From sound analysis to nicotine addiction


The DFG's new Priority Programmes focus on forward-looking research topics

This release is also available in German

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) will fund sixteen new Priority Programmes from the beginning of 2006. This decision was made by the DFG Senate at its meeting on 12 March 2005. The programmes were selected from a total of 53 proposals and will receive approximately €48 million in funding in the first two years. This brings the number of Priority Programmes funded by the DFG to 98. Priority Programmes promote networking between research groups working on a specific topic, both within Germany and internationally. The coordinated, distributed funding of novel problems is intended to give a strong impetus to the progress of research in the field addressed by each Priority Programme. Priority Programmes generally run for a period of six years.

The new Priority Programmes are:


The polis as a form of city-state in the Eastern Mediterranean is the subject of the Priority Programme "The Hellenistic polis as a way of life. Urban structures and civil identity between tradition and change". The researchers involved in this Priority Programme have set out to take a fresh look at the rather stayed view of the heyday and demise of the classical Athenian polis and to revise the prevailing stereotypes. Using a novel methodological approach, characterised most markedly by innovative networking of archaeological and historical research, they aim to demonstrate that the historical development of the Hellenistic city-state cultures and the towns at their centres needs to be seen as a process which gained increased dynamism during the Hellenistic era. The significance of this work, involving research partners from numerous Mediterranean countries, is expected to extend well beyond the boundaries of classical studies.
(Coordinator: Prof. Martin Zimmermann, University of Munich)

The Priority Programme "Articulatory competence: between grammar, signal processing and neuronal activity" will be studying articulatory sound analysis, in other words, the phonetic code used by a speaker to articulate a message and by the listener to decode the message. This code has already been extensively studied – for example in phonology, phonetics and psychology – but these studies have essentially been isolated up to now. This Priority Programme aims to bring the various methods and research cultures together in order to attain a new understanding of human linguistic ability.
(Coordinators: PD Dr. Hubert Truckenbrodt, University of Tübingen, and Prof. Richard Wiese, University of Marburg)

Megacities are a phenomenon of the urbanisation process that can be observed worldwide. These oversized cities, with a high concentration of population, infrastructure and capital accompanied by excessively accelerated development, lead to increasing social fragmentation and become increasingly difficult to control and govern. The consequence is that more and more processes are allowed to take place in an uncontrolled and informal manner. The Priority Programme "Megacities: informal dynamics of global change" will investigate these highly complex processes, focussing on the regions of Dhaka in Bangladesh and the Pearl River Delta (Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong) in China. The aim is to use an interdisciplinary approach to develop a new methodological basis in order to pave the way to a more thorough understanding of the dynamics of megacities.
(Coordinator: Prof. Frauke Kraas, University of Cologne)


The Priority Programme "Mechanisms of gene vector entry and persistence" will attempt to systematically investigate and improve the foundations of somatic gene therapy using state of the art methods. Gene vectors can deliver genes into cells undamaged and in a targeted way, making them an attractive tool for the treatment of hereditary diseases. Their benefits are undisputed, but their potential undesirable side effects remain largely unexplored. This international project, which is deliberately open-ended with regard to its findings, will focus on problems such as dosage, persistence and integration of gene vectors. It may, as a welcome side effect, help to consolidate Germany's key role as a location for gene therapy research.
(Coordinator: Prof. Christopher Baum, Hannover Medical School)

How do metastases arise? And to what extent is the growth of blood vessels within a tumour responsible for its metastasis? In order to address these questions the Priority Programme "Mechanisms of tumour-vessel interaction in tumour progression and metastasis" aims to bring together the best research groups working in this field in Germany. Conventional findings on vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) will be subjected to state of the art analysis and promising new methods used in order to elucidate the relationship between metastasis and an increase in the number of lymph nodes (lymphangiogenesis), a factor which has become recognised as being of considerable significance in recent years. The overall aim is to give fresh impetus to cancer research.
(Coordinator: Prof. Hellmut Augustin, University of Freiburg)

Modern methods in molecular biology and imaging techniques allow a new approach to be taken to old and nevertheless current issues in addiction research. The Priority Programme "Nicotine: molecular and physiological effects on the central nervous system" aims to build on what has already led to new discoveries concerning alcoholism in order to gain new understanding of the most widespread "popular addiction", nicotine dependency. The project is not only scientifically ambitious. It is also an important venture from the point of view of health policy with regard to combating smoking addiction and its many health-related consequences.
(Coordinator: Prof. Dr. Georg Winterer, University of Mainz)


The main focus of the Priority Programme "Quantum transport at the molecular level" is the investigation of quantum mechanical transmission of electrons. In so doing, it is tackling one of the most current and promising topics of its kind in a field where physics, chemistry and material science overlap, although the full importance of which will not become apparent for several decades. One of the key goals of the programme is to boost the development of the branch of nanotechnology which aims to establish the molecule as a functional unit for electronics. It sets new standards by networking experimental and theoretical models and could help Germany join the front runners in research into non-silicon based – and thus significantly cheaper – technology.
(Coordinator: Prof. Dr. Thomas Frauenheim, University of Paderborn)

