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The first Japanese-German collaborations; topics in the natural and life sciences and engineering
With its ten new Research Units, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is intensifying interdisciplinary and multiple-location collaboration among researchers pursuing specific scientific questions and new avenues of research. The DFG Senate approved the units and funding of approximately 22.2 million euros for an initial three-year funding period. The DFG now funds a total of 209 Research Units, the majority of which are scheduled to run for a medium term of six years.
The new Research Units are of particular significance for Japanese-German research collaboration. For the first time, it was possible to provide grants for Research Units from both countries because of an agreement between the DFG and its Japanese partner organisation, the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST). Following the conclusion of this agreement, an initial 19 draft proposals were submitted last year and of these, four were shortlisted by the bi-national review panel. Of these, three have now been awarded grants to provide further impetus to collaboration between Japanese and German researchers. Funding for the Japanese projects will be provided by the JST.
The first three Japanese-German Research Units will be addressing questions from the fields of physics, chemistry and engineering sciences. The Research Unit "ASPIMATT: Advanced Spintronic Materials and Transport Phenomena" will involve researchers from Mainz and Kaiserslautern in Germany as well as from Sendai in Japan. Their work will involve new materials for spintronics, and will use electron rotation for the representation and processing of information, thus constituting a promising approach for high performance data storage. The spokespersons of the Research Unit are Professor Claudia Felser from the University of Mainz and Professor Dr. Yasuo Ando from Sendai.
The Research Unit "Quantum Computing in Isotopically Engineered Diamond" will be working on diamonds and the quantum properties of their optical centres, which have not been researched extensively to date. Here, the spokespersons Dr. Fedor Jelezko, University of Stuttgart, and Professor Junichi Isoya, Tsukuba, and their working groups in Stuttgart, Dortmund, Garching, Tsukuba and Ibaraki will be advancing the manufacture of storage elements for quantum information. This is a step that is of the same importance to the realisation of quantum computers as is the electrical control of geometrically protected quantum states that are robust against external interference. In this case, researchers from Würzburg, Regensburg, Tokyo and Sendai in the Research Unit "Topological Electronics" (spokesperson: Professor Laurens W. Molenkamp, University of Würzburg, and Professor Dr. Seigo Tarucha, Tokyo) aim to provide important contributions.
Two additional collaborations are of similar international consequence: the Research Unit "Kilimanjaro Ecosystems Under Global Change" will include working groups from various German universities and from Berne in Switzerland, examining fundamental questions about the development of ecosystems under changing climatic conditions and land use effects, taking Kilimanjaro in Tanzania as an example. The spokesperson is Professor Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter from the University of Bayreuth. The Berne project will be financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation.
The Research Unit "Determinants of Polarized Growth and Development in Filamentous Fungi" is a German-Mexican collaboration, which is using various fungal model organisms to examine the molecular basis of cell polarity and identify the underlying mechanisms of the directional growth of multicellular organisms. The spokespersons are Professor Reinhard Fischer, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), and Dr. Meritxell Riquelme, Center for Scientific Research and Higher Education of Ensenada/Mexico; the Mexican projects are being funded by the DFG partner organisation CONACYT.
Four further institutions are involved in the life sciences: the Research Unit "Crop Sequence and Nutrient Acquisition from the Subsoil" (spokesperson: Professor Ulrich Köpke, University of Bonn) will be using the most modern soil-biological, soil-physical and plant-physiological methods to research ecologically and agronomically important nutrient suitability of plants from the subsoil and particularly the influence of crop rotation upon this process. The objective of the Research Unit "iBeetle: Functional Genomics of Insect Embryogenesis and Metamorphosis" (spokesperson: Dr. Gregor Bucher, University of Göttingen) is to provide better understanding of the evolution, developmental biology and physiology of insects. To achieve this, a genome-wide RNA interference screen will be used to identify the respective genes in red brown flour beetles.
The planned work of the Research Unit "Protein-based Photoswitches as Optogenetic Tools" (spokesperson: Professor Peter Hegemann, Humboldt University Berlin) is seen as having as a high relevance to application. It aims to research the mechanism of light-activated ion channels and enzymes in order to provide new tools for neuroscience and cell biology. The Research Unit "Sulfated Steroids in Reproduction" (spokesperson: Professor Martin Bergmann, University of Gießen) is investigating the question of whether and to what extent sulfated steroids can be transferred as highly active steroids to the active circulation or become independently active, a question of great interest in reproductive medicine.
Finally, nanotechnology will be covered by the Research Unit "Controlling the Electronic Structure of Semiconductor Nanoparticles by Doping and Hybrid Formation" (spokesperson: Professor Thomas Möller, Technical University of Berlin). This Research Unit aims to carry out targeted modification of the electronic and optical properties of small carbon and silicium molecules in order to provide an important contribution to the further clarification of nanostructures.
Detailed information about the Research Units can be found at: www.dfg.de/for
About Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
In meeting its responsibilities as a research funding organisation, the DFG must remain abreast of current developments in higher education. In doing so, the DFG is able to address challenges such as the need to provide sustainable support for young researchers, the interdisciplinarisation of the sciences and humanities, and support for networking in the field of research.
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