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Six Research Units Given the Go-Ahead


DFG awards initial funding for three years

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is establishing six new Research Units in order to promote cooperation between outstanding scientists and researchers in innovative research projects. This decision was made by the Grants Committee on General Research Support at its meeting on 21 January.

DFG Research Units are distinguished by scientific cooperation in a manageable number of individual projects, which demonstrate the highest degree of quality and originality at an international level. The Research Units will receive approximately 8.7 million euros for the next three years, with the prospect of continued funding for a second three-year period.

The Research Units in detail:

Combining differential geometry and discrete geometry in order to address a multitude of interesting problems is the aim of the Research Unit “Polyhedral Surfaces: Geometry and Combinatorics” at the technical universities of Berlin and Darmstadt. This project will not only provide the young researchers involved with multifaceted research-oriented training, but also the prospect of helping to establish an internationally leading project.

The mathematicians who initiated the second Research Unit “Algebraic Cycles and Values of L-Functions” are already working at the highest international level. They will now work as a team, based at the universities of Regensburg and Leipzig, concentrating on problems concerning the Bloch-Kato conjecture, one of the seven Millennium Prize Problems set by the Clay Mathematics Institute.

Inhibitory neurons have the job of suppressing the activity of other nerve cells in the brain. Studying them gives us an understanding of the way the entire nervous system functions, a task taken on by the Research Unit “Synaptic Inhibition: Molecular Determinants of Inhibitory Neurons within Defined Networks” at the University of Heidelberg. With a methodological repertoire ranging from molecular genetics and protein biochemistry to electrophysiology, the group is unique worldwide.

In soil science, the Research Unit “Dynamics of Soil Processes under Extreme Meteorological Conditions” at the universities of Bayreuth, Jena and Göttingen, will study extreme climatic situations in a field experiment. Two locations in the Fichtelgebirge mountain chain in south-east Germany, between Bayreuth and the Czech border, give the soil scientists, hydrologists, microbiologists and plant ecologists a unique research environment and the opportunity to make a significant contribution to climate research.

Soil science is also the topic being looked at by the Research Unit “Veterinary Medicines in Soils: Basic Research for Risk Analysis” at the Technical University of Berlin. The interdisciplinary and supra-regional team of researchers plans to investigate the effects and retention of veterinary medicines in the soil using various models and molecular methods. On the basis of their holistic approach to this study, the researchers will close an important gap in the European research landscape with this project.

In the Research Unit “Geobiology of Organo- and Biofilms: Coupling the Lithosphere and the Biosphere via Microbial Processes”, microbiologists and geologists will investigate microbe communities in watercourses and subterranean habitats. The researchers from the University of Göttingen, the Technical University of Braunschweig and other institutions will focus on their effects on biochemical cycles of elements and rock formation. From the findings of this research, the scientists hope to gain insights into the evolution of the biogeosphere.

Anne Gercke | alfa
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