Scholarship Holders in 2024

© privat

Dr. Anna Axtner-Borsutzky
(Literary Studies)
LMU Munich, Institute for German Philology
“Polyvalent gardens. German drama and European landscape architecture around 1800”

This project is situated at the interface of German literature, garden art, and theater studies. It investigates the connections between gardens and dramatic literature around 1800 and systematically interprets their diverse functions. Each form of garden follows its own laws, has its own connotations and illustrates the constantly changing relationship between humans and nature. Gardens are mirrors of the political, social and aesthetic transformations of their time. Literature observes and reflects these transformations and even plays a role in designing the gardens. This project follows the traces of these cultural upheavals on the basis of gardens in texts and on the stage.

Anna Axtner-Borsutzky is a temporary Academic Councilor at the Institute for German Philology at LMU Munich, where she received her doctorate in 2022. This was followed by postdoc studies at Bielefeld University and the DFG-funded Walter Benjamin tenure at Humboldt University in Berlin. In 2024, she will be embarking on a research sojourn at New York University. Her main interests include archival research, environmental humanities, intellectual constellations of the post-war period, and femmes de lettres.


© privat

Jun.-Prof. Dr. Ana Djurdjevac
Freie Universität Berlin, Department of Mathematics and Computer Science
“Advances in numerical methods for fluctuating hydrodynamics and hybrid algorithms”

It is often the case that dynamics of various systems can be considered on different levels: from very detailed descriptions of every entity to a continuum description of the density of the system. Typical examples appear in molecular dynamics, biology and social sciences. Fluctuating hydrodynamics is somewhere in between and accounts for the random fluctuations and noise in (fluid) systems. It often includes the description of the empirical density of the system, which is in mathematical terminology described by so-called stochastic partial differential equations. These equations can be seen as a model reduction that is suitable for the simulations of these systems. We would like to investigate some of the methods for discretization of these sorts of problems. In particular, it is very interesting to study hybrid algorithms that combine the descriptions on different levels.

Ana Djurdjevac studied Mathematics at the University of Belgrade, Serbia, and received her doctorate from Freie Universität Berlin in 2018. Afterwards, she has been a postdoctoral researcher at Technische Universität Berlin as well as a research investigator within the project "Scaling Cascades in Complex Systems", sponsord by Deutsche Forschungsgesellschaft. In 2022, she was awarded the Hanna Neumann fellowship by the Berlin Mathematics Research Center MATH+, Cluster of Excellence. Since 2022, she is holding a tenure-track position at Freie Universität Berlin as Junior Professor for Numerical analysis and stochastic.


© privat

Dr. André Ferreira Castro
(Life Sciences)
Technical University of Munich (TUM), School of Life Sciences
“Synaptic size tuning in the developing brain“

How do most animals perform essential tasks for survival right after birth and attain proficiency within a few years? This problem has fascinated neuroscientists for decades. Theoreticians have proposed an explanation of this phenomenon: evolution has equipped animals with developmental mechanisms that efficiently tune individual synapses, i.e., the nanometer-scale structures that connect neurons in our brains. However, validating these theories remained challenging due to the high-resolution required to image neuronal circuits at this scale. The advent of advanced electron microscopy (EM) techniques have allowed synaptic-level mapping of neural circuits, offering a chance to test theories about synapse and circuit assembly. André’s research aims to test the prevailing theoretical models of synaptic size tuning during development using EM datasets. Ultimately, his project will examine how neural circuits employ tuning mechanisms to establish proper synapse size and strength in the developing brain.

André Ferreira Castro is a neuroscientist, pursuing his graduate studies at several institutions in Germany, Japan and USA. His postdoctoral research was at the University of Cambridge and the Medical Research Council Laboratory for Molecular Biology (UK), and at Columbia University (USA). He is currently a Project Leader at the Technical University of Munich, merging theory and experimental data in the field of neuroscience.


