Scholarship Holders in 2023

© Frankfurt University Hospital

Dr. Nico Bast
Frankfurt University Hospital
“The brain’s response to stress as a biological basis of psychological problems”

Stress is a significant influencing factor in the development of psychological problems. However, little is yet known about how the release of hormones under stress leads to modified perception in the brain – but this is essential for a better understanding of the biological basis for the psychological effects of stress. In his project, Nico Bast uses pupillometry to investigate the effects of cortisol release on neurophysiological stimulus transmission in the brain in an experimental setting. He is particularly interested in the effects of the stress axis on the expression of norepinephrine and its consequences for sensory processing. His aim is to better understand the biological basis for the development of psychological disorders. In the long term, he hopes to contribute to prevention and to the promotion of mental health.

As senior psychologist and a registered psychotherapist, Nico Bast combines fundamental neurobiological research with patient care in pediatric and adolescent psychiatry at Frankfurt University Hospital. His research focuses on the biological fundamentals of neural developmental disorders. Methodologically, he is further developing the analysis of video-based eye movement in order to make stress responses in natural behavior measurable.


Dr. Christopher Degelmann
Humboldt University, Berlin
“Postfacticity in pre-modern communities?”

Postfacticity has long been a highly topical issue. Seeking recourse to “fake news” and alleged conspiracies is proving popular for either dispelling or launching accusations: either everything claimed by the other side is mere hearsay, or one has unofficially learned of the real intention behind a plan that is presented. Among the Western industrialized nations, politics based on such rhetoric is seen as dysfunctional and a threat to democracy. This project, on the other hand, assumes that “alternative facts” and conspiracy theories already played an important role in pre-modern times: in the absence of modern mass media, they helped establish the flow of information to the politically interested public.

Christopher Degelmann is a researcher at the Department of Ancient History in global perspective at Berlin’s Humboldt University; he is a member of the Junge Akademie at the BBAW and Leopoldina. Research sojourns have taken him for example to Edinburgh, Dresden, and Bonn. In addition to the political culture of Greco-Roman antiquity, his research focuses above all on the ancient history of the body, gender, and discipline.


© University of Potsdam - Thomas Roese

Prof. Dr. Tim Dietrich
in cooperation with the Reinhard Frank Foundation
University of Potsdam

„NUMANJI: Nuclear physics and Multi-messenger AstroNomy through Joint bayesian Inference“

Neutron stars are among the most compact objects in our universe and allow us to probe material properties at extreme limits. A single teaspoon of neutron-star material would weigh about 1 billion tons, roughly corresponding to Mount Everest's mass. Neutron stars can exist in binary systems, i. e., two neutron stars that orbit around each other and will eventually collide. My group studies through numerical-relativity simulations the collision of two neutron stars. These studies are of great interest since they allow us to investigate the properties of matter at extreme densities, to measure our universe's expansion rate, and to understand which processes can form heavy elements, such as gold or platinum. A detailed study of neutron stars and neutron-star collisions requires interdisciplinary knowledge and an international set of experts, including nuclear physicists, numerical relativists, gravitational-wave data analysts, theoretical modelers, astrophysicists, and astronomers. The NUMANJI project aims to bring together experts from all these disciplines and foster an international knowledge exchange.

Tim Dietrich studied physics at the Universities Halle-Wittenberg and Jena, where he earned his doctorate in 2016. He has been a postdoctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics and a Marie Sklodowska Curie Fellow at Nikhef, the Dutch National Institute for Subatomic Physics. Since February 2020, Dietrich is an assistant professor for Theoretical Astrophysics at the University of Potsdam and, in addition, since July 2021, a Max Planck Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics.


Dr. Simon Fleischmann 
in cooperation with the Reinhard Frank Foundation
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology

“Sodium replaces lithium: development of new electrode materials for a more sustainable battery cell”

Lithium-ion batteries are in enormous demand for e-cars, portable electronics and stationary energy storage systems, for example – with an upward trend. Whereas previous developments were mostly concerned with increasing energy density, aspects of sustainability are becoming more and more important in these times of disrupted supply chains and raw material shortages. One promising approach is to replace lithium with sodium, which is chemically similar but is available in large quantities. However, the greater diameter of its ions places high demands on the electrodes in terms of absorbing and releasing the ions with high reversibility. In his project, Simon Fleischmann is researching new electrode materials that can be specifically designed for the transport of sodium at fast rates and with high long-term stability.

