a low-loss electrical sheet tailored to requirements.
(Spokesperson: Professor Dr.-Ing. Rudolf Kawalla, TU Bergakademie Freiberg)
The brain has the ability to absorb, process and store new information to enable individuals to adapt to a changing environment. Learning and memory are closely associated with the ability of nerve cells to continually adapt the efficiency of their communication points, the synapses. This synaptic plasticity is considered to be the central neuronal mechanism of memory-forming in the central nervous system. The Research Unit "Interneuron Synaptic Plasticity – From Mechanisms to Functions" intends to investigate the plasticity of a class of interneurons, which form connections between two or more nerve cells, known as GABAergic inhibitory interneurons. The group will study the relationship between the plasticity of interneurons, learning and memory-related behaviour.
(Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Marlene Bartos, University of Freiburg)
Facebook, Twitter, Spotify or YouTube: digital social media are exerting an ever greater influence on consumer behaviour, allowing information to be spread much faster and to reach a much wider audience. They result in potential buyers being influenced not only by advertising but also by the opinions of other consumers. As a result, consumers are acquiring more power in relation to companies. This is particularly true in the case of hedonic media products such as books, computer games, films and music. The Research Unit "Marketing of Hedonic Media Products in the Context of Digital Social Media" will investigate these network structures as well as the reactions of consumers and markets.
(Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Henrik Sattler, University of Hamburg)
The aim of the Research Unit "Memristive Components for Neuronal Systems" is to simulate neuronal information processing. Just as nerve cells are connected by synapses in the brains of animals and humans, the group of researchers intends to build analogue circuits with nanoelectronic memristive components. The term 'memristive', a portmanteau of 'memory' and 'resistor', describes a passive electrical component. The main challenge lies in recreating certain characteristics of the neuronal structure – such as synaptic plasticity mechanisms as the basis of learning and memory processes – in the memristive circuits.
(Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Hermann Kohlstedt, University of Kiel)
The Research Unit "Elucidation of Adhesion-GPCR Signalling" intends to analyse the structure and function of adhesion G protein-coupled receptors. These receptors, known as aGPCRs, are seven-transmembrane receptors which trigger signal cascades for a wide range of essential physiological functions and are the target for some 60% of all prescription drugs. As yet, little is understood about the function of aGPCRs, although it is believed that they present a wealth of possibilities for the development of new therapeutics. The participants in the new Research Unit will use their expertise in physiology, biochemistry, structural biology, pharmacology and nanoscopic imaging to elucidate the fundamental principles of aGPCR signalling.
(Spokesperson: Dr. Tobias Langenhan, University of Würzburg)