News Release

Five new research units and two new humanities centers for advanced studies

Topics range from quantum thermodynamics to sustainability and pruritus research; approximately €26 million for first funding period

Grant and Award Announcement

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

This was decided by the Senate of the DFG at its summer session held during the DFG's Annual Meeting in Bonn. Research Units enable researchers to pursue current and pressing issues in their research areas and to take innovative directions in their work. Humanities Centres for Advanced Studies are specifically tailored towards the working methods used in the humanities.

Funding is available to Research Units for a maximum of two three-year periods, while Humanities Centres for Advanced Studies can be funded for two four-year periods. In the initial funding period, the seven new groups will receive a total of approximately €26 million, including a 22% programme allowance for indirect project costs. This brings the number of Research Units currently funded by the DFG to 192.

The New Research Units

(In alphabetical order by spokesperson's university)

Can quantum machines really be more powerful than traditional machines? The Research Unit "Thermal Machines in the Quantum World", funded jointly with the Austrian Science Fund, seeks to explore the conceptual limits of quantum thermodynamics and create various platforms with which to actually exploit quantum properties. If it is possible to show experimentally that the theoretically predicted effects actually occur in practice, this could contribute to the development of new cooling techniques.

(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Jens Eisert, Free University of Berlin)

The Humanities Centre for Advanced Studies "Religion and Urbanity: Mutual Formations (UrbRel)" aims to investigate the reciprocal influences of religious practices and urban space: What role does religion play in the development of cities and urbanity? How does urbanisation affect the formation of religious groups and religion? The team will examine these questions from a historical perspective for Europe, the Mediterranean region and South Asia, over a period going back to the first millennium BC.

(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Susanne Rau, University of Erfurt)

All over the world, states, organisations, businesses and social movements are aligning themselves with the principle of sustainability. A new Humanities Centre for Advanced Studies entitled "Futures of Sustainability: Modernisation, Transformation, Control" will analyse the different goals and visions associated with this concept. The researchers aim to discover how modern societies change when they are led by different perceptions of sustainability.

(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Sighard Neckel, University of Hamburg)

The Research Unit "Receiving and Translating Signals via the gamma-delta T Cell Receptor" seeks to investigate how γδ T cells play a role in the immune system response to infections and cancer, how exactly the γδ T cell receptor is activated in this process, and the consequences of this activation. The researchers will engage in basic research in biochemistry and cell biology, using both in vitro and in vivo model systems, as well as translational and clinically relevant studies.

(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Immo Prinz, Hannover Medical School)

Chronic itching or pruritus significantly impacts on a patient's quality of life and is still difficult to treat. The Research Unit "Translational Pruritus Research" brings together experts in dermatology, neurology and anaesthetics to discover the basic mechanisms involved in itching. This may lead to more effective treatments.

(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Martin Schmelz, Heidelberg University)

The extracellular matrix (ECM) transfers forces between the tissues of the musculoskeletal system, such as muscles, cartilage, bones and tendons, and protects them from mechanical damage. Changes in the ECM can cause reactions in the musculoskeletal tissue that trigger chronic disease. The Research Unit "Novel Molecular Determinants for Musculoskeletal Extracellular Matrix Homeostasis - A Systemic Approach" aims to investigate exactly how these musculoskeletal diseases are caused.

(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Bent Brachvogel, University of Cologne)

There are various ecological theories on the dynamics of ecological communities and local interactions such as food relationships, but not all are substantiated by empirical data. This is the starting point for the Research Unit "Spatial Community Ecology in Highly Dynamic Landscapes: From Island Biogeography to Metaecosystems [DynaCom]", which will carry out experimental ecological studies in the Wadden Sea to better understand the dynamic development of biodiversity patterns and food web structures.

(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Helmut Hillebrand, University of Oldenburg)


Further Information

Media contact:

DFG Press and Public Relations, Tel. +49 228 885-2109,

Detailed information can be provided by contacting the spokespersons of the established units.

For information on DFG Research Units and Humanities Centres for Advanced Studies, visit:

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