© Carmen and Ingo Photography

Prof. Dr. Martin Glanzer  
University of Mannheim, Faculty of Business Administration
“Sustainable water management”

In his project, Martin Glanzer investigates the sustainable use of water, a resource that has often become scarce, especially as a result of climate change. Based on an ongoing project carried out together with colleagues at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) on the sustainable management of water reservoirs in that state, the project aims to develop new analytical models for optimizing strategic management of the consumption of stored fresh water.

Martin Glanzer has been Assistant Professor of Operations Management at the University of Mannheim’s Business School since February 2023. Prior to this, he was active as a postdoc at the University of Zurich and as a doctoral candidate at the University of Vienna. He has spent periods of research lasting several months at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and the UCLA Anderson School of Management. His research focuses on the development, analysis, and algorithmic solution of analytical prescriptive decision models (“from data to decisions”).


© privat

Dr. Matthias Gröschel
Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Department of Infectiology, Pneumology and Intensive Care Medicine
“Generative AI in everyday clinical practice”

Large-scale language models such as GPT-4 or Bard have received much attention on the part of experts and the general public over the past year, mainly due to their diverse applications – for example in the healthcare sector, to improve patient care. Their wide range of applications includes areas such as the processing and understanding of clinical documentation and the formulation of patient-specific answers to inquiries. Matthias Gröschel’s group aims to test the suitability of large-scale AI language models in patient care. In a randomized clinical trial as part of this funded project, he is endeavoring to enhance the ability of these models to increase the proportion of guideline-based therapies among chronically ill patients.

Matthias Gröschel studied philosophy and human medicine at the Universities of Groningen and Oldenburg. In connection with his doctoral thesis, he conducted research on the genomics of mycobacteria at the Institut Pasteur in Paris and the National Reference Center for Mycobacteria in Borstel. He was a DFG-funded postdoc at Harvard Medical School. Since 2021, Matthias Gröschel has been undergoing training as a specialist in internal medicine with the Specialty Network Infectious Diseases and Respiratory Medicine and Intensive Care Medicine at Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin and is currently participating in the Junior Digital Clinician Scientist Program of the Berlin Institute of Health.


© SPIE Two Dudes and a Booth

Jun.-Prof. Dr. Christina Jörg
(Optics and Photonics)
University Kaiserslautern-Landau (RPTU), Department of Physics
“3D photonic structures from non-linear organic-polymer mixtures”

Photonics is all about the usage and control of light. By means of structures on the scale of light wavelengths, the propagation of light can be manipulated with the aim of influencing one light signal by another. This is important, for example in order to be able to rapidly switch between different routes in the transmission of data via optical fibers. Unfortunately, however, light particles normally pass through each other without interacting. To make light particles interact, we need materials with optical non-linearity, whose properties change when two or more light quanta interact. But many of these materials are limited to planar structures, which restricts their potential applications. Christina Jörg is therefore setting out to produce 3D structures from an organic-polymer mixture by blending a non-linear powder with photoresist and using it to print 3D microstructures. This research is opening up new perspectives for non-linear 3D metamaterials, optical switching, photonic neural networks, and much more.

Christina Jörg studied physics at TU Kaiserslautern, where she earned her doctorate in 2019. She then went to Pennsylvania State University as a Feodor Lynen Fellow. Since October 2022, she has been Junior Professor of Experimental Physics at RPTU Kaiserslautern-Landau.


© Karin Becker für Kortizes

Dr. Kathrin Nägele
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
“The genetic legacy of the first inhabitants of the American continents”

The colonial invasion of Europeans at the end of the 15th century brought about an upheaval of the cultural, linguistic, and genetic landscapes, especially on the American continents. The linguistics and genetic data of people living today therefore allow only incomplete reconstructions of their human history. By means of ancient DNA (genetic material from people who died long ago), the genetic landscape prior to the arrival of Europeans can be reconstructed and lost genetic variability can be rediscovered. With the production of high-quality ancient genomes from pre-colonial times, we can detect recent mutations to obtain a more detailed picture of the colonization of the American continents.

