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Focus Areas: Platforms for Networking and Excellence in Research

Since 2006 the Focus Areas have been one of the key elements of Freie Universität’s research strategy. The Focus Areas form academic and scientific networks and working platforms for interdisciplinary collaborative research at Freie Universität. They are platforms for discussing innovative research topics, and for the design and development of new projects from proposal to maturity. This includes DFG-funded Collaborative Research Centers, the DFG excellence grants, and European projects.

All Focus Areas are involved in supporting research, providing support for junior researchers, internationalization, and regional networking, thereby also reflecting the pillars on which the institutional strategy of Freie Universität is founded.

Within the Focus Areas, scholars and scientists from different subjects, disciplines, and institutions at Freie Universität work together over a longer period on complex research topics related to subjects of great importance to society. The Focus Areas help to strengthen the areas of emphasis within the university’s research activities and further develop these areas in cooperation with social, political, and economic players.

The Focus Areas also serve as platforms for interdisciplinary discussions of issues with future potential within the academic community. Due to their high flexibility, dynamism, and openness the Focus Areas are an ideal environment for the development and testing of new ideas and the preparation of new collaborative research networks and projects.

The concept of the Focus Areas is based on three key principles:

  • Excellence in research across disciplines – for society, the political sphere, and the economy
  • Networking and cooperative arrangements – regional, national, and worldwide
  • Support for junior scholars and scientists – well structured, thorough, and comprehensive

Center for Area Studies (since 2006)

The goal of the Center for Area Studies is to promote interdisciplinary research on transcultural and transregional phenomena and processes.

The goal of the Center for Area Studies is to promote interdisciplinary research on transcultural and transregional phenomena and processes.
Image Credit: Bernd Wannenmacher

The Center for Area Studies (CAS) acts as the central control room for the broad-based regionally focused research activities performed in the humanities and social sciences at Freie Universität Berlin. North America, Latin America, Eastern Europe, East Asia, and the Near East are traditional areas of focus for the research and teaching activities of Freie Universität. The university is now also increasingly turning its attention to other areas of the world, including Western Europe and Africa.

The academic role of the Center for Area Studies (CAS) is to pursue the interdisciplinary study of cross-cultural and transregional phenomena and processes.

The activities of the Center for Area Studies represent a further milestone in raising the profile of Freie Universität Berlin as a hub of area studies rooted in individual disciplines, but with the benefits of an interdisciplinary network. Freie Universität offers several structured doctoral programs with concentrations in area studies. They include the Berlin Graduate School Muslim Cultures and Societies, the Graduate School of North American Studies, and the Graduate School of East Asian Studies.

The new Cluster of Excellence of the German Excellence Strategy “Contestations of the Liberal Script (SCRIPTS)” has grown out of the Focus Area CAS.

For more information see the Homepage of CAS. 

Dahlem Humanities Center (since 2007)

A humanities center that really shines: Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek delivered the Hegel Lecture at Freie Universität in 2011.

A humanities center that really shines: Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek delivered the Hegel Lecture at Freie Universität in 2011.
Image Credit: Bernd Wannenmacher

The Dahlem Humanities Center (DHC) reflects the full breadth of the humanities research conducted at Freie Universität Berlin, which is unique among German universities in pursuing such a broad spectrum of topics. It creates an overarching interdisciplinary research framework to accommodate this wealth of disciplines and activities: the study of the outward manifestations, principles, and functions of cultural dynamics.

The Dahlem Humanities Center established two networks that are essential to its mission. First, a range of workshops and conferences forms the basis for close cooperation with independent research institutions and cultural institutions in the Berlin-Brandenburg region.

Second, the cooperative arrangements already in place between the DHC and humanities centers at outstanding American, European, and Asian universities highlight the center’s highly developed international focus. This approach also promises to provide groundbreaking impetus for the entire field of humanities research in Berlin.

The new Cluster of Excellence of the Excellence Strategy “Temporal Communities: Doing Literature in a Global Perspective” has grown out of the Focus Area DHC.

For more information see the homepage of DHC.

DynAge: Disease in Human Aging: Dynamics at the Level of Molecules, Individuals, and Society (since 2013)

In the DynAge Focus Area, age-related disease processes are studied on an interdisciplinary basis.

In the DynAge Focus Area, age-related disease processes are studied on an interdisciplinary basis.
Image Credit: Bernd Wannenmacher

In the DynAge Focus Area (Disease in Human Aging – Dynamics at the Level of Molecules, Individuals, and Society), age-related disease processes are investigated using an interdisciplinary approach. The involved researchers aim to gain a fundamental understanding of the origin and development of acute and chronic diseases over the lifespan of individuals. What are the consequences for the patients and their families and friends, and ultimately, for society? Such knowledge is gaining in significance in light of demographic change.

The DynAge Focus Area aims to contribute to the existing knowledge in this field. Researchers in the natural and social sciences as well as the humanities who are based at Freie Universität Berlin will investigate these issues jointly with medical experts at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, the joint medical school of Freie Universität and Humboldt-Universität, as well as the German Institute of Human Nutrition and other collaborating partners.

For more information see the homepage of DynAge.

NanoScale – Functional Materials at the Nanoscale (since 2009)

In the NanoScale Focus Area, researchers from the fields of biochemistry, biophysics, chemistry, pharmacy, physics, and cell biology work together.

In the NanoScale Focus Area, researchers from the fields of biochemistry, biophysics, chemistry, pharmacy, physics, and cell biology work together.
Image Credit: Bernd Wannenmacher

Within the Focus Area “Functional Materials at the Nanoscale,” researchers explore the properties of nanoscale systems. The systems range from nanotubes and nanoparticles over macromolecules up to peptides and proteins.

Young and established researchers from the fields of biochemistry, biophysics, chemistry, physics, and cell biology work together in joint research projects.

The NanoScale Focus Area is integrated in the excellent research networks of the Berlin-Brandenburg region. There is particularly close collaboration with research groups from non-university research institutions in the Berlin-Brandenburg region. Several institutes of the Max Planck Society, the Fraunhofer Society, the Leibniz Society, and the Helmholtz Society in Berlin, Potsdam, and Teltow are partners of the Focus Area.

Through the intensive collaboration of the Focus Area with the participating academic departments at Freie Universität, the young scientists receive comprehensive training. The two structured doctoral programs, Biomedical Sciences and Molecular Science, offer doctoral students the opportunity to work in interdisciplinary networks and provide them with a variety of perspectives.

For more information see the homepage of NanoScale.

Dahlem Centre of Plant Sciences (2009-2017)

This Focus Area studied the many aspects of plant life.

This Focus Area studied the many aspects of plant life.
Image Credit: Bernd Wannenmacher

Since 1907, various disciplines in Dahlem have been dedicated to the study of plants and the sustainable use thereof. The Dahlem Centre of Plant Sciences (DCPS) Focus Area tied in with this tradition, pooling together the skills and expertise present in the affiliated subjects, and drew on the unique regional density of relevant institutes to engage in excellent plant research. The Botanic Garden, which was affiliated with the DCPS, and the associated collections of the Botanical Museum are among the largest and most important of their kind in the world.

This Focus Area’s goal was to arrive at a comprehensive understanding of the many different aspects of plant life. Research activities focused on several topics:

  • Diversity and function
  • Plants and their environment
  • Applied plant sciences

The interdisciplinary collaborative research center “Priming and Memory of Organismic Responses to Stress” (CRC 973) was established with support from this Focus Area. Early-career researchers continue to receive support through the Graduate School Plant Sciences.

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