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European research Council Grants

The European Research Council (ERC) supports cross-disciplinary research projects, ground-breaking ideas in emerging fields of research, and innovative and unconventional approaches. The ERC supports individual outstanding researchers from any country and of any age.

Prof Dr Martina Havenith – ERC Advanced Grant

Prof Dr Martina Havenith

With her 2.5 million ERC Advanced Grant, Prof Dr Martina Havenith plans to develop a ground-breaking methodology called "Time-Resolved THz-Calorimetry". Scientists will tinker with Terahertz (THz) laser spectroscopy to deduce with nanosecond precision how proteins and solvent exchange energy and rearrange themselves in a biological process. Unfortunately, current calorimetric approaches are all based on heat transfer, hence they deliver results on time scales of 1 to 100 seconds and can analyse the system only at equilibrium, i.e. when molecules are already bound. However, the dynamic interplay between the partner molecules and the solvent is crucial to biological reactions. THz-Calorimetry promises to investigate these processes, for the first time in real time with a million time better time resolution. Martina Havenith’s research project is scheduled to start on October 1, 2016.
(Foto: © RUB, Marquard)

Prof Dr Christof Paar – ERC Advanced Grant

Prof Dr Christof Paar

The upcoming Internet of Things (IoT) will interconnect many devices of everyday life. Even though there are many new services for consumers, this development also poses a major security challenge. Attacks that target the hardware chips that are present in all IoT devices, rather than the software, are considered particularly dangerous. By manipulating integrated circuits attackers can, for instance, circumvent security solutions and gain control over crucial devices and systems. The project of IT security expert Christof Paar, which is funded with 2.5 million euros by the ERC, intends to avert that. In a first step, the researchers plan to analyse the different ways in which hardware can be manipulated. In the second phase, countermeasures will be developed. Estimated start date of the research project: October 1, 2016. (Foto: © RUB, Nelle)

Press release

Prof Dr Alexandra Cuffel – ERC Consolidator Grant

Prof Dr Alexandra Cuffel

Under the umbrella of the project JEWSEAST, an international team headed by Professor Cuffel analyses in the ways which Jews and Christians outside Europe and the Byzantine Empire interacted and lived together after the Late Antiquity period. The results are intended to close a research gap: while the coexistence between European Jews and Christians is considered to be well researched, the interaction between Oriental-Orthodox Churches and Jewish communities has been only sporadically looked into. The researchers are going to study and evaluate manuscripts, books, headstone inscriptions and other archaeological artefacts in different languages, e.g. in Armenian, Arabic and Ancient Ethiopic.

Prof Dr Eike Kiltz – ERC Consolidator

Prof Dr Eike Kiltz

Grant Small chips are a familiar sight: in the electronic passport, the electronic health card or automated electric strikes. They are also used in healthcare, i.e. in pacemakers. They contain information about us that have to be protected with cryptographic protocols. In collaboration with Prof Mihir Bellare from the University of California San Diego and Prof Christof Paar from the Chair for Embedded Security at RUB, Prof Kiltz develops novel security processes for such chips. Eike Kiltz will be granted a total volume of 1.8 million euros for his project, starting in November 2014. The grants awarded by the European Research Council enable research talents to realise new ideas. The research council backs young scientists with up to two million euros for the period of five years.

Press release

Prof Dr Carmen Meinert – ERC Consolidator Grant

Prof Dr Carmen Meinert from the Center for Religious Studies

Prof Dr Carmen Meinert from the Center for Religious Studies will use the funds from the ERC Consolidator Grant to investigate, how Buddhist localisations were shaped in premodern Central Asian cultures on a regional level. In the process, Meinert will study questions such as: How did Buddhism spread in multi-cultural, multi-linguistic and multi-religious Central Asia? Which local cultures were influenced by Buddhist ideas? And how did Buddhist beliefs change following the foray into those vast regions of deserts and steppes? In the course of the project, the researchers will for the first time investigate the transregional historical links between the Buddhist traditions in modern China, India and Tibet and the regional Buddhist cultures in Central Asia.

