Uni Hamburg: Around EUR 4 million in EU funding for scientists

From Malaria to Dark Matter: These three projects at the University of Hamburg are to receive ERC Starting Grants from the European Research Council
14 September 2020
Hauptgebäude Universität Hamburg

The University of Hamburg (UHH) is to receive funding from the (European Research Council (ERC)) in three fields – neuroscience, astrophysics and molecular biology. These so-called ERC Starting Grants are endowed with a total of around EUR 4.4 million and are directed at upcoming scientists working in basic research. “For scientists in the initial phases of their careers in particular, prestigious funding to this level is extremely important, and for setting up new research groups as well,” Professor Dieter Lenzen, University of Hamburg president, said of the funding. These three promising projects are to be launched next year.

Uni Hamburg: Overview of ERC Starting Grants

The ERC awards the Starting Grants to outstanding upcoming scientists who gained their doctorates between two and at most seven years ago. Through the grant, they will have the opportunity to implement innovative programmes in basic research. The funding amounts to up to 1.5 million euros per project over a period of five years.

Professor Michael Filarsky is conducting research into the question: What are the factors controlling the adaptation of the malaria parasite? Around half a million people die from malaria annually, which is seen as the most common infectious disease is the world. There is as yet no effective vaccine for the disease, and because the highly adaptive malaria parasite has evolved resistance to most medications, it is increasingly difficult to treat. In the project “Mal Switch”, the assistant professor, who also works at the Centre for Structural System Biology (CSSB) in Science City Hamburg-Bahrenfeld, is working on the as yet not fully understood molecular mechanisms in the parasite’s reproduction cycle.

Understanding human thought and action – using AI?

How do people interpret the behaviour of others? This is a central issue in cognitive neuroscience. With his project “Tracking Minds”, Professor Sebastian Gluth aims to investigate the hypothesis that people make use of their own mental decision-making apparatus to follow the thoughts of others and infer their hidden convictions and preferences. The most modern neuroscientific methods are used to explain how the decisions of others are predicted and conclusions can be drawn from this, including eye-tracking und functional MRT Magnetic Resonance Tomography). In addition the professor of psychology plans to develop an Artificial Intelligence (AI) program with a view to improving human-machine interactions through “more insightful” AI systems .

Dark Matter in Astrophysics

Around 80 per cent of our universe consists of Dark Matter, the composition of which is to date largely unknown. So-called axions, along with axion-like particles (ALPs) are postulated as possible components. Manuel Meyer is to combine astrophysical observations with laboratory experiments under the rubric of “Axion DM” in order to investigate these particles more closely. The basis assumption is that photons can change into ALPs in magnetic fields, and conversely. That means that they oscillate. This switch should characteristically be shown in the measurements of high-energy cosmic gamma radiation emitted from distant galaxies . This analysis is intended among other things to improve sensors and detectors, which will be used for example in the experiment “Any Light Particle Search” (ALPS II) at the German Electron Synchrotron (DESY) in Hamburg-Bahrenfeld in 2021.