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DFG Sets Up New Research Units to Explore Quantum Systems, Cell Processes and More

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is establishing eight new Research Units. This was decided by the DFG Senate during its 2013 March meeting in Bonn. The research collaborations will offer researchers the possibility to pursue current and pressing issues in their research areas and to establish innovative work directions.

Like all DFG Research Units, the new units will be interdisciplinary and span multiple locations. In the initial three-year funding period, the eight newly established Research Units will receive approximately 15.8 million euros. The DFG is thus currently supporting a total of 218 Research Units.

The new Research Units in detail (in alphabetical order by host university):

The "Structure and Function of the Peroxisomal Translocon (PerTrans)" Research Unit will study cellular organelles and focus on the intracellular transport of proteins, which is of great importance to human health. The import of proteins into peroxisomes is quite different from that into other organelles. These cell organelles also import folded proteins and the import receptors shuttle between a soluble form in the organelle and a transport form coupled with the membrane. The Research Unit will investigate the structural and functional analysis of the protein importing machinery in peroxisomes, the "translocon", to produce a new explanation for the mechanism of protein transport. The researchers hope that one outcome of their work will be a better understanding of molecular functions, such as defects arising as the result of incomplete maturity. A team from Oxford in the UK will also participate in the Research Unit.

(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Ralf Erdmann, University of Bochum)

Scientists researching the history of the Earth often study carbonates. This is because they are particularly useful for tracing the physical and chemical development of the oceans, atmosphere and climate. However, carbonates continue to change after they have been deposited. To provide more accurate measurements and thus a better reconstruction of the Earth's history, the "CHARON Marine Carbonate Archives: Controls on Carbonate Precipitation and Pathways of Diagenetic Alteration" Research Unit aims to understand and quantify the change processes that carbonates undergo. In doing so, the researchers from a wide range of fields in the natural sciences will use a broad base of analytical methods to understand the underlying processes. An international partner, a team from Graz in Austria, will be participating in the Research Unit.

(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Adrian Immenhauser, University of Bochum )

"The Forgotten Part of Carbon Cycling: Organic Matter Storage and Turnover in Subsoils (SUBSOM)" Research Unit will examine the carbon cycle below the ground's surface. There is more carbon at depths of over 30 centimetres than was previously assumed. Many processes which are well known in levels closer to the surface are now being researched in the subsoil: the quantity and composition of carbon sinks, aeration, humidity and temperature conditions, concentrations of sulphur and physical-chemical and biological parameters. The low concentrations of carbon in the subsoil, which vary greatly depending on location and time, pose particular challenges to methods, measuring instruments and analysis tools. The investigations aim to deliver not only a better understanding of the carbon flow processes in the subsoil but also to form a basis for corresponding computer models.

(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Bernd Marschner, University of Bochum)

Cancers of the lymphatic system develop in very different ways, are difficult to diagnose and their prognosis is often poor. The "Mature T-cell Lymphomas – Mechanisms of Perturbed Clonal T-cell Homoeostasis" Research Unit seeks to better understand adult T-cell lymphomas and is combining immunology and tumour biology for this purpose. The collaborative project will use cutting-edge laboratory methods and mathematical models to look at genetic changes, biological signal paths and the immunology of this disease. The findings promise not only a better understanding of adult T-cell lymphomas but also the origin of lymphomas in general and the immunology of T-cells.

(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Martin-Leo Hansmann, University of Frankfurt a. M.)

"A New Approach toward Improved Estimates of Atlantic Ocean Freshwater Budgets and Transports as Part of the Global Hydrological Cycle" is the name of a newly established Research Unit in Earth Sciences. This project involves researchers from oceanography, atmospheric physics and chemistry and air-water interaction working together to analyse and understand the flows of fresh water in the Atlantic Ocean, one of the key areas for the global climate. Central issues will be how and by how much the North Atlantic and sea ice influence the global water cycle. The researchers will look at processes such as evaporation, precipitation and ice melt with modern observation and satellite technology and will also be using numerical models.

(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Detlef Stammer, University of Hamburg)

The "Symmetry, Geometry and Arithmetic" Research Unit will examine current issues in modern arithmetic. An important and key theme will be the investigation of absolute Galois groups and their generalisations. These elegantly code arithmetic information which can be extracted through the study of these groups and their representations. The researchers, who are based in Heidelberg and Darmstadt, are hoping that by dovetailing motivic homotopy theory, deformation theory, Iwasawa theory, the theory of automorphic forms and L-functions, they will be able to draw interesting conclusions from new insight into one of these areas which they can apply to the others, in a contemporary vision and modern understanding of basic mathematical research.

(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Alexander Schmidt, University of Heidelberg)

The "Nature in the Designs of a Political Order: Ancient World – Middle Ages – Early Modern Age" Research Unit will examine how concepts of nature are illustrated and function in the founding of political orders and their claims to validity. The project is arranged over various epochs and cultures and combines perspectives from philosophy, theology, Latin studies, art history, history, the history of science, the history of law, politics and the study of literature. Its aim is to reshape conceptualisations of nature in its political and social dimension as a historic object.

(Spokespersons: Prof. Dr. Andreas Höfele and Prof. Dr. Beate Kellner, University of Munich)

The cyclic nucleotide guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) has an important role as a messenger in many biological systems such as blood vessels, the heart, neurones and sensory cells. The "cGMP Signaling in Cell Growth and Survival" Research Unit will use mouse models and cellular and molecular biological methods to examine the actual impact of faulty regulation in this messenger. To do this, fluorescence-based cGMP sensors will be developed and then used to illustrate the tiniest of changes in the messenger over space and time. As cGMP regulates essential processes such as ion transport in the kidneys and intestine, the function of muscles and sight cells, the research is also highly relevant to clinical practice.

(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Robert Feil, University of Tübingen)

In addition to the eight newly established Research Units, another will now begin work. This Research Unit is funded jointly by the DFG, the Austrian Science Fund and the Swiss National Science Foundation. The DFG Senate had already approved the Research Unit in December 2012 and approval has now been obtained from the two other partner organisations. The researchers in the "Advanced Computational Methods for Strongly Correlated Quantum Systems" Research Unit are hoping to deliver not only a better understanding of the physics of these systems, but also possible applications in other research areas, such as material physics or the nanosciences. The focus of the Research Unit is to use modern computer technology to develop numeric tools which can be used to better describe special observations of quantum states and strongly correlated quantum systems than has been possible to date.

(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Fakher Fakhry Assaad, Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg)


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