Springe direkt zu Inhalt

Einstein Foundation Berlin Funds Seven Fellowships at Freie Universität Berlin

Funding also provided for a research project in cooperation with Technische Universität Berlin

№ 294/2017 from Oct 26, 2017

The Einstein Foundation Berlin is funding seven fellowships at Freie Universität Berlin together with a research project. As the Foundation announced in Berlin, commencing in January 2018, funding will be provided for four newly applied-for visiting fellowships, and the fellowships of two further researchers are to be extended. Funding is also being made available for an Einstein International Postdoctoral Fellow and an Einstein Research Project undertaken jointly at Freie Universität and Technische Universität. The title of the project is “Die Perzeptionen Ägyptens. Die Zeichnungen der preußischen Ägypten-Expeditionen [Perceptions of Egypt: Drawings of the Prussian Egypt Expeditions] (1842–1845)”. The total amount of funding for all researchers and projects supported from January 2018 comes to 4.7 million euros. The Einstein Foundation Berlin was founded to promote science and research of top international caliber and to establish the city as a center of scholarly excellence.

Einstein Visiting Fellows

Robert Burnap, Oklahoma State University

Robert Burnap gained international acclaim for his research on the release of oxygen in oxygenic photosynthesis by plants, algae, and cyanobacteria. Such organisms use sunlight to combine water and carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air into organic compounds that serve cells as food. A further product of oxygenic photosynthesis is the oxygen (O2) found in the Earth’s atmosphere. Today, researchers are attempting to use the photosynthesis process as a blueprint for generating alternative, nonfossil fuels such as hydrogen.

In Berlin, Burnap – a microbiologist and molecular geneticist – conducts empirical research in the Collaborative Research Center “Protonation Dynamics in Protein Function” on the role of manganese oxide in the evolution of oxygenic photosynthesis some three billion years ago. This metal compound is bound within the cell to a special protein complex where water is split into electrons, protons (hydrogen nuclei), and oxygen. Robert Burnap uses model organisms to investigate among other things the role of manganese oxide as a catalyst in the development of photosynthesis. Findings from his research support the CO2-neutral production of nonfossil fuels through artificial photosynthesis.

• John Henry Maddocks, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

John Maddocks is a prominent expert in the multiscale modeling of DNA, the nucleic acid-based biological molecule that carries genetic information. The researcher is interested above all in the nanomechanical properties of DNA molecules. These properties determine how DNA is “packed” and stored in our cells.

He would like to find out how the sequence of individual nucleotides – the building blocks of the genetic molecule – affects these nanomechanical properties and if and why our genetic information influences such properties in a targeted way.

Maddocks’ methods make it possible to perform computer-simulated experiments on DNA sequences in order to obtain replicable quantitative information about the nanomechanical behavior of DNA. For this purpose, he works not only with mathematicians and specialists in big data and high-performance computing, but also with medical researchers and molecular biologists. John Maddocks will join the Berlin Mathematical School, which is the joint graduate school of Freie Universität, Humboldt-Universität, and Technische Universität Berlin.

Born in Scotland and a former member of the British Olympic sailing team, the mathematician obtained his doctorate in Oxford. After several years as professor of mathematics in Maryland, USA, he returned to Europe to the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), where he has worked for nearly 20 years.

• Edriss Titi, Texas A&M University

Edriss Titi is an internationally renowned expert in applied mathematics who has specialized among other things in the mathematical investigation of problems in fluid dynamics, turbulence, and geophysical flows. He obtained spectacular results concerning the mathematical rigorousness – roughly, the incontrovertibility – of model equations for atmospheric processes. By conclusively settling long-unresolved questions regarding the existence and uniqueness of solutions to these equations, he confirmed that the equations are mathematically sound.

Edriss Titi will be part of the Collaborative Research Center “Scaling Cascades in Complex Systems” at Freie Universität Berlin. One focus of this work is on the rigorous analysis of diverse cross-scale interactions in the atmosphere and oceans. Another is on the development of innovative methods of data assimilation in order to integrate the huge variety of observation data available today into computer-based mathematical models.

• Michel Chaouli, Indiana University

In his “Philological Laboratory” project, Michel Chaouli addresses at fundamental level the role of criticism in literary and cultural studies. His aim here is to test alternative approaches outside of criticism and so to open up new ways of describing the experience of art. He will carry out his research in Berlin at the Friedrich Schlegel Graduate School of Literary Studies. Michel Chaouli is one of the most highly regarded scholars in American German studies. He made his name with interdisciplinary work on the theoretical and methodological foundations of literary studies and the humanities. Chaouli first held an assistant professorship (in German and Comparative Literature) at Harvard and is now a professor at Indiana University, whose Institute of German Studies ranked in a National Research Council survey as one of the most outstanding institutes in its field. He returned to Harvard as a visiting professor in 2007.

In addition, the Einstein Visiting Fellowships of Richard Samuels (Graduate School of East Asian Studies), Stefan Keppler-Tasaki (Friedrich Schlegel Graduate School), and Bernd Sturmfels and Rahul Pandharipande (both Berlin Mathematical School) have each been extended by two years.

Einstein International Postdoctoral Fellow

• Amr Aswad, Universität Oxford

Virologist Amr Aswad is moving from Oxford University to Freie Universität Berlin as an Einstein International Postdoctoral Fellow. There he is to join the research group under Benedikt Kaufer, who holds the VW Foundation-funded Lichtenberg Professorship in resistance against viral infections and vaccines, and performs research among other things into human herpes viruses. These viruses, which many people carry as dormant infections – for example, due to a weakened immune system – can cause severe illnesses such as meningitis, shingles, or glandular fever. Kaufer and his team study human herpes virus 6, which is estimated by experts to infect more than 95 percent of people and which among other things causes roseola in infants. The researchers are interested to find out how the virus integrates its genetic material into telomeres (the end caps of human chromosomes), how the integrated virus genome is reactivated after long dormant periods, and how it can be eliminated. As the virus has also infiltrated human reproductive cells with its genetic material, about one percent of the global population carries it in every bodily cell. Amr Aswad will support the Berlin researchers with new technologies. For example, he has developed sequencing and analysis methods with which the integration of the virus genome into telomeres and its cellular effects can be detected and investigated with even greater precision than before. After studying at King’s College and Imperial College London, the young researcher obtained his doctorate at Oxford University, where he has worked as junior research fellow since 2015.

Einstein Research Project:

• “Die Perzeptionen Ägyptens. Die Zeichnungen der preußischen Ägypten-Expeditionen [Perceptions of Egypt: Drawings of the Prussian Egypt Expeditions] (1842-1845)”

An expedition to Egypt led by Richard Lepsius had a lasting impact on Berlin’s cultural and academic landscape. The expedition brought back a haul of original objects, plaster casts, and impressions of inscriptions as well as drawings made by the expedition’s five draughtsmen and two architects. Digitization and interdisciplinary analysis of these drawings is the objective of the joint Einstein research project by Freie Universität Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin, the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, and the Egyptian Museum. The project is led by Tonio Sebastian Richter (Freie Universität Berlin) and Bénédicte Savoy (Technische Universität Berlin).