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Prof. Dr. Victor Sourjik to Receive ERC Advanced Grant

Press Release No. 366/2011
24 November 2011
Funding from the European Research Council for Heidelberg molecular biologist
Sourjik Victor 160x200
Prof. Dr. Victor Sourjik

Generous funding in the form of an ERC Advanced Grant from the European Research Council (ERC) has been awarded to the Heidelberg molecular biologist Prof. Dr. Victor Sourjik. The grant supports a research project in which Prof. Sourjik will investigate the evolution of cellular protein networks in microbes with the goal of improving our understanding of optimisation and adaptation processes in their evolutionary development. The grant has been awarded for five years, during which funding of approx. EUR 2.5 million will be placed at the disposal of the researcher from Heidelberg University’s Center for Molecular Biology (ZMBH).

Victor Sourjik’s research group investigates various aspects of cellular signal processing in microbes. The aim of the project “Robustness, Evolutionary Optimality and Plasticity of Microbial Signalling (MicRobE)” supported by the ERC Advanced Grant is to gain new insights into the protein networks that are responsible for this processing. Independently of their precise functions and molecular composition, all cellular networks share similar properties, such as robustness against internal and external perturbations. As yet, however, there is neither a detailed understanding of the optimisation processes through which the functioning of protein networks has been perfected in the course of evolution, nor of the various ways in which cellular networks adapt to changes in their environment.

Using microbes as model organisms, Prof. Sourjik and his fellow researchers intend to find out how protein networks assure their robustness and adaptability. Bacteria or yeasts are particularly suitable for such analyses, Victor Sourjik says, because their signal processing networks are relatively simple. In their experiments the scientists expose the protein networks of these model organisms to, say, changes of temperature and observe their response to such perturbations in real time via fluorescence microscopy. This experimental work is combined with computer modelling to mathematically describe the network behaviour and to analyse its optimality. In this way, the researchers hope to gain deeper insights into the microbial network function that can also contribute to the understanding of more complex biological systems.

After studying physics and molecular biology at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, Victor Sourjik (b. 1970) received his doctorate in 1997 from Regensburg University. After a five-year postdoc stint at Harvard University in Cambridge (USA), he came to Heidelberg University’s Center for Molecular Biology in 2003 as a research group leader. In 2008 Dr. Sourjik was awarded the Chica and Heinz Schaller Prize for his pioneering work in the field of cellular signal transmission. Since 2009 Victor Sourjik has been professor of molecular biology at the ZMBH.

The European Research Council was set up in 2007 to apply an investigator-driven approach to the funding of frontier research with a view to advancing visionary projects and opening up new interdisciplinary fields of knowledge. Among its funding lines is the ERC Advanced Grant, which is awarded to exceptional established research leaders.

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Prof. Dr. Victor Sourjik
Center for Molecular Biology
phone: +49 6221 546858

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