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13 October 2006

Initiative for Excellence: University of Heidelberg Successful with Graduate School and Cluster — No Funding Award for Institutional Strategy

Heidelberg's proposals for the Graduate School "Fundamental Physics" and the Cluster "Cellular Networks" successful in the Initiative for Excellence of the federal and state governments — Institutional Strategy for the promotion of top-level research unsuccessful in the first round

The University of Heidelberg has just been notified that, to the regret of the Rectorate, the Institutional Strategy for the promotion of top-level research (the "Heidelberg Way") has not been awarded funding in the framework of the Initiative for Excellence of the federal and state governments. The members of the Rectorate are greatly disappointed.

The Rectorate warmly congratulates all those involved in the successful proposals for a Graduate School in "Fundamental Physics" and an Excellence Cluster on "Cellular Networks" and thanks them for their outstanding commitment.

In the next few days, the Rectorate, the Senate and the University Council's Steering Committee will be engaging in intensive analysis of the University's showing, notably the failure of the proposal for the third line of funding. The essential thing now is to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by the second round of the competition.

New impulses for doctoral education in the exciting field of fundamental physics

In the framework of the Initiative for Excellence of the federal and state governments, the Faculty of Physics and Astronomy of the University of Heidelberg has been successful with its proposal for a Graduate School in fundamental physics. This means that in the next five years the Faculty will receive funding to the tune of just under 1 million euros annually to provide new impetus for the education of doctoral students in the exciting field of fundamental physics.

Fundamental physics is undergoing a revolution. The realisation that in their fundamentals and methodologies astronomy and the physics of the universe, of particles and of complex quantum systems are closely associated has meant that what were once clearly demarcated research fields are coming much closer together. These research fields are outstandingly well represented at the Faculty of Physics and Astronomy and in many cases are already closely interlinked both within the University and with the Max Planck Institutes of Astronomy and Nuclear Physics.

About two-thirds of the doctoral students at the Faculty are working on issues associated with fundamental physics. The other third are engaged in work on such areas as environmental physics and biophysics, both of which are geared more closely to the life sciences. As a research faculty, the Faculty of Physics and Astronomy attaches major importance to the education and training of outstanding doctoral students.

The success of its proposal for a Graduate School in the contest adjudicated by a selection committee of international experts will now enable the Faculty to develop a doctoral programme focussing its teaching on the myriad and fascinating connections between the largest and the smallest bodies of matter in existence. At present the Heidelberg Faculty of Physics and Astronomy already produces the largest number of physics PhDs of any university in Germany.

With its fascinating subject matter, its modern and interdisciplinary teaching programme and its extensive potential for international exchange, the Graduate School will be an attractive proposition for students from all over the world. Here the Faculty can build on the experience it has amassed in a number of extremely successful doctoral programmes on a smaller scale.

One essential feature of the Graduate School will be its highly international orientation. Its participants will be selected on the basis of applications from all over the world, the teaching programme will be conducted in English and the Faculty's numerous international collaborations will give doctoral students outstanding opportunities for establishing international contacts and engaging in international cooperation.

Teaching will not be restricted to physics alone but also encompass such key competencies as communicative writing style, presentation techniques, acquisition of external funding and project leadership. In this, the Graduate School will be cooperating closely with the University's new Graduate Academy. Special attention will also be given to encouragement for women doctoral students and families with children. Here the Graduate School can take advantage of the various child care institutions of the University of Heidelberg.

The larger part of the extra financial resources will be used to improve education and training by recruiting additional teaching personnel. Four junior research groups will be established providing young scientists with an opportunity to qualify as university instructors on the basis of independent research and teaching experience. About one-third of the funding will be used to establish and expand an intensive programme for visiting scientists and international exchange and to provide training in key competencies.

Please address any inquiries on the Graduate School to
Prof. Dr. Matthias Bartelmann
Spokesperson for the Graduate School "Fundamental Physics"
Institute of Astrophysics
University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/544817

Funding award from the Initiative for Excellence of the federal and state governments for the "Cellular Networks" Cluster

The Heidelberg proposal for research on cellular networks will receive funding of up to 39 million euros in the next five years. Over the last century, enormous progress in the understanding of molecular processes has revolutionised biology and faced us with a new challenge. How can we explain the function, structure and development of the biological networks representing the foundations of life as we know it. The Heidelberg Cluster selected by a committee of international experts is dedicated to the study of this crucial issue in biomedical research with an interdisciplinary team of renowned international scientists.

It assembles and connects over 70 research groups from the biosciences, medicine, mathematics, chemistry and physics from the University of Heidelberg and four non-university institutions, the German Cancer Research Centre, the European Institute of Molecular Biology, the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research and the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim.

Together the scientists involved in this Cluster will be studying molecular networks in cells and organisms ensuring that biological systems can function and adapt to their environments. To this end, they will investigate the architecture and interplay of molecular components in cells, communication between cells in developmental biology and neurobiology and the interactions between cells and pathogens such as viruses and bacteria. For such an undertaking a common infrastructure allowing for research at the highest level of technical sophistication is a fundamental prerequisite. Accordingly, the creation and improvement of such an infrastructure is one of the central features of the Heidelberg proposal.

In close cooperation with mathematicians, models and simulations of molecular processes in the cell are developed from experimental findings. In a subsequent stage, they are then tested in lab experiments and progressively extended to achieve ever closer approximation to the biological system.

Part of the resources from the Initiative for Excellence will be used to promote interdisciplinary projects and establish international doctoral and post-doctoral programmes. With additional support from industrial partners a central technology platform is to be established encompassing the latest methods in high-power microscopy, image and data processing and functional analysis of individual components of biological networks and their modification.

Scientific capacity will be enhanced by two professorships and six independent junior research groups, with additional support from a foundation. Also planned by the team are systematic measures to encourage junior scientists, improve equal opportunities, provide child care facilities and, last but not least, improve communication with the public on the issues and objectives of the modern biosciences.

The central location and the base for the new professorships, the establishment of junior research groups and the central technology platform will be the BIOQUANT building due to open early in 2007. The funding for the Cluster in the framework of the Initiative for Excellence provides a unique opportunity to enhance Heidelberg's leading international position in interdisciplinary biomedical research and the education of the next generation of scientists.

Please address any inquiries on the Cluster to
Prof. Dr. Hans-Georg Kräusslich
Coordinator of the "Cellular Networks" Cluster
Institute of Hygiene
Department of Virology
Im Neuenheimer Feld 324
D-69120 Heidelberg
phone: 06221/565002, fax: 565003

General inquiries can also be addressed to:
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317

Irene Thewalt
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 542317

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