The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is intensifying the international training of doctoral researchers. At its autumn meeting in Bonn the Grants Committee responsible for Research Training agreed to the establishment of 13 additional Research Training Groups, 7 of which are International Research Training Groups. These enable doctoral researchers to cooperate closely with foreign universities. “We are particularly pleased about the first International Research Training Group involving an Indian university. This means that our young researchers will come into even closer contact with this fast devel-oping scientific country,” said DFG President Professor Matthias Kleiner. Apart from this milestone, there are other new International Research Training Groups that build upon existing cooperation arrangements with the USA, Japan, Russia, Spain and South Korea within this funding programme.
The new Research Training Groups offer large numbers of doctoral researchers the opportunity to obtain a doctorate in a structured research and qualification programme at a technically advanced level. They will therefore play a crucial role, especially in view of the current debate about the quality of doctorates awarded at German universities. The 13 newly ap-proved Research Training Groups will each receive project funding of between approximately 344,000 euros to 1,123,000 euros annually. They involve such topics as novel connections between quantum and gravitational field theories, new ideas for the bionic implementation of concepts derived from nature in modern technology, and work on better treatments for ischemic heart disease. Other topics deal with changes in the clerically based social system in the wake of European unification and the development of a self-organised mobile communication system in disaster scenarios.
In the Grants Committee meeting it became clear that the DFG’s increased commitment to promoting equal opportunities in science has already been put into practice. All those involved – from the applicants and the reviewers to the members of the Grants Committee – are increasingly aware of this issue and consider it important to implement concrete measures. “It is pleasing to see how many convincing strategies, in some cases based on the DFG’s new research-oriented standards on gender equality, already exist,” underlined DFG President Kleiner.
In addition to the 13 new institutions, which will initially be funded for four and a half years, the Grants Committee also approved the renewal of 17 Research Training Groups for a further period. This brings the number of Research Training Groups currently funded by the DFG to a total of 247, 64 of which are International Research Training Groups.
The new Research Training Groups in detail:
(listed in alphabetical order by host university)
Using mountains as drinking water reservoirs is the subject of the International Research Training Group “Complex Terrain and Ecological Heterogeneity” at the University of Bayreuth and the Kangwon National University, Korea. The German and Korean scientists are researching various parameters of the mountain landscapes that supply drinking water for more than half of humanity. With the models resulting from this work, they want to better understand the interaction of socio-economic and ecological aspects in the protection of drinking water distribution and land usage. (Host university: University of Bayreuth; Spokes-person: Professor Dr. John Tenhunen; Collaboration partner: Kangwon National University, Korea)
The aim of the Research Training Group “Mass, Spectrum, Symmetry: Particle Physics in the Era of the Large Hadron Collider,” established at the Humboldt University of Berlin and Dresden University of Technology, is to create closer links among the broad theoretical and experimental expertise in the various research fields of elementary particle physics and to clearly point out the collaborative character of their research area for the doctoral researchers. The experimental basis of this comes from the participation in the ATLAS experiment of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN and the search for new physics taking place there, along with collaboration in international neutrino experiments. From a theoretical point of view, a broad spectrum of research on quantum field theory is also being studied, while at the same time building a bridge between astroparticle physics and particle physics in accelerators. (Host universities: Humboldt University of Berlin, Dresden University of Technology; Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Jan Plefka)
The International Research Training Group “Self-Assembled Soft-Matter Nanostructures at Interfaces” is working at the interface of chemistry and physics. German and American scientists are working together to study the fundamental principles of self-organisation in microscopic structures of organic and biomolecular material at interfaces, so-called nanostructures. Under the leadership of the Berlin Institute of Technology, a joint research project with the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces and the Humboldt University will build on the already existing successful collaboration with North Carolina State University and the Uni-versity of Pennsylvania. (Host university: Berlin Institute of Technology; Spokesperson: Pro-fessor Dr. Martin Schoen; Collaboration partners: North Carolina State University, University of Pennsylvania)
The Research Training Group “Bionics – Interactions Across Boundaries to the Environment” at the University of Bonn is dealing with the transfer of biological phenomena into technical areas. The participants in the Group, from biology and computer science, are focusing on bio-logical interactions across boundaries such as those of the skin and sensory organs with their environment. Whether it be adhesion properties, infrared vision or optical orientation: exam-ples from nature will be studied and implemented in technical systems. In this project the re-searchers from Bonn are cooperating with engineers from the Research Centre JГјlich and the RWTH Aachen as well as external industrial partners. (Host university: Rheinische Friedrich Wilhelms University, Bonn; Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Gerhard von der Emde)
