Highly endowed EU grants for research at TUM

ERC announces five prestigious Consolidator Grants

The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded five Consolidator Grants to scientists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM). The recipients will use the funding to pursue research in quantum computers, sustainable aluminum applications, the regulation of protein functions, mechanisms related to obesity, and changes in forests.

Researchers at TUM have received a total of 140 prestigious ERC Grants to date. The ERC awards grants in various categories every year. Two Advanced Grants , five Starting Grants and three Proof of Concept Grants were recently awarded to TUM researchers.

Consolidator Grants are provided to researchers with between seven and 12 years’ experience since completion of a doctorate, and come with up to 2 million euros in funding for their projects. The latest successful grant applicants at TUM:

Most people know aluminum as a light, silvery metal. Similar to carbon and silicon, there are also compounds of aluminum with organic residues and even molecules containing carbon-aluminum or aluminum-aluminum double bonds. They are highly reactive and therefore of great interest for chemical synthesis and catalysis. These compounds could represent an inexpensive, sustainable and non-toxic alternative to industrial chemical processes currently based on transition metals. In his ALLOWE project, Prof. Shigeyoshi Inoue aims to develop highly reactive, low-valent aluminum complexes for applications in synthesis and catalysis.

Shigeyoshi Inoue is Professor of Silicon Chemistry.

Quantum computers could theoretically be far superior to classical ones when it comes to efficiently solving complex problems. However, quantum computers built to date only use a small number of noisy quantum bits (qubits) and therefore do not match the performance of an ideal quantum computer. Prof. Robert König’s project EQUIPTNT will explore the potential of such restricted quantum devices. Specifically, algorithms will be developed that make it possible to use such devices in applications. In addition, methods to simulate the behavior of associated quantum systems will be developed. These could be used to create models in order to plan the design of quantum devices, to evaluate them or to identify possible problems of a given system. Simulations should also enable the certification of quantum computers.

Robert König is Professor for the Theory of Complex Quantum Systems.

Proteins are the workhorses in the cells of all living beings. The cell is constantly building proteins and recycling the ones that have done their job. A crucial step in regulating protein functions consists of labeling selected proteins with a small protein called ubiquitin. Due to the ubiquity of this protein, many diseases are associated with disorders of processes it is involved in. In her Ubl-tool project, Prof. Kathrin Lang aims at developing a modular and interdisciplinary toolbox using chemical and synthetic biology to investigate widely varying aspects of ubiquitin labeling that cannot be studied by more traditional approaches. Another objective is to find new target points within the ubiquitin system for the discovery of future treatments.

Kathrin Lang is Professor of Synthetic Biochemistry.

Within just a few decades, obesity has become a major health burden worldwide. For many sufferers, weight loss is of vital importance. However, the pounds lost through dieting are often regained just as quickly. Paul Pfluger, TUM professor of the Neurobiology of Diabetes doing research at the Helmholtz Zentrum München, wants to identify the molecular processes responsible for this yo-yo dieting phenomenon. To this end, he is conducting research into the molecular underpinnings for resistance to the "satiety hormone" leptin and the potential of new weight loss drugs. In addition, he is studying epigenetic mechanisms behind the yo-yo effect and the role of specific neurons in this process. Pfluger aims to use CRISPR-Cas9 technology to test whether there is an epigenetic memory for obesity that can be reset by manipulating neurons. In that way he hopes to lay the foundation for sustainable anti-obesity treatments.

Paul Pfluger is Professor of the Neurobiology of Diabetes at TUM and conducts research at the Helmholtz Zentrum München.

Forest ecosystems worldwide are undergoing rapid transformation processes. Climate change and the loss of biodiversity are changing the structure and composition of forest ecosystems. In the project "FORWARD - causes and consequences of the reorganization of forest ecosystems", Prof. Rupert Seidl is studying the impact of the worldwide changes on tree mortality and the shift in the forest age structure in favor of younger trees. The goal is to understand what can cause a reorganization of forests, when and where changes in forests are highly likely, and what impact these changes can have. The project combines experiments in the field as well as walk-in climate chambers with long-term observations and simulation modeling. It aims to provide important decision-making resources for forest policy and management in the form of early warning indicators for the reorganization of forests and a first map of global forest change hotspots.

Rupert Seidl is Professor of Ecosystem Dynamics and Forest Management in Mountain Landscapes.


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