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Press Release No. 18 | 23 May 2016
DFG to Fund Eighteen New Research Training Groups

Topics range from global intellectual history and droplet interaction technologies to critical infrastructures / 74 million euros for initial 4.5-year period

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is establishing 18 new Research Training Groups (RTGs) to further support early career researchers in Germany. They include two International Research Training Groups (IRTGs) with partners in Italy and South Korea. This was decided by the responsible Grants Committee during its spring session in Bonn. The RTGs will receive funding of around 74 million euros for an initial period of four and a half years. In addition to the 18 new RTGs, the Grants Committee approved the extension of 14 RTGs for another four and a half years. Research Training Groups offer doctoral researchers the chance to complete their theses in a structured research and qualification programme at a high academic level.

The DFG is currently funding 194 RTGs, including 40 International Research Training Groups; the 18 new groups will commence work in 2016.

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

The Research Training Group entitled “Global Intellectual History - Transfers, Circulation of Ideas, Historical Actors (18th-20th Century)” will investigate intellectual reactions to processes of entanglement, the emergence of cross-boundary aspirations and the universalisation of ideas, as well as counter-movements. The role of non-Western actors in this context will especially be considered. The RTG also seeks to contribute to a discussion of the methods of global intellectual history, a more recent approach to global history.
(Host University: Free University of Berlin, Spokesperson: Dr. Sebastian Conrad, Additional Applicant University: Humboldt University of Berlin)

Collective identity, or identities, are created when unity is claimed between states, history, people, culture and heritage. The Research Training Group “Identity and Heritage” will examine different forms of cultural heritage, such as landscapes, buildings and art, looking at not only their materiality but also considering them from a sociological point of view, that is, as the result of social attributions. The researchers will focus on the reciprocal relationship between cultural heritage and the identity of cultures and peoples.
(Host University: Technical University of Berlin, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Gabi Dolff-Bonekämper, Additional Applicant University: Bauhaus-Universität Weimar)

The world is full of irregular structures, such as cancer cells and galaxies. In the International Research Training Group “Searching for the Regular in the Irregular: Analysis of Singular and Random Systems”, doctoral researchers in Germany and South Korea will investigate structures that will help them to gain a better understanding of singular and random systems. Participating fields include the mathematical areas of analysis and probability theory and related areas such as mathematical physics and geometry.
(Host University: University of Bielefeld, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Rolf Moritz Kassmann; Cooperation Partner: Seoul National University, South Korea)

In the Research Training Group “Documentary Practices. Excess and Privation” doctoral researchers in media and film studies, German literature studies, comparative literature studies and history of art will look at the forms of media used in documentary practices and at conditions related to media, literature and art history. The main thesis of their work is that the specific authority of documentary practices can be described by investigating actions which arrange image, text and sound elements to manage the legibility, meaningfulness and impact of what is documented.
(Host University: University of Bochum, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Friedrich Balke)

Proteins carry out various functions in living cells, to which end they enter into specific, often only temporary, protein-protein interactions. It is known that they assemble to form structures of a higher order. However, knowledge of the underlying molecular principles is very limited. The Research Training Group “Protein Complex Assembly (PROCOMPAS)” will therefore examine different types of assembly. It will focus on two types of model protein complexes, of which one is an example of “metabolic channelling“, that is, passing metabolites to a specific target. The other protein complex is responsible for electron transfer in cellular energy generation.
(Host University: Technical University of Braunschweig, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Ralf R. Mendel)

The aim of the “Quantum Mechanical Materials Modelling – QM³” Research Training Group is to explain the fundamental electronic, optical and chemical properties of selected materials and at the same time to solve material-related problems in relation to environmental technology, energy technology and information technology. To this end, the most important areas in quantum-mechanical material modelling from physics, chemistry and materials science will be brought together in this RTG.
(Host University: University of Bremen, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Thomas Frauenheim)

Mathematics can make even the most complex issues manageable by reducing them to the bare essentials. For example, mathematicians are developing high-dimensional and non-linear models to solve the problems of parameter identification that occur in every aspect of the natural, life and engineering sciences and in industrial and business applications. In the Research Training Group “Pi³: Parameter Identification – Analysis, Algorithms, Implementations” doctoral researchers will concentrate on the interface of applied mathematics and computational science to answer questions of parameter identifications, which are modelled in their essence by the minimisation of suitable target functionals.
(Host University: University of Bremen, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Peter Maaß)

Modern (urban) societies are vulnerable in the face of the growing complexity of urban infrastructure and the external threat of natural disasters or cyber attacks. The starting point for the Research Training Group “Critical Infrastructures: Construction, Function Failure and Protection in Cities” is that critical infrastructures are integrated into many different spatial and temporal contexts. Its aim is to explain these complex systems and the relationships between them. In comparison to traditional infrastructure research, which has been organised along the lines of separate disciplines, researchers in the humanities, social sciences and engineering sciences will work together in this RTG.
(Host University: Technical University of Darmstadt, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Jens Ivo Engels)

