News Release 

The DFG to fund 16 new research training groups

Topics range from quantum field theory and media anthropology to collective decision-making and inflammatory tumour secretome / €72 million for initial four-and-a-half-year period

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is establishing 16 new Research Training Groups (RTGs) to further support early career researchers. This was decided by the responsible Grants Committee in Bonn. The new RTGs will receive a total of approximately €72 million in funding for an initial period of four and a half years, starting from the first half of 2020. This includes a 22 percent programme allowance for indirect project costs. One group is an International Research Training Group (IRTG) with partners in the UK.

In addition to the 16 new groups, the Grants Committee also approved the extension of 11 existing RTGs for an additional funding period. Research Training Groups offer doctoral researchers the opportunity to complete their theses in a structured research and qualification programme at a high academic level. The DFG is currently providing funding to a total of 221 RTGs, 36 of which are IRTGs.

The 16 new Research Training Groups in detail (in alphabetical order by their host universities, including the names of spokespersons, other applicant universities and cooperation partners):

Recent findings have revealed that the Standard Model of particle physics - which brings together the current understanding of the physics of elementary particles in a quantum field theory - requires rethinking. Using a broad research approach, the RTG "Rethinking Quantum Field Theory" will tackle this task, seeking to challenge the basic principles of the theory and contribute to its further development. (HU Berlin, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Jan Plefka)

Stochastic processes are used to mathematically describe complex systems whose behaviour seems random and volatile. These processes have become increasingly significant in science, engineering and finance. The German-British IRTG "Stochastic Analysis in Interaction" will focus on the further development of mathematical methods in this area, which is important to both basic research and other fields of application. (TU Berlin, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Peter Bank, Additional applicant university: HU Berlin, cooperation partner: University of Oxford, UK)

When individuals act in different social contexts, they develop a view of themselves. Individual behaviour is often governed by assumptions as to what is appropriate. These assumptions are part of the individual's view of himself/herself but are also subject to change, thus contributing to changes in society. The RTG "Social Dynamics of the Self" will focus on the interactions between the self and society and on the analysis of their impacts. (Jacobs University Bremen, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Ulrich Kühnen; Additional applicant university: University of Bremen).

Alongside genetic predisposition, lack of physical activity and prenatal or childhood overeating are the leading causes of type 2 diabetes. However, the relationship between unhealthy lifestyle factors during pregnancy and childhood and the onset of an impaired insulin effective in early life, as well as the subsequent dysfunction of insulin-producing cells, is not adequately understood. The RTG "vivid - in vivo investigations towards the early development of type 2 diabetes" will therefore investigate the molecular mechanisms of the early development of diabetes. (University of Düsseldorf, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Hadi Al-Hasani)

Symmetries and classifying spaces are fundamental concepts for the mathematical order of the world. They are the focus of the RTG "Symmetries and classifying spaces: analytic, arithmetic and derived", which aims to shed light on the connections and transitions between these concepts. The researchers will use a wide range of methods drawn from complex analysis, arithmetic, classical and derived algebraic geometry, and topology. (University of Duisburg-Essen, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Ulrich Görtz)

The RTG "Collective Decision-Making" brings together researchers in political science, economics and philosophy to investigate new questions relating to election procedures, complex deliberative and multilevel decision-making processes, and the formation of institutions. Their aim is to contribute to linking theoretical and empirical research on collective decision-making. (University of Hamburg, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Anke Gerber)

The RTG "Modeling, Simulation and Optimization of Fluid Dynamic Applications" will link mathematical approaches in the areas of modelling, simulation and optimisation with various applications in climate research, meteorology, engineering and medicine. This is intended to be mutually beneficial: the concrete applications are advanced through mathematical approaches while these approaches are further developed on the basis of the insights gained from the application. (University of Hamburg, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Armin Iske; Additional applicant university: TU Hamburg)

The RTG "Biota-mediated Effects on Carbon Cycling in Estuaries" will investigate the contribution of different organisms such as plants, animals and microbiota to the carbon cycle in estuaries. The interactions of these biota also influence carbon cycling indirectly through the production, transport and breakdown of organic material, something which has been researched very little until now. The group will focus on the Elbe estuary as a model system, studying it comprehensively using ecological, biochemical and molecular approaches. (University of Hamburg, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Kai Jensen)

Bringing together molecular chemistry, physical chemistry, experimental physics and theory, the RTG "Hybrid structures on the nanoscale: Chemical concepts to prepare heterogeneous nanostructures with anisotropic material properties (NANOHYBRID)" aims to create defined nanoscopic anisotropic hybrid structures using chemical synthesis methods. The group also aims to understand the novel properties of these materials - in relation to display and sensor technology - by means of special physical research methods combined with theoretical models. (University of Hamburg, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Alf Mews)

The aim of the RTG "Materials Compounds from Composite Materials" is to develop novel composite materials that permit large temperature increases in combustion engines and processes under extreme environmental conditions, such as oxidation or erosion, beyond 1,300 degrees Celsius. In the context of the energy transition, this has significant application potential in high-temperature processes. (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr.-Ing. Martin Heilmaier; Additional applicant university: TU Darmstadt)

