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Press Release No. 15 | 7 May 2018
DFG to Fund 15 New Research Training Groups

Topics range from drug delivery systems for cancer drugs to intelligence in humans and machines / €70 million for an initial period of four and a half years

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is establishing 15 new Research Training Groups (RTGs) to further support early career researchers. This was decided by the responsible Grants Committee during its spring session in Bonn. The new RTGs will receive approximately €70 million in funding for an initial period of four and a half years starting from October 2018. This includes a 22 percent programme allowance for indirect project costs. Three of the new groups are International Research Training Groups (IRTG) with partners in China and the USA.

In addition to the 15 groups, the Grants Committee also approved the extension of nine RTGs for an additional funding period. The groups cover a broad spectrum with regard to their topics and research questions as well as their set-up and funding requirements.

Research Training Groups offer doctoral researchers the opportunity to complete their theses in a structured research and qualification programme at a high academic level. The DFG is currently funding a total of 216 RTGs, of which 41 are IRTGs.

The 15 new Research Training Groups
(in alphabetical order by their host universities, including the names of spokespersons and cooperation partners):

The IRTG "Modern Inverse Problems: From Geometry and Data to Models and Applications" aims to investigate computer-assisted techniques and methods in engineering sciences that were only made possible by the rapid development in the hardware market. Researchers in Aachen, Germany, and Austin, Texas, will focus on the interaction of four aspects: geometry, data, models and applications. (RWTH Aachen University, Spokesperson: Prof. Marek Behr, Ph.D.; Cooperation Partner: University of Texas, Austin, USA)

Drug delivery systems help to make cancer drugs more efficient by slowing down the breakdown of drugs in the body, increasing their concentration in the tumour and protecting healthy organs. However, their full potential for combating tumours and extending the life of patients is yet to be reached. The RTG "Tumour-Targeted Drug Delivery" aims to improve these drug delivery systems and will conduct research at the interface between the hospital, tumour biology and chemical technology. (RWTH Aachen University, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Fabian Kiessling)

How and where does the information from our five senses come together in the brain and how is it processed? The RTG "MultiSenses-MultiScales: Novel Approaches to Decipher Neural Processing in Multisensory Integration" seeks to answer these questions and thus help to improve the understanding of multi-sensor neural processing. (RWTH Aachen University, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Marc Spehr)

The aim of the IRTG "Dissecting and Reengineering the Regulatory Genome" is to identify and characterise regulatory processes and DNA sequences that determine the activity of gene expression in eukaryotes. The researchers in Berlin, Germany, and Durham, North Carolina, will use experimental high-throughput methods to analyse the large volumes of acquired data using computer science methods. (HU Berlin, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Uwe Ohler; Cooperation Partner: Duke University, Durham, USA)

Established findings for the science of inner experiences – psychology – are acquired through self-observation, in other words introspection, or through external observation, which is also referred to as extrospection. The latter has long been ignored. The RTG "Extrospection. External Access to Higher Cognitive Processes" seeks to investigate how external scientific access to higher cognitive processes can be achieved at the interface between philosophy, psychology, psychiatry and neurosciences. (HU Berlin, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Michael Pauen)

The description of processes in nature and technology using partial differential equations is no longer sufficient to develop adequate mathematical models for complex systems. Measurement data of real systems are being introduced into modelling algorithms at an increasing rate. The question concerning the optimal balance between data-driven approaches and traditional modelling using differential equations is still unanswered. The RTG "Differential Equation- and Data-Driven Models in Life Sciences and Fluid Dynamics (DAEDALUS)" seeks to systematically investigate the interaction of these two approaches. (TU Berlin, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Gitta Kutyniok)

The focus of the RTG "Interactive Fibre-Rubber Composites" is on the development of innovative material combinations of fibres and elastomers. The researchers aim to create material compounds in which the shape and rigidity can be specifically modified. (TU Dresden, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr.-Ing. Chokri Cherif)

How do different materials break apart? The RTG "Fracture across Scales: Integrating Mechanics, Materials Science, Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics" aims to develop simulation methods in order to determine fracture processes in brittle, granular and porous materials at various length and time resolutions. The findings will allow tailoring and optimising materials against fracture. (Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr.-Ing. Paul Steinmann)

The RTG "BEnch – Benchmark Experiments for Numerical Quantum Chemistry" aims to develop and carry out critical experiments for the assessment of methods using quantum mechanics. With this foundation work, the RTG seeks to contribute towards the accuracy of measurement values and corresponding values calculated using quantum chemistry. The topics covered range from gas-phase spectrometry to molecular beam techniques and molecular magnetism through to X-ray diffraction. (University of Göttingen, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Ricardo Mata)

Throughout the world, more than 40 million tonnes of phosphate are used in agriculture each year as a mineral fertiliser in order to improve soil fertility. The German-Chinese IRTG "Adaptation of Maize-Based Food-Feed-Energy Systems to Limited Phosphate Resources" aims to ascertain how productivity, predominantly in maize cultivation, can be maintained with limited phosphate stocks. (University of Hohenheim, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Torsten Müller; Cooperation Partner: China Agricultural University, Beijing, China)

The RTG "Inflammatory and Cellular Stress Signaling: Switches to Vascular Dysfunction" will addresses current issues in cardiovascular research and cover the key areas of inflammation, cellular stress and vessel dysfunction. While these three areas have traditionally been examined separately, the RTG now wants to investigate them correlatively using an interdisciplinary approach. (University of Cologne, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Stephan Baldus)

How does our brain change in old age? There has been little research to date into the processes that are associated with 'normal' ageing of the brain, rather than ageing due to illness. The RTG "The Ageing Synapse – Molecular, Cellular and Behavioural Underpinnings of Cognitive Decline" therefore seeks to investigate neural changes in old age and cognitive impairment associated with these changes. (University of Magdeburg, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Daniela C. Dieterich)

The RTG "Maladaptive Processes across Psychological Barriers in Chronic Diseases" aims to investigate molecular processes that take place in and between cells of boundary surfaces of organs and play a key role in the development of chronic diseases. Little research has so far been conducted into these long-term misdirected, maladaptive processes. The researchers will pay particular attention to how intracellular maladaptation leads to intercellular maladaptation and vice versa. (University of Magdeburg, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Berend Isermann)

Due to its geographical location, the Byzantine Empire was in constant conflict with its neighbours and rivals, including the Latin, Slavic and Islamic world. The RTG "Byzantium and the Euro-Mediterranean Martial Cultures: Exchange, Differentiation and Reception" seeks to investigate these interrelations from a transcultural perspective for the first time. The forms and practices of war as well as standards, interpretations, attribution of meaning and reflections related to war will be investigated. (University of Mainz, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Johannes Pahlitzsch)

The RTG "Computational Cognition" aims to better understand intelligence in humans and machines. This centres on the understanding of connections between lower and higher levels of cognition. For example, issues that are straightforward for humans but still difficult for artificial systems are addressed. These include analogies, the introduction of new concepts and pragmatic conclusions. The RTG will combine the two research areas of cognitive science and artificial intelligence, after they have developed in different directions. (University of Osnabrück, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Gordon Pipa)

The nine RTGs extended for a further funding period
(in alphabetical order by their host universities, including the names of spokespersons and with reference to project descriptions in the DFG’s GEPRIS online database on currently funded projects)

Further Information

Media contact:

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

Programme contact at the DFG Head Office:

Additional information about the funding programme and the funded Research Training Groups is available at: