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Leibniz Programme for Women Professors

Influenza at the Animal-Human Interface: One Health

Heinrich Pette Institute – Leibniz Institute for Experimental Virology (HPI)

Candidate: Prof. Dr. Gülsah Gabriel
Cooperating University: University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation (TiHo)

The main aim of our research is to understand the molecular basis of highly pathogenic avian influenza A virus (HPAIV) interspecies transmission from birds to humans. A particular focus here lies on HPAIV pathogenesis in humans upon zoonotic infection. Therefore, we are modelling various aspects of influenza disease in respective small animals. In order to identify and analyze the impact of viral and cellular determinants of HPAIV mediated disease in mammals, we are additionally employing various high-end in vitro techniques. Findings from the respective animal models are then challenged regarding their human relevance by recruitment of human influenza cohorts. Furthermore, findings with influenza A viruses are translated to other viral pathogens in order to understand and identify potential common disease pathways which might act as targets for therapeutic intervention. Finally, we aim to establish novel antiviral treatment strategies against influenza which are then evaluated in vitro and in vivo regarding their efficacy. 


Geobiodiversity: assessing the impacts of mountain building and climate change on evolution and ecology of mammals and birds

Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung (SGN)

Candidate: Dr. Susanne Fritz
Cooperating University: Goethe University Frankfurt

To address the fundamental global challenges of biodiversity protection and sustainable use of natural resources by humankind, we need to understand and model the distribution of biological diversity in time and space. Diversity patterns and their underlying processes are studied in evolution and ecology with living species in the present-day environment, whereas the fields of paleontology and paleoecology study the same processes but use extinct species and a deep-time, geological perspective. Until recently, there has been very little overlap and communication between these fields. Therefore, it is not fully understood how evolution and ecology of organisms are influenced by Earth-system processes such as mountain building and climate change, and how human activities modify such interactions. The core goal of the proposed geobiodiversity professorship is to provide a much-needed integration across geology, paleontology, evolution, and ecology, to understand and model the specific impacts of Earth-system dynamics and anthropogenic impacts on biodiversity in time and space. The candidate, Dr Susanne Fritz, has excellent qualifications for this professorship. She has a high-impact publication record, including integrative work at the intersection of paleontology with evolution and ecology, and core expertise in macroevolution and biogeography of mammals and birds. As an Emmy Noether research group leader, she has acquired prestigious third-party funding, and she has five years of international research experience. The proposal aims to establish an institutionalized cooperation professorship at Goethe University Frankfurt and Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung, which would be embedded in an existing strong cooperation and provide a crucial conceptual and methodological bridge between the Senckenberg mission and major focal research areas across the Departments of Geosciences/Geography and Biosciences at Goethe University.


Leibniz Professorship for Applied Labour Economics at the University of Heidelberg

Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW)

Candidate: Prof. Dr. Melanie Arntz
Cooperating University: Heidelberg University

The proposal aims at establishing a professorship for applied labour economics at Heidelberg University joint with the Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW). The proposed candidate, Melanie Arntz, focuses on the effects of macroeconomic phenomena on labour markets and individual workers. Her work is grounded in labor and regional economics. Together with a team of researchers at ZEW, she looks at phenomena such as the international division of labor or the ongoing digitalization of the labour market in order to examine the consequences that these structural changes have on individual workers, their careers as well as their adjustment strategies in terms of occupational, industrial and spatial mobility. In addition, she is also interested in understanding how these impacts differ across European countries and regions by taking account of institutional and structural differences between regional and national labour markets in Europe that may contribute to regional disparities in these outcomes. Hence, her research approach bridges a gap between the micro-oriented perspective of labour economics and the more macro-oriented perspective of regional economics.  For ZEW as well as Heidelberg University, this research agenda is highly complementary, but at the same time has sufficient overlap to other research groups to allow for fruitful discussions and an exchange of ideas. At the University of Heidelberg, the proposed Leibniz professorship would strengthen applied labour economics within the Alfred-Weber-Institute for Economics (AWI) and also provide opportunities for students and professors to get involved in policy-oriented research. For ZEW, the affiliation to Heidelberg University, among others, provides the opportunity to intensify the exchange and cooperation with scholars from Heidelberg University in order to develop and pursue a research agenda that is state of the art.


Professorship Neurocognitive Development

Leibniz Institute for Neurobiology (LIN)

Candidate: Dr. Nicole Wetzel
Cooperating University: Magdeburg-Stendal University of Applied Sciences

The Leibniz Institute for Neurobiology (LIN) and Dr. habil. Nicole Wetzel will jointly apply for the Leibniz Program for Women Professors 2018.  The newly established research professorship Neurocognitive Development will represent the field of neurocognitive development during childhood and will be affiliated at the LIN and the Hochschule Magdeburg-Stendal (HS).  The professorship focuses on the development of auditory cognition including their underlying neuronal mechanisms. The research plan comprises in particular the systematic investigation of the developmental pathway of attention control and effects of influencing factors such as motivation, emotion, and the social context in healthy children. Attention control will also be investigated in real life situations and in atypically developed children. The special aim of the professorship is the translation of basic research findings into application as well as research-related teaching in the field of neurocognitive development. This project is of high social relevance as it can significantly contribute to improve the conditions for learning and for child development in the long term. The focus of the LIN on basic research on learning and memory mechanisms in animals and humans and the outstanding expertise in application-oriented research on early learning and education at the Department of Applied Human Sciences at the HS provide an excellent basis for successful collaboration. The professorship will be embedded in well-established research networks of both institutions and in the Leibniz Education Research Network. Furthermore, it will be located at an interdisciplinary interface that enables the development of new and innovative approaches to understand the development of cognitive functions and their neural basis. The scientific background and the excellent academic qualifications of the candidate ensure the successful realization of this innovative and interdisciplinary project.


W2-tenure track professorship as a joint appointment of DWI - Leibniz-Institute and RWTH Aachen University

DWI – Leibniz Institute for Interactive Materials

Candidate: Dr. Laura De Laporte
Cooperating University: RWTH Aachen

Together with RWTH University, we propose Dr.-Ing. De Laporte for a W2-professorship. She is highly qualified (ERC starting grant, habilitation in progress) and DWI has agreed with the RWTH on the tenure track procedure. The field of her research and scholarship concerns the interface of synthetic materials and living matter. Her research focuses on the controlled interaction of synthetic matrices with living cells by the development of hierarchically structured biomaterials. Materials will be explored for in vitro, ex vivo (organ models), and in vivo biohybrid constructs, where the mutual interaction of the material with mammalian cells will be directed to generating physiologically functional tissue useful in medical applications. Particular challenges concern hydrogel components that can be injected as a liquid but then structured in situ. The term hierarchically denotes controlled structural variation on the length scales from functional molecular subunits up to macroscopic dimensions, but also the time scales due to the alterations upon interaction with living cells. Parameters are anisotropy, porosity, as well as gradients in mechanical properties, ligands, and biochemical signals, as well as time-dependent degradation, mechanical relaxation and stiffening, and the release of biochemical factors. The tools and methods to generate such hierarchical structures involve (i) a biocompatible hydrogel chemistry, (ii) new concepts for structuring such gels via self-assembly and in external fields, and (iii) 3D-printing of these gels to establish layered and hierarchical structures. A further aspect concerns (iv) the mechanical actuation of these types of materials. More specifically, Dr. De Laporte studies mechanical and biological guidance of nerve cells, layered gels to better mimic the native anisotropic architecture of cartilage, and new concepts for local mechano-stimulation.