At its spring meeting in Bonn, the Senate of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) approved the establishment of one new Clinical Research Unit and five new Research Units. The research collaborations are concerned with a wide range of topics, ranging from complications in pregnancy and fundamental problems in particle physics to "graded" implants and issues surrounding integrated transport planning. They will receive funding of approximately 13 million euros for an initial period of three years. As a result, the DFG will be funding a total of 174 Research Units and 18 Clinical Research Units.
Research Units and Clinical Research Units are programmes through which the DFG supports collaboration between researchers interested in a specific area of research. The aim is to enable results to be achieved, which would not ordinarily be possible with an individual grant.
Clinical Research Units focus on clinical research concerning diseases or patient-related issues. Basic researchers and doctors work closely together in research-based working groups set up permanently in clinical facilities. Research Units provide the staff and material resources required for intensive medium-term collaboration. They represent a flexible funding programme offering opportunities to independent junior research groups and allowing collaboration with partners at non-university partners or with international researchers.
The newly established Research Units
(in alphabetical order by host university)
"Dark matter" is a term used to designate much that is not understood about the universe. Most of this matter cannot be explained by the particles that we already know about. However, it is possible to theorise about other unknown particles, which would help our understanding, but up to now it has not been possible to prove their existence. The "New Physics at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC)" Research Unit aims to use the new and extensive possibilities offered by the LHC at CERN near Geneva to verify models of dark matter by means of the readings that have been gathered there. In the wake of the discovery of the Higgs boson, the researchers will work on an interface between new data and theoretical models in order to examine the existence of other elementary particles and to continue to shine a light on dark matter.
(Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Michael Krämer, RWTH Aachen University)
New properties for materials: Nanoparticles are increasingly being used to produce innovative materials. It is possible to synthesise tiny atomic compounds in gas phase reactors, but this is sometimes an uncontrolled process which does not achieve the desired results. The "Model-Based Scaleable Gas-Phase Synthesis of Complex Nanoparticles" Research Unit seeks to develop systematic design rules with which this highly specialised synthesis will be reliably successful. Nanoparticles will be isolated using existing knowledge of possible starting substances and by controlling interacting particles. The second step will be to combine them to create more complex structures with properties that are important for the area of application in question: this might be electrocatalysis, battery storage or medical diagnostics.
(Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Christof Schulz, University of Duisburg?Essen)
Does everything always go according to plan in public transport? In practice, public transport companies coordinate various plans and schedules: the route network plan, the timetable, the vehicle movement schedule and the drivers' duty roster. The "Integrated Planning in Public Transport" Research Unit feels that there is considerable room for improvement in this area. The various plans and schedules are produced sequentially and based on very different models. For example, if a driver is unable to work, the timetable is unable to respond flexibly. The Research Unit intends to use mathematical methods to jointly optimise all the plans. This requires interdisciplinary understanding of the way transport systems work, models of the available transport options and the demand for them, and the design of efficient optimisation algorithms. The solution thus produced is expected to be more robust in the face of the unexpected problems that occur in the course of a day.
(Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Anita Schöbel, University of Göttingen)
To avoid rejection, a foetus has to communicate with the maternal immune system so that the mother can adapt it to the foetus' antigens. The "Feto-Maternal Immune Cross Talk: Consequences for Maternal and Offspring's Health" Clinical Research Unit is concerned with this adaptation. Clinical doctors will collaborate with basic researchers working in gynaecology, pre-natal medicine, neonatology, immunology and virology to gain a better understanding of potential complications: the adaptation of the maternal immune system can result in health problems in the mother and the child during and after the pregnancy.
(Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Petra Clara Arck, University Clinic, Hamburg-Eppendorf)
The use of bone implants is common practice in medicine. However, implants which connect different tissue structures and are intended to help to regenerate the junctions between them pose a major challenge. The "Graded Implants for Tendon-Bone Connections" Research Unit will investigate the structure and function of future implants for defects in these junctions in humans. The implants will be made of a porous fibrous mat and will be coated to deliberately stimulate self-healing. Once new cells have formed on the bones and tendons or the area at which they connect, the fibrous mat should degrade. The Research Unit will not only work on the fundamental science of this problem, they would also like to develop a prototype implant for clinical use.
(Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Andrea Hoffmann, Hannover Medical School)
What does a neutrino weigh? For a long time, this neutral elementary particle was thought to have no mass, which is now known to be incorrect. Since then, particle physicists around the world have sought to establish the extremely low mass of a neutrino. The newly established "Neutrino Mass Determination by Electron Capture in Holmium-163 - ECHo" Research Unit plans to develop technology using cryogenic bolometers and magnetic microcalorimeters and use it to get closer to an answer to this question. This initiative could become the most sensitive direct neutrino mass method and result in new fundamental knowledge about elementary particles. The detector technology also offers great potential for other experiments in particle physics.
(Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Christian Enss, University of Heidelberg)
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Further information will be provided by the spokespersons of the established units.
For information on the DFG Research Units and Clinical Research Units also see: