Wide range of topics covered by new research units

January 26, 2006

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) will provide approximately €30.6 million in funding for 19 new Research Units over the next three years. This decision was reached by the Joint Committee at its meeting on 12 January 2006. The broad spectrum of topics demonstrates the attractiveness of the programme for all disciplines. The DFG currently funds 151 Research Units, in which several scientists from different disciplines collaborate on a specific research topic. The funding enables these units to provide the necessary staff and material resources for close, medium-term collaboration, generally lasting six years, and often contributes to establishing new research directions.

Six Research Units in detail:

The Research Unit: "Origins of (or in) the Modern Age: Theoretical Concepts, Literary Figurations, Historical Constructions" will investigate the fascination about origins and the related myths. The theory that the modern world has been progressively deprived of magic or myths will be critically examined, since the construction of modern origins has always been used in the context of strategies of justification and legitimisation. The investigation of the corresponding links, conceptual models and narratives will be studied for the last three hundred years - with examples from the premodern and antique periods - in close collaboration with literature scientists, philosophers and theologians.

Increased stress is one of the characteristics of a modern information and achievement-orientated society. What effect does this stress have on the human brain, in particular on the formation of memories? What are the resulting functional and dysfunctional behaviours, and how are these reflected in society? These questions will be examined by the Research Unit: "The Science of Social Stress (SOSS): Understanding the Interaction of Mind, Brain and Culture in the Response and Adaptation to Stress". For the first time scientists from the University of Konstanz will concentrate on the interactions between biological and social factors in the development of stress.

The Rwenzori Mountains in Uganda are part of the east rift system. They are more than 5,000 metres high, which is unusual for an area otherwise dominated by rift valleys. The Research Unit "Rift Dynamics, Uplift and Climate Change in Equatorial Africa: Interdisciplinary Research Linking Asthenosphere, Lithosphere, Biosphere and Atmosphere" will focus on how this mountain formation took place, its influence on climate and consequent effects on the ecosystem, and human evolution in this region. The participating scientists - from the universities of Frankfurt am Main, Heidelberg and Mainz, the Technical University of Darmstadt, the Free University of Berlin and GFZ Potsdam (Germany's National Research Centre for Geosciences) - will study issues related to geodynamics, sedimentology, paleontology, hominid research and atmosphere research.

Research cannot stand still. This applies too if tool machines breakdown unexpectedly and production stops. The aim of the Research Unit "Targeted Preventive Maintenance by Automated Status Observation" is to develop a method for the automatic prediction of damage. The basis of this prediction is the systematic analysis of control and drive signals, leading to prediction of machine breakdowns and consequent cost minimization. Thus it should be possible in future to plan maintenance measures in good time at opportune moments, to avoid loss of production.

When choosing which meat to buy, it is not only the price that matters, but also the quality and taste. One of the characteristics of high quality meat is a specific water content. What is decisive is the water binding capacity of the meat, which depends on factors such as the muscular structure and various environmental factors, including stress. The Research Unit "Functional Genetic Principles of Water Binding Capacity in Pork (DRIP)" will identify the specific regions in the genome that influence this specific property in pork. This interdisciplinary unit will investigate the genetic basis of physiological processes and perform functional studies, taking various aspects including biochemistry, product characteristics, animal breeding, and bioinformatics into consideration.

The Research Unit "Mechanisms of Compatibility: Reprogramming of Plant Metabolism by Fungal Effector Molecules" will focus on host parasite relationships in cereal plants and fungal microorganisms. On the basis of the examples of sweet corn (maize), barley and bindweed, the researchers plan to study the interrelationship between host plants and fungi, with the aim of understanding the phenomenon of "metabolic reprogramming", the reprogramming of the metabolic processes in the plant after colonisation by the fungi. They hope that this project will also provide concrete benefits for agriculture, including new possibilities for increasing yields and for improving the resistance of cultivated plants.
The new Research Units:

RWTH Aachen University: "Mashine, Tool and Process Development for New Procedures to Produce Microcomponents through Liquid Phases" (Spokesperson: Prof. Walter Michaeli)

University of Bayreuth: "Electron Transfer Processes in Anoxis Aquifers" (Spokesperson: Prof. Stefan Peiffer)

University of Bochum: "Understanding the Aggregation of Small Molecules with Precise Methods - Interactions between Experiments and Theory" (Spokesperson: Prof. Wolfram Sander)

University of Bonn: "Quantum Control and Simulation with Distributed Neutral Atom Systems" (Spokesperson: Prof. Dieter Meschede)

University of Bonn: "Functional Genetic Principles of Water Binding Capacity in Pork (DRIP)" (Spokesperson: Prof. Karl Schellander)

University of Darmstadt: "Improving the Quality of Peer-to-Peer Systems by the Systematic Research of Quality Characteristics and their Mutual Dependence" (Spokesperson: Prof. Ralf Steinmetz)

University of Frankfurt am Main: "Rift Dynamics, Uplift and Climate Change in Equatorial Africa: Interdisciplinary Research linking Asthenosphere, Lithosphere, Biosphere and Atmosphere" (Spokesperson: Prof. Georg Rümpker)

University of Giessen: "Mechanisms of Compatibility: Reprogramming of Plant Metabolism by Fungal Effector Molecules" (Spokesperson: Prof. Karl-Heinz Kogel)

Hannover Medical School: "Molecular Mechanisms of Cellular Motility" (Spokesperson: Prof. Dietmar Manstein)

University of Hannover: "Microstructuring of Surfaces under High Thermodynamic Stress"(Spokesperson: Prof. Berend Denkena)

University of Hannover: "Earth Rotation and Global Dynamic Processes" (Spokesperson: Prof. Jürgen Müller)

University of Heidelberg: "Biological Function of Organometallic Compounds" (Spokesperson: Prof. Nils Metzler-Nolte)

University of Konstanz: "The Science of Social Stress (SOSS): Understanding the Interaction of Mind, Brain and Culture in the Response and Adaptation to Stress" (Prof. Thomas Elbert)

University of Leipzig: "Analysis and Stochastics in Complex Physical Systems" (Spokesperson: Prof. Wolfgang König)

University of Leipzig: "Grammar and Processing of Verbal Arguments" (Spokesperson: Prof. Gereon Müller)

University of Marburg: "Polymeric Nanocarriers for the Pulmonary Administration of Active Substances" (Spokesperson: Prof. Thomas Kissel)

University of Munich: "Origins of (or in) the Modern: Theoretical Concepts, Literary Figurations, Historical Constructions" (Spokesperson: Prof. Inka Mülder-Bach)

University of Stuttgart: "Targeted Preventive Maintenance by Automated Status Observation" (Spokesperson: Prof. Uwe Heisel)

University of Stuttgart: "Positioning of Single Nanostructures - Single Quantum Devices" (Spokesperson: Prof. Peter Michler)

Additional Information

Further information about the Research Units is also available at www.dfg.de/for/en/

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

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