Proteins are not necessarily limited to a single function within a cell but can change their function and location in response to external stimuli. This mechanism increases the complexity of the proteome - the entire set of proteins in a cell - and enables cellular adaptation to a variety of signals. The RTG "Dynamic regulation of cellular protein localization" will study the mechanisms behind these (re)localisation events and their functional and physiological consequences, which have so far not been explored in depth. (University of Cologne, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Jan Riemer)

The aim of the RTG "Control of structure formation in soft matter at and through interfaces" is to exploit the potential of interfaces to gain better control of the manufacturing process and thus the physical and chemical properties of soft materials, such as colloidal crystals and thin polymer films. For this purpose, the researchers will investigate the dynamics of structure-forming processes, which are not yet adequately understood. (University of Mainz, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Thomas Speck)

Tumour secretome refers to all substances secreted by cancer cells and host cells in the immediate environment of a tumour. It plays an important role in the development of malignant cancers such as ovarian and pancreatic carcinoma and leukaemia. But the composition of the secretome is not fully known, nor is its effect on the interaction of tumour cells and host cells sufficiently understood. The RTG "The inflammatory tumor secretome - from understanding to novel therapies" will investigate the secretome and its effects on increase in tumour size and metastasis. The group will also examine what impact it has on therapy resistance. Finally, the researchers aim to discover whether the secretome contains relevant biomarkers and whether these can be used for new treatment approaches. (University of Marburg, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Elke Pogge von Strandmann)

The medical technology RTG "Intraoperative multi-sensor tissue identification in oncology" is concerned with the development of new sensor technology to enable surgeons to distinguish between malignant and healthy tissue with high resolution during surgery, and thus decide whether the tissue should be removed or preserved. In the long term, the RTG's aim is to contribute to enhanced patient safety and reduce long operating times with the aid of real-time data. (University of Stuttgart, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr.-Ing. Oliver Sawodny; Additional applicant university: University of Tübingen)

One feature of the revolutionary development of media technologies is the tendency for nature and technology, biology and artefact, the human and the non-human to become interwoven, resulting in numerous amalgamations of media (technologies) and forms of human existence. The RTG "Media Anthropology" will examine the social, political and epistemic effects of such hybridisations in aesthetic milieus such as literature, art, film, theatre and games, as well as digital communication platforms, festivals, archives and museums. It will also investigate what forms of existence result from these, for example gamers, avatars, fictions, users and spectators. (University of Weimar, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Christiane Voss)

The lack of active ingredients against (multi)resistant pathogens is prompting researchers to seek alternatives to conventional antibiotic treatment. The RTG "Metabolism, topology and compartmentalization of membrane proximal lipid and signaling components in infection" is concerned with this area of research. The researchers aim to identify targets for novel anti-infective or immunotherapeutical strategies at the level of the sphingolipid metabolism. Sphingolipids are components of cell membranes that play an important role in infection and immunity, but the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. (University of Würzburg, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Jürgen Seibel)

The 11 RTGs extended for a further funding period (in alphabetical order by their host universities, including the names of spokespersons, additional applicant universities and cooperation partners, with reference to project descriptions in the DFG online database GEPRIS:

RTG "Modelling the constitutional evolution of building materials and structures with respect to aging" (TU Braunschweig, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Manfred Krafczyk)

RTG "Privacy and Trust for Mobile Users" (TU Darmstadt, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Max Mühlhäuser)

RTG "Understanding Social Relationships" (University of Göttingen, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Julia Fischer)

RTG "Discovering structure in complex data: Statistics meets Optimization and Inverse Problems" (University of Göttingen, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Gerlind Plonka-Hoch)

RTG "Integrating Ethics and Epistemology of Scientific Research" (University of Hannover, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Torsten Wilholt; Additional applicant university: Bielefeld University)

RTG "High Resolution and High Rate Detectors in Nuclear and Particle Physics (HighRR)" (University of Heidelberg, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Hans-Christian Schultz-Coulon)

RTG "The Romantic Model. Variation - Scope - Relevance" (University of Jena, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Stefan Matuschek)

RTG "Strong and Weak Interactions - from Hadrons to Dark Matter" (University of Münster, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Michael Klasen)

RTG "Integrating Biodiversity Research with Movement Ecology in Dynamic Agricultural Landscapes (BioMove)" (University of Potsdam, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Florian Jeltsch; Additional applicant university: FU Berlin)

RTG "Natural Hazards and Risks in a Changing World (NatRisk-Change)" (University of Potsdam, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Annegret Thieken)

RTG "The German Baltic Sea Coast as Terrestrial-Marine Interface of Water and Matter Fluxes (Baltic Transcoast)" (University of Rostock, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Bernd Lennartz)


Further Information

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

Further information will also be provided by the spokespersons of the Research Training Groups.

Programme contact at DFG Head Office: Dr. Armin Krawisch, Head of Research Careers division, Tel. +49 228 885 2424,

More details about the funding programme and the funded Research Training Groups are available at:

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