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14 May 2003

Groundbreaking Cooperative Ventures between University of Heidelberg and Mannheim's University of Applied Sciences

First-ever collaboration between university and applied science institution in the training of outstandingly qualified doctoral candidates: time-limited postgraduate research group "Imaging Procedures for Expression Analysis — From Genes to Proteins" — Also new: joint B.A. course "Translation Studies for Information Technologies"

At a press meeting today, the University of Heidelberg and Mannheim's University of Applied Sciences described their new collaborative ventures: a postgraduate research group for doctoral students and a joint B.A. course. "These groundbreaking cooperative undertakings intensify the already excellent relations between our two universities and contribute significantly to strengthening the academic standing of the Rhine-Neckar region," said rectors Prof. Dr. Peter Hommelhoff and Prof. Dr. Dietmar von Hoyningen-Huene in Mannheim. This is the first time that outstandingly qualified graduates from a university of applied sciences (Fachhochschule) will be given access to a time-limited postgraduate research group (Graduiertenkolleg). Once again, the two universities have taken the lead in putting an innovative collaborative approach into practice.

The postgraduate research group

Since 1990, the German Research Council (DFG) has employed so-called Graduiertenkollegs (time-limited postgraduate research groups) as a way of supporting especially well qualified doctoral candidates from all academic disciplines. The present venture run jointly by the University of Heidelberg and Mannheim's University of Applied Sciences is the first DFG-funded research group taking the form of a cooperative venture between a university and an applied science institution in the training of doctoral students. Other partners in the research group entitled "Imaging Procedures for Expression Analysis — From Genes to Proteins" are two major, non-university research institutions, the German Cancer Research Centre (DKFZ) and the European Molecular Biology Lab (EMBL).

Postgraduate research groups enable especially well qualified doctoral students to do their doctorate under optimal conditions. These groups are usually interdisciplinary research and study programmes with 15 to 25 postgraduates working under the guidance of professors with an outstanding record in research and teaching. At present, about 10 percent of all postgraduates in Germany working for a doctorate do so in the framework of a research group of this kind. In most cases, they are more broadly qualified and also two years younger than other doctoral candidates. In addition, the proportion of non-German students involved in these research groups is twice as high as the national average.

The present joint research group will be working on functional molecular analysis of gene and protein activities with special reference to the development and application of new high-resolution spectroscopic and microscopic procedures ("molecular imaging"). At the three relevant levels of gene expression (DNA, RNA, proteins), structural and functional aspects will be studied that can be expected to clarify the biological significance of molecular interaction and thus lead to innovative approaches to diagnosis and therapy.

The joint study programme at the heart of the research group involves interdisciplinary seminars and practicals improving the knowledge of the postgraduates in the field of functional gene and protein analysis and biophotonics and intensifying the interaction between the participants in the group. Contacts with competent industrial partners significantly enhance the long-term job prospects for the participants and ensure active dialogue between the universities and industry.

The research group is based on close cooperation between the University of Heidelberg, the University of Applied Sciences (Mannheim) and the following scientific institutions: the hospitals of the University of Heidelberg at Mannheim, the Institute of Physics of the University of Heidelberg, the German Cancer Research Centre (DKFZ) and the European Molecular Biology Lab (EMBL). These institutions have a long record of fruitful scientific collaboration. They have been frequently successful in obtaining project-related external funding from the state government of Baden-Württemberg and the Federal research and higher education ministry. There has also been close cooperation between the partners at the operative level, for example in the running of the M.A. course in biotechnology.

Alongside the life sciences, the other main participants in the development of functional gene and protein analysis come from the field of information technology and biophotonics. The research groups intends to do justice to the interdisciplinary nature of the undertaking both by involving different specialist subjects (biotechnology, information technology, medicine, physics) and by integrating biotechnology companies into the project. The companies involved are Siemens, Roche Diagnostics GmbH, Zeiss Vision, Axaron Bioscience AG, B.R.A.I.N Bioscience AG, LION Bioscience AG and Febit AG. The success of the venture lies in the avoidance of a rigid sequential approach dividing basic research, applied research and development into separate stages. The partners engage in modern technological development as a mutually beneficial process centring around a permanent exchange of ideas and experience between the universities and research institutions, on the one hand, and the companies involved on the other — and vice versa.