The materials scientist Simon Fleischmann received his doctorate from Saarland University in 2018. He then spent two years as a postdoc researcher at North Carolina State University and one year as winner of the Young Energy Storage Scientist Award and a fellow at Université Paul Sabatier in Toulouse. He has been a junior research group leader at the Helmholtz Institute Ulm since November 2021.


Dr. Caroline Heneka
University of Heidelberg, Institute for Theoretical Physics
“Surveying the universe with multicolored maps”

What did our universe look like more than 12 billion years ago, after the first galaxies had just been formed? How has it developed since that time? To find out more, instead of relying on images of individual galaxies, this project uses new maps of the entire sky, known as intensity mappings. These are generated in more than 100 colors using space telescopes such as the new SPHEREx satellite (Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization, and Ices Explorer) from NASA. The maps show for example the brightness and frequency of the first galaxies and how they have developed since the dawn of the cosmos.

Caroline Heneka studied physics at Heidelberg University and received her doctorate from the University of Copenhagen in 2017. After carrying out postdoctoral research at the University of Hamburg and the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa, Italy, and a sojourn at the German Aerospace Center, she has headed the Freigeist Junior Research Group “Computer Vision Astrophysics” at the Institute of Theoretical Physics in Heidelberg since late 2022.


Prof. Dr. Alena Khmelinskaia
(Life Sciences)
University of Bonn, Life & Medical Sciences Institute (TRA matter)
„Design of protein materials for controlled cargo release“

Protein nanoparticles are particularly modular biomaterials, having three distinct genetically defined surfaces available for functionalization: (i) interiors, to compartmentalize molecules; (ii) exteriors, to interact with their surroundings; and (iii) inter-subunit surfaces, to determine the assembly. Recent development of computational methods for designing novel protein assemblies with atomic-level accuracy greatly expanded our engineering capabilities well beyond the natural realm. Nonetheless, their use as delivery molecules has been obstructed by their intrinsic features: on one hand, design is limited to simple polyhedral assemblies that are often porous; on the other, assemblies are designed to be static and highly stable. The goal of this proposal is to gain control over release of cargo molecules by designing a class of protein materials based on homopolyhedra 2-compound assemblies, whose assembly state and porosity change in response to pH.

Alena Khmelinskaia received her PhD in Physics from the LMU München for her research work at the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry. She moved to the University of Washington as a postdoctoral fellow before taking up an Argelander Junior Professorship at the University of Bonn. Within 2023, her lab will move to the Chemistry Department at the LMU München, where she has recently accepted the Professorship for Biophysical Chemistry.


© University of Augsburg

Prof. Dr. Tobias Lutzi
(Law, Private Law)
University of Augsburg, Faculty of Law
“A new era in punitive damages?”

At the latest since the widely publicized sentencing of a fast-food chain to pay millions of dollars to the buyer of a coffee that was too hot, sentences for damages often amounting to astronomical sums have numbered among the most prominent peculiarities of (not only) U.S. law. Such payments for “punitive damages,” which serve both as compensation and punishment, are unknown in German legislation, and German courts refuse to recognize such sentences imposed by foreign courts. At two consecutive conferences, the research project examines the question of whether this inflexible attitude requires revision in view of developments in foreign legislation, but also in German and European damages law.

Tobias Lutzi studied law in Cologne, Paris, and Oxford. From 2015 to 2018, he earned his doctorate at the University of Oxford and then worked as a temporary Academic Councilor at the University of Cologne. He has been Junior Professor for Private Law (Tenure Track) at the University of Augsburg since 2022.


Dr. Katharina Methner
University of Leipzig, Institute of Geophysics and Geology
“Fossil soils reveal climate change in mountain regions”

In her project, Katharina Methner researches the climatic changes that took place 20 to 15 million years ago in the Northern Rocky Mountains and on what is now the Columbia Plateau. This period was characterized by extreme global climate changes. She is examining how sensitive mountain regions were to these developments. It is interesting that while much is known about the global climate on the basis of the extensive archives from the oceans, the climate on land and in mountain regions often developed very differently.