Prof Dr Beatriz Roldán Cuenya – ERC Consolidator Grant

Prof Dr Beatriz Roldán Cuenya

At the cluster of excellence Resolv Prof Dr Beatriz Roldán Cuenya investigates tiny metal particles, which can be used as catalysts for various reactions. Numerous parameters influence the catalytic activity of the nanoparticles: their size and shape, the support material to which the particles are bound, the environment, and the chemical state of the particles, i.e., for instance, whether they are present as a pure metal or as an oxide. Little is currently understood about the role of particle shape; what’s more, the aforementioned parameters can also influence each other. With funds from the ERC Consolidator Grant Beatriz Roldán Cuenya would like to understand in detail how the geometric and electronic properties of the nanoparticles determine their catalytic activity. This would make it possible to specifically design catalysts with the best possible efficiency.

Dr. Rüdiger Arnzen, Dr. Yury Arzhanov – ERC Starting Grant (Participation)

Dr Rüdiger Arnzen, Dr Yury Arzhanov

Yury Arzhanov and Rüdiger Arnzen want to create a lexical database with Syrian and Arabic translations of scientific and philosophical works that originated in Greece. They are participating in an ERC Starting Grant totaling 1.5 million Euro; Principal Investigator is Dr Grigory Kessel of the Austrian Academy of Science.

The Islamic culture had links to the science and philosophy of ancient Greece. Arabic translators conveyed the Greek writings into Arabic, a process in which Syrian-speaking scholars often acted as the mediators. One challenge, for example, was to find corresponding Syrian and Arabic terms.

The new database – which bears the artificial name of "Hun@aynNet" compares the Syrian texts with the Greek originals and the associated Arabic versions, in order to get systematic insights into the terminology and translation techniques used.

Prof. Dr Viktoria Däschlein-Gessner – ERC Starting Grant

Prof Dr Viktoria Däschlein-Gessner

With funds from the ERC Starting Grant, Viktoria Däschlein-Gessner wants to develop new ligand systems with unique bonding properties. These chemical systems are bound to metals, for example to influence the activity of catalysts or to stabilize reactive compound.

With experiments and computer-based studies, her team will set up new systems which have an electron-rich carbon atom at their core. This is designed to make it possible to specifically control the characteristics and reactivity of the bound atoms and groups.

Dr. Elisabeth de Boer – ERC Starting Grant

 Dr Elisabeth de Boer

The linguist Elisabeth de Boer will use the ERC grant to study how the Japanese language came to Japan and how it spread there. The Japanese dialect differs very greatly in different regions of the country. However, contrary to expectations, the dialects in some areas quite far apart from one another have very similar characteristics.

In the first step of her project, de Boer wants to create a reliable family tree of the dialects, using field studies, linguistic analyses, and research in documents written in older dialects. The results are designed to provide insights into the migration pathways of the prehistoric populations that spread the Japanese language across the islands.

Prof Dr Thorsten Holz – ERC Starting Grant

Prof Dr Thorsten Holz

With his 1.5 million ERC Starting Grant, Prof Dr Thorsten Holz plans to improve the security of the “Internet of Things”. The number of devices connected to the Internet is continuously on the increase, and they are thus liable to manipulation and misuse. Under the umbrella of the project “Leveraging Binary Analysis to Secure the Internet of thiNgs – BASTION”, developers at his Chair are designing new analysis tools for these devices, with the purpose of finding potential vulnerabilities. In addition, they design novel security mechanisms meant to protect such devices from attacks. A considerable challenge is making the new methods run on as many devices as possible. Therefore, Thorsten Holz’ team initially translates different software components into an intermediate language.

Prof Dr Stefan M. Huber – ERC Starting Grant

Prof Dr Stefan M. Huber

With his 1.5 million ERC Starting Grant, Prof Dr Stefan M. Huber has dedicated himself to developing novel catalysers. They are meant to pioneer the utilisation of so-called “halogen bridges”, a specific weak interaction between molecules. Thus, they will help to form one specific type of molecules, which are typically generated as two mirrored shapes in chemical reactions. This is relevant, for example, for the pharmaceutical industry, because often only one of the two mirrored molecules presents efficacy as a drug, while the other one frequently causes severe side effects.

Dr. Nicolas Plumeré – ERC Starting Grant

 Dr Nicolas Plumeré

Nicolas Plumeré wants to use the ERC funds to move closer to applications for highly active, but fragile catalysts for energy conversion. It is a challenge to transform energy from renewable energy sources into a form that can be stored, for example the chemical fuel hydrogen. Currently, doing so usually requires using the expensive and rare metal platinum as a catalyst.

The goal of the chemist is to create a less expensive alternative by making it possible to use naturally occurring enzymes that contain nickel or iron for this purpose. Since catalysts of such elements are often unstable, the researcher wants to embed them in a stabilizing matrix.