"In future, improved molecular imaging in bioanalysis will contribute to an enhancement of therapy for a variety of diseases. The use and ongoing development of modern optical methods in molecular expression analysis and their immediate application at a practical level give the postgraduate research group a high degree of attractiveness for qualified doctoral candidates interested in practically oriented research," commented Prof. Hommelhoff on one of the central objectives of the venture.

Prof. von Hoyningen-Huene emphasised the significance of this first-ever joint postgraduate research group and the ideal kind of involvement it represents in different scientific institutions and major research projects. This, he said, plus the connection with companies in the Rhine-Neckar Triangle and further afield, was the best way of assuring the interdisciplinary nature of the enterprise. "In addition, the participants will be coming in contact with a number of EU research projects and visiting scientists. We can safely expect this to produce further international contacts in the future."

The research group, which has been approved for an initial period of three years, involves 28 postgraduates, 18 of them financed directly by the resources placed at the disposal of the group and another 10 by institute resources or external funding. To ensure continuity and research quality, the new group can also draw on a postdoctoral grant system ensuring the further employment of especially highly qualified doctoral students for a brief period after the completion of their doctorate, so as to guarantee the transfer of knowledge to the next doctoral candidates in line.

The joint B.A. course

In the winter semester 2003/04, the Institute of Translation and Interpreting at the University of Heidelberg (IÜD) and the departments of electro-technology and informatics at the University of Applied Sciences (Mannheim) will be starting up their new joint B.A. course "Translation Studies for Information Technologies".

Information technology today displays an increasing demand for expert translators equipped not only with the necessary linguistic and translation skills but also with the extensive technical knowledge enabling them to take on the wide variety of translation work available in a proficient manner. This is where the new course sees its specific role. The bridge between engineering studies at the University of Applied Sciences and the concerns central to the humanities-oriented course at the University of Heidelberg lies in a specific approach to translation studies. This approach conceives of translation as a combination of practical linguistic skills and cultural studies, involving at the same time a high degree of media competence. Such a conception is the key to success in professional translation-related activity in which technical texts and technological subject-matter are the main aspects of everyday work.

Graduates can expect swift access to professions related to technical translation, software localisation, technical documentation and web publishing in the context of information technologies. The technical component of the new course is focussed on information technology and communication technology, areas in which translation work has been continually on the increase over the last few years, due not least to the arrival of major informatics, software and communication technology companies in the Rhine-Neckar area.

The course is conducted in two languages (German and English) and is geared to the communication of the necessary knowledge, skills and methods required by translators working in this field, with special emphasis on the acquisition of proficiency in technical subjects. Both institutions are ideally equipped to provide this kind of teaching. Since the late 1990s, both the University of Heidelberg and Mannheim's University of Applied Sciences have had extensive experience in conducting degree courses in English.

Existing relations between the two partner institutions and universities in North and South America will also be used to place the course on a sound international footing.

At the request of the University of Heidelberg, the University of Applied Sciences (Mannheim) has been preparing for the new course over the last three semesters by offering "technology" as a special subject for students at the Institute of Translation and Interpreting. This extends the number of options available for the special subject students are required to choose in the advanced stage of their courses. The existing choices (economics and law) have now been extended to include technical subjects taught at the University of Applied Sciences. Both universities have taken the positive response of students in these first three semesters as a decisive encouragement in developing the complete joint course now in place.

To assure the quality of the results both on the linguistic and the engineering side of the course, applicants are expected to satisfy specific criteria. Aptitude for the course will be tested in a selection procedure. Potential students are expected to display intellectual broad-mindedness, basic technical knowledge, a recognisable inclination for technical translation, above-average knowledge of English (German students) and success in the so-called DSH test of German (students from abroad).

Students will be enrolled at both universities and spend half their time studying at each of the two institutions involved.

To follow up the B.A. course, the two universities are planning a course leading to an M.A. degree in the same combination of subjects.

Please address any inquiries to
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317

Bernd Vogelsang
Public Relations Officer
University of Applied Sciences Mannheim
phone: 0621/2926418, fax: 2926425

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Updated: 02.04.2003


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