Katharina Methner studied earth sciences in Hannover and Bern and earned her doctorate at the University of Frankfurt a. M., where as a postdoc researcher she started out on her academic career as a geochemist and paleoclimate researcher. A two-year sojourn at Stanford University then followed. She is currently conducting research at the University of Leipzig on climatic changes throughout the earth’s history. For this purpose, she uses fossil soils as climate archives, which in the course of their formation store information on temperature, precipitation and vegetation.


Dr. Marisa Nordt
University Hospital of RWTH Aachen, Clinic for Pediatric and Adolescent Psychiatry
“Perception of faces and gestures in typical and atypical courses of development”

What processes take place in our brains when we recognize faces and gestures, and how do these abilities develop in childhood? What role does experience play in this? This project investigates such questions using an innovative combination of methods. The goal is to better characterize the development of perceptual processes and thus contribute to a deeper understanding of developmental disorders with perceptual deficits, such as autism.

Marisa Nordt received her doctorate in cognitive neuroscience from the Faculty of Psychology at the University of Bochum. She then conducted postdoc research at Stanford University. She has been a junior research group leader at the University Hospital of RWTH Aachen University since 2022.


Prof. Dr. Hendrik Ranocha
(Numerical Mathematics)
University of Hamburg, Department of Mathematics
“Efficient structure-preserving numerical methods”

Many problems in science and engineering are modeled using evolution equations, which often can only be solved by numerical simulation. Examples are the propagation of tsunami waves, air flow around wind turbines, or models for the spread of diseases. This project analyzes the mathematical structures of evolution equations. On this basis, new numerical methods are constructed that preserve these structures and thus make the simulations more reliable. To improve efficiency, this is being combined with adaptive methods.

Hendrik Ranocha studied physics and mathematics at TU Braunschweig. After receiving his doctorate in numerical mathematics, he undertook postdoc research at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia and at the University of Münster, before joining the University of Hamburg as an assistant professor in 2022.


Prof. Dr. Hannah Ruschemeier
(Law, Public Law)
FernUniversität in Hagen, Department of Public Law with a focus on the law of digitalization/data protection law
“Trial and error – experimental regulation of digital technologies in a multi-level system”

The dynamics of digital transformation appear to be in conflict with the reactive approach of law. Digital technology is developing at a rapid pace, while legislation, on the other hand, is slow – because the democratic law-making process necessitates compromises and legally sound procedures. Experimental regulation sets out to create flexibility through instruments such as experimentation clauses and living labs. This research project examines the concept of experimental regulation, with a particular focus on the so-called “regulatory sandboxes” in the European Commission’s proposed regulation on artificial intelligence.

Hannah Ruschemeier studied law in Münster and Athens and earned her doctorate from the University of Düsseldorf with a thesis on additive fundamental rights intervention. Since 2022, she has been junior professor (tenure track) of Public Law with a focus on data protection law/law of digitalization at the FernUniversität in Hagen.


Dr. Oskar Staufer
Leibniz Institute for New Materials, Saarbrücken
“Artificial lymph nodes as a new vaccination technology”

Lymph nodes play a crucial role in the immune system, as they coordinate defense against infectious pathogens. They also control the formation of an immunological memory that can help to eliminate pathogens more rapidly in future. This mechanism is used for vaccinations by presenting the immune system with harmless components of a pathogen in a vaccine. For many pathogens, however, this strategy is insufficient because no long-term memory is formed. This research project sets out to pave the way for the generation of entirely artificial lymph nodes as a new vaccination technology. The artificial lymph nodes are made from cell-like microscopic silicone droplets that combine to form a three-dimensional synthetic tissue. These mimic the biochemical and mechanical properties of natural lymph nodes to specifically enhance the formation of memory cells.

The biologist Oskar Staufer received his doctorate from the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg. He then carried out research as a Marie Skłodowska Curie Fellow at Oxford University and has been an independent scientist at the Leibniz Institute for New Materials in Saarbrücken since 2022.