Public Release: 

Nine new research units, 1 new clinical research unit

Topics range from chip technology and child development to debris discs; around €24.5 million in funding for the next 3 years

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

This news release is available in German.

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) will establish one new Clinical Research Unit and nine new Research Units. This was decided by the Senate of the DFG at its session during the 2015 Annual Meeting at the University of Bochum. These research collaborations offer researchers the possibility of pursuing current and pressing issues in their scientific areas and establishing innovative approaches.

As all DFG Research Units, the new units will collaborate interdisciplinary and span multiple locations. In the initial 3-year funding period, they will receive approximately €24.5 million in total. Thereby the DFG will be funding a total of 189 Research Units, including 18 Clinical Research Units.

The new Research Units
(in alphabetical order by Host University)

The Research Unit "Charmonium Physics Experiments with the BES III Detector" intends to investigate the physics of charmonium at the Beijing Electron Positron Collider. Charmonium is a bound system of a charm quark and an anticharm quark which could help to confirm the theory of strong interaction as part of the Standard Model of elementary particle physics. The energy and mass of charmonium states lie within a transitional range in which so-called 'exotic states' have been discovered in recent years. The particle physicists plan to measure charmonium in order to identify currently unknown but possible exotic states of matter such as glueballs, tetraquarks and meson molecules.
(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Ulrich Wiedner, Host University: Ruhr-Universität Bochum)

Morphologically complex words (for example "Analysable" - derived from "analyse") can be articulated in various ways, for instance stressed on the first or third syllable. This presents a challenge to theories of the mental lexicon, and this is what the Research Unit "Spoken Morphology: Phonetics and Phonology of Complex Words" intends to study. The team of linguists aims to address the role of morphology in the phonetics and phonology of a word and how they act together in the comprehension of a word. Taking three languages, German, English and Maltese, the team intends to develop a model of language production and reception that depicts the interaction of morphology and phonology and is suitable in terms of both theoretical linguistics and psycholinguistics.
(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Ingo Plag, Host University: Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf)

In nearly all multicellular organisms there is a correlation between fecundity and life expectancy: higher fecundity is generally associated with lower life expectancy. Social insects are a notable exception to this rule. The most fecund individuals, for example the queen bee, live up to twice as long as ordinary bees. The Research Unit "Sociality and the Reversal of the Fecundity-Longevity Trade-off" intends to study this phenomenon in the social systems of ants, bees and termites. The aim is to investigate how social insects have apparently escaped the trade-off between fertility and longevity and thereby achieve a deeper understanding of the underlying fundamental biological laws that govern fecundity, longevity, ageing and health.
(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Judith Korb, Host University: Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg)

For the Research Unit "Debris Discs in Planetary Systems", the focus of interest is new insights into the formation and dynamics of planets. Debris discs are visible belts of comets, asteroids and their dust. Hot debris dust is an indicator of the growth and development of a new planet or planetary system and may also indicate an orbit change of existing planets. The aim of the Research Unit is to describe the properties, states and diversity of debris discs and understand their influence on the form, emergence and dynamic development of planetary systems. The researchers will develop models of the dynamics of debris discs, simulate collisions and investigate the interaction of debris dust and stellar radiation.
(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Alexander V. Krivov, Host University: Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena)

Soils are made of components called aggregates of different sizes. The microarchitecture of these aggregates determines the structure of the soil and influences its characteristics. The Research Unit "Microaggregates: Formation and Turnover of the Structural Building Blocks of Soils (MAD Soil)" will investigate the function of these microaggregates (structures of less than 250 micrometres), which consist of mineral and organic components, using state-of-the-art imaging and analytical techniques. The group aims to understand how the structure of microaggregates develops spatially and over time and what impact the soil microarchitecture has on the key functions of soil, such as carbon and water transport and nutrient storage.
(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Kai Uwe Totsche, Host University: Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena)

As small as a credit card but as functional as a full-size laboratory: "microlaboratories" have enormous practical benefits because they allow chemical processes to be analysed quickly, with low resource usage, and without substantial equipment, in remote regions of the world. The Research Unit "Integrated Chemical Microlaboratories" brings together experts in analytical and synthetic-organic chemistry to advance this "lab-on-a-chip" technology by combining chemical microsynthesis and miniaturised analytics. The intention is to build microlaboratories which offer better performance than previous methods and permit new insights into chemical processes. These could be used to develop new pharmaceutical active ingredients or minimise the energy and resource consumption of high-throughput chemical processes, for example.
(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Detlev Belder, Host University: Universität Leipzig)

Pemphigoid diseases, which cause skin blistering, are particularly serious chronic autoimmune diseases. Blistering is caused by the breakdown of adhesive complexes between the epidermis, the top layer of skin, and the dermis beneath it, after immune cells migrate into the dermis. The molecular mechanisms that trigger and sustain this process are to be investigated in the Clinical Research Unit "Pemphigoid Diseases - Molecular Pathways and Their Therapeutical Potential". The participating researchers in Lübeck will combine basic research in established mouse models with semi-clinical research. As well as pemphigoid patients in whom treatment approaches will be evaluated, the clinical centre provides access to biomaterial banks.
(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. med. Detlef Zillikens, Host University: Universität zu Lübeck)

What we see not only influences our actions, but our actions also control our vision. The Research Unit "Active Perception" intends to study this perception-cognition-action loop by combining psychological, neuroscientific and mathematical perspectives: What role does memory play in the processing of visual stimuli? How is our attention dynamically directed to stimuli? To study questions like these, the group will use psychological behavioural experiments, neurocognitive methods such as electroencephalography (EEG) to measure brain activity, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to image active areas of the brain and methods of mathematical modelling.
(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Hermann J. Müller, Host University: Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München)

The Research Unit "Crossing the Borders: The Interplay of Language, Cognition, and the Brain in Early Human Development" will study the first five years of human development by applying an integrated approach encompassing psychology, linguistics and neuroscience. In this way the researchers intend to take a holistic view of early childhood development. One of their aims is to analyse developments in child behaviour, for example the manner in which the child's initially universal perception of the world is increasingly based on acquired experience. Another question concerns the basic mechanisms responsible for the apparently parallel development of language and cognition - children develop the ability to segment complex events into subevents and to establish causalities between them when listening and also when watching.
(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Barbara Höhle, Host University: Universität Potsdam)

The Research Unit "Targeting Therapeutic Windows in Essential Cellular Processes for Tumor Therapy" intends to investigate new approaches in tumour treatment. The starting point is the observation that cancer cells can only grow and survive because processes in the cells are fundamentally altered. For example, in tumour cells the energy metabolism changes, signal transmission is impaired and there is a loss of control over the cell's growth mechanisms. The researchers in this Research Unit aim to better understand the mechanisms of these changes and on this basis to develop improved tumour therapies. With this strategy they specifically aim to avoid therapeutic resistance.
(Spokespersons: Prof. Dr. Martin Eilers and Prof. Dr. Lars Zender, Host Universities: Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg and Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen)


Further Information

Media contact: DFG Press and Public Relations, Tel. +49 228 885-2443,

Further information will be provided by the spokespersons of the established units.

For information on the DFG Research Units and Clinical Research Units see:

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