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ERC Projects

Advanced Grants

Biological reactions in real time

Prof. Dr Martina Havenith-Newen

Enzymatic reactions are fundamental biological processes that occur in aqueous solutions. Both reaction partners, the enzyme and the substrate, interact with each other. Calorimetry is a method of determining very precisely the amount of heat that occurs in these biological processes under equilibrium conditions before or after the reaction. For the overall balance that decides whether this process is energetically favourable, both the enzyme-substrate interaction and the interaction of both reaction partners with the solvent must be observed. Terahertz (THz) calorimetry, which is being developed in the project, is a new method that allows these individual contributions to be determined using laser spectroscopic fingerprints in the THz range. This enables not only a better understanding but also makes it possible for the first time to investigate calorimetric factors with millionfold better temporal resolution in real time.

The ERC Advanced Grant of Prof. Martina Havenith-Newen is endowed with 2.5 million euros.

Making hardware on the “Internet of Things” secure

Prof. Dr Christof Paar

All areas of everyday life are linked to the Internet of things: a challenge for IT security. Attacks that not only target software but also hardware are considered particularly dangerous. By manipulating the integrated circuits, attackers can circumvent security solutions and gain control of important devices and systems. The ERC project by IT security expert Christof Paar aims to prevent this. It will be comprehensively analysed in what way it is possible to manipulate hardware. This knowledge shall then be used to develop effective countermeasures.

The ERC Advanced Grant of Prof. Dr. Christof Paar is endowed with 2.5 million euros.

Consolidator Grants

Coexistence of Jews and Christians

Prof. Dr Alexandra Cuffel

Prof. Dr. Alexandra Cuffel and her team are investigating how Jews and Christians outside Europe and the Byzantine Empire encountered each other and lived together from the end of late antiquity. The results are intended to close a gap in research: while there has been a great deal of research into the coexistence of European Jews and Christians, the encounter between Oriental Orthodox churches and Jewish communities has so far only been investigated in very isolated cases. The researchers will examine and evaluate manuscripts, books, inscriptions on gravestones, and other archaeological artefacts in various languages, for instance in Armenian, Arabic and Ancient Ethiopian.

The ERC Consolidator Grant of Prof. Dr. Alexandra Cuffel is endowed with around two million euros.

Protecting small chips against attacks

Prof. Dr Eike Kiltz

We are all familiar with small chips: on electronic passports, health cards or in automatic door openers. They are also used in medicine, for instance in pacemakers. They contain information about us that needs to be protected with cryptographic protocols. Together with Prof. Mihir Bellare from the University of California San Diego and Prof. Dr. Christof Paar from the Chair for Embedded Security at RUB, Eike Kiltz is working on new security procedures for such chips.

The ERC Consolidator Grant of Prof. Dr. Eike Kiltz is endowed with 1.8 million euros.

Buddhism along the Silk Road

Prof. Dr Carmen Meinert

Prof. Dr. Carmen Meinert from the Center for Religious Studies uses funds from the Consolidator Grant to conduct research on how Buddhism developed locally in premodern Central Asian cultures. Among other things, she concerns herself with the following questions: How did Buddhism spread in multicultural, multilingual and multireligious Central Asia? What local cultures were also influenced by Buddhist ideas? And how did Buddhist beliefs change by the advance into these extensive regions with deserts and steppes? In the project, researchers are investigating for the first time the supraregional historic connections between the Buddhist traditions of today’s China, India and Tibet and the local Buddhist cultures of Central Asia.

The ERC Consolidator Grant of Prof. Dr. Carmen Meinert is endowed with two million euros.

Catalysts for CO2-Recycling

Prof. Dr Beatriz Roldán Cuenya

Tiny metal particles, just a nanometre in size, can be used as catalysts for various reactions. Numerous parameters influence the catalytic activity of the nanoparticles: their size and shape, the carrier 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. 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 develop catalysts with the best possible efficiency.

The ERC Consolidator Grant of Beatriz Roldán Cuenya is endowed with two million euros.