The Priority Programme "Mass transport and mass distribution in the global system" will study the interrelationships between the oceans, ice shelves, the earth's core and dynamic processes on the earth's surface using the latest satellite data, including data from the "CHAMP", "GRACE" and "GOCE" gravity missions. This interdisciplinary programme, coordinated in Bonn, will for the first time bring together researchers from the fields of geodesy, oceanography, hydrology, glaciology, geophysics and other – in particular young – geoscientists to evaluate data, develop models and correctly interpret complex overlaid signals.
(Coordinator: Prof. Karl-Heinz Ilk, University of Bonn)

The Priority Programme "Structures and properties of crystals under extremes of pressure and temperature" will concentrate on the properties and synthesis of substances that are formed in the earth's crust under conditions of very high pressure and temperature. Mineralogists and material scientists are joining forces with solid state chemists to study the manufacture and properties of novel materials as well as the prediction of these properties via ab initio calculations. The scientific gain – through improved understanding of the earth's mantle – is not only of interest to the earth scientists, in particular seismologists. The studies of carbonates are also of great interest for research into atmospheric carbon dioxide.
(Coordinator: Prof. Björn Winkler, University of Frankfurt am Main)

Ninety years ago "Ionic Fluids" were seen as lab curiosities. Modern research, however, has shown that these non-molecular "materials" are an independent class of material with novel properties which have a wide range of promising potential applications, fascinating chemists, process engineers, material scientists, physicists, biologists and medics alike. This Priority Programme, based in Erlangen-Nürnberg, will focus on advancing the basic understanding of ionic fluids as well as making these findings available to application in a wide range of areas.
(Coordinator: Prof. Peter Wasserscheid, University of Erlangen-Nürnberg)

"Intelligent hydrogels" can change their volume and other properties in response to external stimuli. This makes them interesting materials for technical, biomedical and scientific applications such as for microvalves, sensors, detectors and for controlled and steady release of drugs in the body. The Priority Programme of the same name determines and models the properties of hydrogels and develops synthesis methods. This is intended to pave the way for internationally leading research in this highly current field of research in Germany.
(Coordinator: Prof. Gabriele Sadowski, University of Dortmund)

"Optimisation processes using partial differential equations" are currently one of the greatest challenges facing applications in industry, business and medicine. The innovative approach taken by mathematicians and engineers in this interdisciplinary Priority Programme is to no longer treat the optimisation of the individual components of complex systems and applications separately. Instead, the researchers aim to look directly at the interplay between optimisation processes and numerical simulations, such as are used for aircraft development, an approach which is unique in Europe and has only become possible in recent years thanks to the development of fast computer technology and efficient algorithms for the various partial systems involved.
(Coordinator: Prof. Günter Leugering, University of Erlangen-Nürnberg)


Interaction and lasting dialogue between biologists and engineering scientists forms the heart of the Priority Programme "Natural and technological flow control". The scientists and researchers involved in the programme aim to translate examples from nature into technical applications, a process known as bionics or biomimetics. The use of biological surface structures reduces the flow resistance of objects such as turbine blades, around which flow takes place, as well as minimising noise levels. Engineering science, for its part, inspires new methods and leads to new findings in life sciences.
(Coordinator: Prof. Cameron Tropea, Technical University of Darmstadt)

Materials which can change shape or size in magnetic or electrical fields are used in applications such as scanning tunnelling microscopes and injection valves. In the future new applications may arise in fields such as production technology or minimally invasive surgery. The Priority Programme "Modification of the microstructure and shape of solids through externally applied magnetic fields" will bring material scientists, engineers, mathematicians, physicists and chemists together to work on this key developing technology to connect the findings, which range from basic research in material science to component design.
(Coordinator: Dr. Sebastian Fähler, IFW Leibniz Institute for Solid State and Materials Research Dresden)

"Algorithms for rapid, material specific process chain design and analysis in deformation technology" is the title of the new Priority Programme which will be coordinated in Freiberg. The main topic of this programme is the rapid simulation of manufacturing and processing processes. The scientists and researchers involved aim to establish specialised simulation systems for each process that are suitable both for analysing the entire process chain as well as for control of deforming systems.
(Coordinator: Prof. Rudolf Kawalla, TU Bergakademie, Technical University of Freiberg)

Electrical engineers and communication engineers have joined forces to link research into "Ultrafast radio technology for communication, localisation and sensor technology" throughout Germany in the Priority Programme by the same name. Their objective is to study the fundamentals of ultra-broadband technology and to identify its potential for new areas of application. Research goals include development of high resolution positioning and navigation methods. For sensor technology, they hope to study the interaction between the ultra-broadband field and materials and objects.
(Coordinator: Prof. Reiner Thomä, Technical University of Ilmenau)

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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