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Press Release No. 39 | 24 September 2021
Six New Research Units, One New Clinical Research Unit and One New Centre for Advanced Studies

Topics range from research into esoteric practices and acute lymphoblastic leukaemia to stem cell sys-tems in cereals / A total of approximately €31.4 million for the first funding period

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is establishing six new Re-search Units, one new Clinical Research Unit and one new Centre for Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences. This was decided by the DFG Joint Committee at its virtual meeting on 23 September 2021 at the recommendation of the Senate. The new Research Units will receive total funding of approximately €31.4 million, including a 22 percent programme allowance for indirect project costs.

The funding duration for these consortia is based on the date on which the first draft of a funding proposal was submitted. Research Units which submitted their draft proposals after 1 October 2018 will be funded for a maximum of two four-year periods; this applies to all of the newly established Research Units. In ad-dition to the ten institutions, the decision was made to renew six Research Units for an additional funding period, including one that is funded under the D-A-CH cooperation with the Luxembourg Fonds National de la Recherche (FNR). The extended consortia will receive funding for a period of three years – in one case two years.

Research Units enable researchers to pursue current and pressing issues in their research areas and to take innovative directions in their work. With these new additions, the DFG is currently funding 176 Research Units, 15 Clinical Research Units and 13 Centres for Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences. Clinical Research Units are additionally characterised by their close link between research and clinical work, while Centres for Advanced Studies are specifically tailored to work in the humanities and social sciences.

The eight new consortia in detail
(in alphabetical order of the spokespersons’ HEIs)

Two-dimensional materials and their heterostructures, which exhibit unusual and novel electronic proper-ties, are currently being researched worldwide. The Research Unit “Proximity-Induced Correlation Ef-fects in Low Dimensional Systems” focuses on a prototypical 2D heterosystem: epitaxial graphene – atomically thin carbon layers – on the semiconductor material silicon carbide. The researchers now aim to investigate the correlation effects occurring in this material system and manipulate them selectively so as to lay the foundations for novel quantum materials with customised properties. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Christoph Tegenkamp, TU Chemnitz)

The Research Unit “Alternative Rationalities and Esoteric Practices from a Global Perspective” seeks to systematically compare the strategies of interpretation, rationalisation and legitimisation of esoteric practices. The aim is to find out why they are still successful today in different cultural and regional contexts. In the medium term, the aim is to develop a cultural theory of esoteric practices in order to explain their resilience and typological similarity across a large number of case studies, as well as their varying assessment depending on cultural context. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr.-Ing. Michael Schmidt, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg)

“Spiritual Intermediality in the Early Modern Period” is the subject of the Research Unit of the same name: it will focus on the forms of representation and dissemination of religious content, practices and in-tentions in the 16th to early 18th centuries. The concept of intermediality – which has so far been primarily applied in relation to contemporary media such as film and the internet – is to be transferred to the analysis of pre-modern contexts. This method will be used to analyse religious print media, images and music as interacting media as well as a way of examining their use in the context of the history of religion. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Johann Anselm Steiger, University of Hamburg)

The shared focus of the Clinical Research Unit “CATCH ALL Towards a Cure for Adults and Children with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)” is to investigate the mechanisms that lead to the development of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in different age groups. In addition, the aim will be to look into the role of the immune system in connection with the development of this disease. The long-term goal of the CRU is to develop novel and individually tailored immunotherapy approaches for clinical application. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Claudia Baldus, Kiel University; Clinical Director: Professor Dr. Denis Schewe, University Hospital Schleswig-Holstein).

Researchers from the areas of historical linguistics and psycholinguistics will be collaborating in the Re-search Unit “Structuring the Input in Language Processing, Acquisition and Change (SILPAC)”. They aim to provide an empirically and theoretically sound explanation of the relationships between language processing, language acquisition and language change. In order to so, they will be analysing historical texts as well as conducting laboratory experiments. In this way, they will seek to investigate how linguistic inno-vations spread and how relevant language contacts are in terms of changes to linguistic rules. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Carola Trips, University of Mannheim)

Nowadays, ultrasonic sensors are mostly manufactured using computer technology. One of the biggest problems is that little is known about the acoustic and electromechanical properties of the materials used – so-called piezoceramic materials. For this reason, the Research Unit “Model-based Determination of Non-linear Properties of Piezoceramics for High-Power Ultrasound Applications (NEPTUN)” will seek to develop measurement and measurement systems to be able to analyse the material behaviour. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr.-Ing. Bernd Henning, University of Paderborn)

Plants use stem cell reservoirs located in specific parts of the plant body – the meristems – to fuel their growth above and below ground and to adapt to their environment. These meristems not only contain the plant’s blueprint, they also essentially determine the productivity and yield of crops. However, the meristems of maize, wheat, rice and barley are highly complex and have not been widely researched to date. For this reason, the Research Unit “Cereal Stem Cell Systems (CSCS): Establishment, Maintenance and Termination” will be investigating the signalling and gene regulation networks in the meristems of various cereal species. In doing so, the consortium hopes to discover new stem cell genes that could be used to improve crops. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Thomas Dresselhaus, University of Regensburg)

In the Standard Model of elementary particle physics, quantum chromodynamics (QCD) describes the nuclear force that binds the fundamental constituents of matter inside the hadrons. Hadrons include protons and neutrons – the components of atomic nuclei. The theory also includes quarks, the building blocks of hadrons, which have never been directly observed in experiments (confinement). A key role seems to be played by gluons, elementary particles that mediate the force between quarks. The nature of confinement and the physical properties of confined gluons will be explored in more detail by the Research Unit “Future Methods for Studying Confined Gluons in QCD”. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Francesco Knechtli, University of Wuppertal)

The six research collaborations extended for a second funding period
(in alphabetical order of the spokespersons’ HEIs and with references to the project descriptions in GEPRIS – the DFG internet database for current funding):

RU “Near-Realtime Quantitative Precipitation Estimation and Prediction (RealPEP)” (spokesperson: PD Dr. Silke Trömel, University of Bonn), Externer Linkhttps://gepris.dfg.de/gepris/projekt/320397309

RU “Model-Based Scalable Gas-Phase Synthesis of Complex Nanoparticles” (spokesperson: Professor Dr. Christof Schulz, University of Duisburg-Essen),
Externer Linkhttps://gepris.dfg.de/gepris/projekt/262219004

RU “Translational Pruritus Research” (spokesperson: Professor Dr. Martin Schmelz, University of Heidelberg), Externer Linkhttps://gepris.dfg.de/gepris/projekt/350193106

RU “Inositol Phosphates and Myo-Inositol in the Domestic Fowl: Exploring the Interface of Genetics, Physiology, Microbiome, and Nutrition" (spokesperson: Professor Dr. Markus Rodehutscord, University of Hohenheim),
Externer Linkhttps://gepris.dfg.de/gepris/projekt/322916021

RU “The Autotrophy-Heterotrophy Switch in Cyanobacteria: Coherent Decision-Making at Multiple Regulatory Layers” (spokesperson: Professor Dr. Karl Forchhammer, University of Tübingen), Externer Linkhttps://gepris.dfg.de/gepris/projekt/397695561

RU “Epileptogenesis of Genetic Epilepsies” (spokesperson: Professor Dr. Holger Lerche, University of Tübingen), Externer Linkhttps://gepris.dfg.de/gepris/projekt/377782854
This Research Unit is funded under the lead agency agreement with the Fonds National de la Recherche Luxembourg (FNR).

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