A better understanding of mathematical structures of equations in different applications of fluid mechanics is the goal of the International Research Training Group “Mathematical Fluid Dynamics”, in which Darmstadt University of Technology is collaborating closely with the Japanese University of Tokyo and Waseda University. The researchers in this Group, who come from various disciplines, intend to link together various branches of mathematics and engineering in a productive way. (Host university: Darmstadt University of Technology; Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Matthias Hieber; Collaboration partners: University of Tokyo, Waseda University)
“The Dynamic Response of Plants to A Changing Environment” is the title of the Interna-tional Research Training Group in plant science at the University of DГјsseldorf. In close co-operation with Michigan State University in the USA, the complex adaptation processes of plants to non-constant temperature and light conditions are to be investigated. The interdisciplinary research ranges from genomics and population ecology to bioinformatics and cell biology and biochemistry. (Host university : Heinrich-Heine University, DГјsseldorf; Spokes-person: Professor Dr. Andreas P. M. Weber; Collaboration partner: Michigan State Univer-sity)
In its International Research Training Group with Spanish scientists in the field of medicine, the University of Giessen is working on the topic of vascular diseases. Its focus is on ischemic heart disease, which is the most common cause of death in industrialised countries. Under the title “Protecting the Heart from Ischemia” the interdisciplinary project is concerned with the causes and effects of the disease and also with possible therapeutic approaches. (Host university : Justus-Liebig University, Giessen; Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Hans Michael Piper; Collaboration partner: Universitat AutГІnoma de Barcelona)
The European “Expert Cultures of the 12th to 16th Centuries” are the topic of a Research Training Group at the University of GГ¶ttingen. In this project, doctoral researchers from the fields of history, theology and philosophy will investigate the ambivalent relationship that arose in the late Middle Ages between experts and society, in which the non-experts devel-oped a very diverse set of attitudes, ranging from trust in experts to criticism of them. (Host university: Georg-August University, GГ¶ttingen; Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Frank Rexroth)
The Research Training Group “Self-organised Mobile Communication Systems for Disaster Scenarios” aims to overcome the restrictions of existing, highly static communication sys-tems. The young team of researchers from the Technical University of Ilmenau is developing more flexible types of communication technology to this end. At the forefront of this is the creation of improved organisational networks. As a specific objective, the scientists want to create mechanisms for the dynamic self-organising coordination of future means of communi-cation. (Host university: Technical University of Ilmenau; Spokesperson: Professor Dr.-Ing. Andreas Mitschele-Thiel)
A unique and highly complex connection between various research fields in physics is the aim of the Research Training Group “Quantum and Gravitational Fields” at the University of Jena. In close collaboration between physicists and mathematicians the Group is making use of the interface between field theory and differential geometry. The aim is therefore to exploit the innovative cross-fertilisation of physics and mathematics to search for completely new discoveries in physics. The results of fundamental interactions of elementary particle physics are essential for the construction of theories beyond the standard model, and also have practical importance for other fields such as micro and nano-technology. (Host university: Friedrich-Schiller-University, Jena; Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Andreas Wipf)
“The Christian Churches and the Challenge of Europe” – this is the title of a Research Train-ing Group at the University of Mainz researching the changes in the Christian dominated social model together with the churches in European countries with regard to the notion of European unification and the actual process of “Europeanisation”. The researchers, from the disciplines of religious studies, politics, history and law, will be concentrating on the period from the Wilhelminian era to the present day. (Host university: Johannes Gutenberg Univer-sity, Mainz; Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Heinz Duchhardt)
The International Research Training Group “Regulation and Evolution of Cellular Systems” aims to work in a way that promotes dialogue. The intention is not only to increase German-Russian dialogue between the two Munich universities and the Lomonosov Moscow State University – but also to improve the level of communication between theoretical bioinformat-ics and practical life sciences as a foundation for the future. German and Russian research groups from specialist disciplines such as bioinformatics, computer science, proteomics, biol-ogy and biochemistry will therefore be working in close knit teams. (Host universities: Ludwig-Maximilians University, Munich, Technical University of Munich; Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Dmitrij Frishman, Professor Dr. Ralf Zimmer; Collaboration partner: Lo-monosov Moscow State University)
In the first ever German-Indian International Research Training Group, scientists from the University of MГјnster and the University of Hyderabad are carrying out joint research in the field of glyco-science. Under the title “Molecular and Cellular Glyco-Sciences” the international group composed of biologists, chemists and medical researchers is studying the carbo-hydrate-containing bio-molecules. These are increasingly being recognised as information-bearing molecules which perform important signalling and regulatory functions within and between cells and organisms. The important interaction of carbohydrates and proteins is to be studied in the cell for its molecular and biochemical aspects. (Host university: Westphalian Wilhelms University, MГјnster; Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Bruno Moerschbacher, Collabo-ration partner: University of Hyderabad)
Further information on the DFG’s Research Training Groups can be found at: dfg.de/gk
Source: Dr. Eva-Maria Streier