Starting Grants

New ligand systems

Prof. Dr Viktoria Däschlein-Gessner

Prof. Dr Viktoria Däschlein-Gessner is developing new ligand systems. These chemical systems bind to metals in order to, for instance, influence the activity of catalysts or stabilise reactive particles. With experiments and computer-based studies, her team will build new systems that have an electron-rich carbon atom at the centre. This should make it possible to control the properties and reactivity of the bounded atoms and groups in a targeted manner.

The ERC Starting Grant of Prof. Dr. Viktoria Däschlein-Gessner is endowed with 1.5 million euros.

Family tree of Japanese

Dr Elisabeth de Boer

Prof. Elisabeth de Boer (PhD) is investigating the origins of the Japanese language and how it spread. The Japanese dialect takes very different forms in various regions of the country. Contrary to expectations, the dialects in some regions that are very far apart from each other nevertheless have very similar features. In the first step of her project, de Boer is creating a family tree of the dialects using field studies, linguistic analyses and research involving documents written in older dialects. The results are intended to offer insights into the paths of prehistoric migrations that spread Japanese across the islands.

Improving security for software on the “Internet of Things”

Prof. Dr Thorsten Holz

More and more devices are connected to the Internet and can be manipulated or misused. Thorsten Holz and his team are developing new analysis tools for the software on these devices in order to identify potential weaknesses. What’s more, they are designing new security mechanisms that are intended to protect such devices against attacks. Running the new methods on as many different devices as possible is a particular challenge. Thorsten Holz’ team is thus first translating the various software components into an “intermediary language”.

The ERC Starting Grant of Prof. Thorsten Holz is endowed with 1.5 million euros.

Developing new catalysts

Prof. Dr Stefan M. Huber

Prof. Dr. Stefan M. Huber is working on developing new catalysts. For the first time, they shall use what are known as halogen bridges, a certain weak interaction between molecules. They are supposed to help ensuring that only a certain type of molecule is created that always occurs in two mirror-image forms in many chemical reactions. This is important, for instance, in the pharmaceutical industry, as often only one of the two mirror-image molecules is effective as a drug, while the other frequently causes serious side effects.

The ERC Starting Grant of Prof. Dr. Stefan M. Huber is endowed with 1.5 million euros.

Stabilising catalysts

Dr Nicolas Plumeré

Bringing electricity from renewable energy sources into a storable form, for instance into the chemical fuel hydrogen, poses a challenge. Currently, the expensive and rare metal platinum is usually used as a catalyst for this. Dr. Nicolas Plumeré aims to create a cheaper alternative by making it possible to use enzymes containing nickel or iron from nature for this purpose. As catalysts from such elements are often unstable, the researcher would like to embed them into a stabilising matrix.

The ERC Starting Grant of Dr. Nicolas Plumeré is endowed with 1.5 million euros.

Syrian texts with Greek roots

Dr Rüdiger Arnzen undDr Yury Arzhanov

The team around Dr. Grigory Kessel from the Austrian Academy of Sciences, which includes Dr. Rüdiger Arnzen and Dr. Yury Arzhanov, is setting up a lexical database that contains Syrian and Arabic translations of scientific and philosophical works originating in Greece. The Islamic culture adopted science and philosophy from Ancient Greece. Arabic translators transferred the Greek texts into Arabic, whereby Syrian-speaking scholars often acted as intermediaries. One challenge here was, for instance, finding Syrian and Arabic equivalents for technical terms. The new database – called "Hun@aynNet" – compares the Syrian texts with the Greek originals and the associated Arabic versions in order to gain systematic insights into the terminology and the translation techniques used.

The ERC Starting Grant is endowed with a total of 1.5 million euros.

Gut zu wissen

After it was founded in 2007, the European Research Council (ERC) established itself as a European institution of the utmost international renown. The ERC is open to all research areas and researchers at all career stages. The sole criterion for funding is academic excellence. The reputation of ERC Grants exceeds that of most other comparable individual sources of funding. ERC Grants have become real flagship projects for the quality of research at their universities and strengthen their competitive position. They are thus of great strategic importance.