Tumours and microbial pathogens can become resistant to drugs, which may hamper or prevent treatment using medication. The Research Training Group “Natural Products and Natural Product Analogs against Therapy-Resistant Tumors and Microorganisms: New Lead Structures and Modes of Action” is therefore seeking new substances from natural sources with which to successfully combat chemo-resistant tumours and infections. The RTG will also be looking at resistance mechanisms on a molecular level.
(Host University: University of Düsseldorf, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Peter Proksch)

The Research Training Group “Shaping Transitions Throughout Life” will investigate the changes which people go through in life, for example when they start school, enter into a career, start a family, embark on a new partnership or move into a retirement home. The focus will be on the interplay between transition discourses, the way transition is structured in institutions and schools, and individual management and formative processes from childhood into late adulthood.
(Host university: Goethe University Frankfurt, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Andreas Walther; Additional Applicant University: University of Tübingen)

In living cells, there are many processes which transport substances through biological membranes. Doctoral researchers in the Research Training Group “Transport Across and Into Membranes” will use a number of biochemical and biophysical techniques to investigate the transport of ions, metabolites and proteins through and into cell membranes. Comparing the different mechanisms will provide a deeper understanding of the underlying principles.
(Host University: University of Freiburg, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Thorsten Friedrich)

In many areas of life, autonomous systems move in close proximity to or interact directly with humans, which poses potential risks. With integrity and collaboration, that is, by the networking of and communication between technical systems, these risks can be controlled more easily. The Research Training Group ”Integrity and Collaboration in Dynamic Sensor Networks” is seeking to develop concepts to ensure the integrity of systems working together in dynamic sensor networks.
(Host University: Leibniz Universität Hannover, Spokesperson: Professor Dr.-Ing. Steffen Schön)

The “Asymptotic Invariants and Limits of Groups and Spaces” Research Training Group is the first facility for systematically training doctoral researchers in the many and varied aspects of asymptotic geometry, the study of the macroscopic properties of geometric spaces. The research programme encompasses three main areas: asymptotic invariants, deformations and limits of geometric spaces.
(Host university: Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Roman Sauer; Additional Applicant University: University of Heidelberg)

The Research Training Group “Membrane Plasticity in Tissue Development and Remodelling” will examine the molecular signals and mechanisms which affect the structure and function of cell membranes during the development of the brain, kidneys and muscles (among other things) and in neural migration. The doctoral researchers will gain knowledge of embryo development and tissue growth and repair in the context of complex health disorders.
(Host university: University of Marburg, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Annette Borchers)

We do not perceive the world as it is, but filtered and altered through our expectations and intentions. Many aspects of the function and mechanisms of these contextual changes are not understood, neither at the level of perception nor at the level of neural activity. To research the complex underlying principles in greater depth, representatives of a number of different disciplines will work together in the Research Training Group “Perception in Context and its Neural Basis”. Participating disciplines range from neurobiology, psychology and medicine to computational neuroscience.
(Host University: University of Munich (LMU), Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Christian Leibold)

Mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression are extremely complex from a neurobiological point of view. Researchers have therefore had to concentrate on limited aspects of these problems for a long time. Doctoral researchers in the Research Training Group “Neurobiology of Emotion Dysfunctions” will investigate selected aspects of the neurobiology of healthy and pathological emotional behaviour on a molecular, cellular, (epi)genetic and neuroendocrine level. At the same time they will systematically catalogue the results, for example in physiological, biologically behavioural and clinical contexts.
(Host University: University of Regensburg, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Inga D. Neumann)

A German-Italian International Research Training Group will look at “Droplet Interaction Technologies”, which are used in various industrial processes such as spray cooling in the food and chemicals industries. Researchers will focus on the detailed processes at phase boundaries and on an analysis of surface microstructure. This is a prerequisite for developing suitable calculation methods and creating technological advancements.
(Host university: University of Stuttgart, Spokesperson: Professor Dr.-Ing. Bernhard Weigand; Cooperation Partner: Università degli Studi di Bergamo, Italy and Università degli Studi di Trento, Italy)

The Research Training Group “Micro- and Nano-Scale Sensor Technologies for the Lung” is concerned with finding methods of using sensors to show the function of lung epithelia (the cell layer covering the lungs) under physiological and pathophysiological conditions. They will develop innovative measurement systems for individual cells, different types of epithelia, and for the organ as a whole. From a medical perspective, the aim is to gain elementary knowledge of lung function under physiological and pathophysiological conditions. From an engineering and natural sciences perspective, the aim is to develop new methods for integrated sensor and analysis systems.
(Host University: University of Ulm, Spokesperson: Professor Dr.-Ing. Maurits Ortmanns)

Further Information

Media contact:

  • DFG Press and Public Relations,
    Tel. +49 228 885 2443,

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

Contact at the DFG Head Office:

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