The archaeogeneticist Kathrin Nägele earned her doctorate from the Max Planck Institute of Geoanthropology in Jena on the first colonization of Caribbean and Pacific islands. As a winner of the Otto Hahn Award, she has headed the independent research group “Tropical Archaeogenomics” at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology since 2023.


© Sarah Bernhard

Dr. Alexander Patzina
Otto Friedrich University of Bamberg
“The German labor market and social trust”

Trust in people unknown to us is crucial for the cohesion of societies. Since trust arises in interactions between people, labor markets appear significant as arenas of social encounter. Against this background, the project investigates whether the loss of a job leads to reduced trust in strangers and whether the substantial increase of the minimum wage to 12 euros has an influence on the generation of trust. The project uses longitudinal data and quasi-experimental methods to determine causal relationships. Overall, the project aims to improve our understanding of the non-monetary consequences of unemployment and of labor market policies and to shed light on the importance of processes in the labor market for social cohesion in Germany.

Alexander Patzina earned the degrees of B.A. in Geography and Economics, and M.Sc. in Socioeconomics at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, where he also completed his doctorate in 2019. After working as a research associate at the Institute for Employment Research, followed by a research sojourn at University College London, he has now been a temporary academic councilor at the Chair of Sociology, with a particular focus on social Inequality, at the University of Bamberg since April 2022.


© privat

Jun.-Prof. Dr. Alex J. Plajer
University of Bayreuth, Chair of Macromolecular Chemistry 1
“Cooperative inorganic catalysis for degradable semi-crystalline block copolymer constituents“

Plastics are indispensable for our modern society. However, the majority of these materials consist of binding chains that are not readily degradable. Consequently, this has given rise to uncontrollable volumes of plastic waste worldwide, so that more degradable alternatives are necessary. Not only for reasons of sustainability, but also due to economic considerations, it will be necessary for the raw ingredients of future materials to be obtainable from readily available and renewable sources, or in the form of free waste products from other industries. In response to these challenges, the project investigates the use of industrial residues such as carbon dioxide and elemental sulfur as components for the production of degradable functional materials.

Alex J. Plajer is Junior Professor of Macromolecular Chemistry at the University of Bayreuth. He previously studied and completed his doctorate at the Universities of Heidelberg and Cambridge (UK), after which he was active as a research fellow in Oxford (UK) and Berlin.


© privat

Dr. Alina Schmitz
TU Dortmund University, Department of Social Sciences
“Educational advancement from disadvantaged families: consequences for life courses, family relationships, and subjective well-being”

More and more people are now achieving higher levels of educational qualification than their own parents, especially women and people with a migration background. Contrary to expectations, however, this rising level of education for people from disadvantaged milieus presumably does not provide access to privileged milieus over the further course of their lives. Even with the same qualifications, such people who attain a higher level of education for example have lower incomes than those from an academic background. Added to this are hardships due to social uprooting. For instance, people from these milieus who achieve higher levels of education report alienation from their original environment, identity crises, and even the breakdown of (family) relationships. This research project investigates how educational advancement affects central areas of life and, as a result, subjective well-being. By providing information on how educational advancement can be organized more fairly and how alienation in families can be countered, for example, the findings are expected to contribute toward the promotion of equal opportunities in society.

Alina Schmitz studied in Cologne and attained her doctorate in 2020 at TU Dortmund University, where she has been working since June 2023 as scientific coordinator of the doctoral program “New Challenges in Ageing Societies.” Her research focuses on social inequalities in health and well-being.


© Jaja Kiesser

Dr. Veronika Settele
(Modern and Contemporary History)
University of Bremen, Department of History
“The secularization of sexuality, 1850–1930”

Veronika Settele’s current research project “The Secularization of Sexuality” examines sexuality as a religious practice in the Roman Catholic Church, the Protestant churches, and Judaism between the mid-19th century and 1930. Germany and France form the geographical focus of this study, which however also takes other transnational aspects into account and sees itself as a Western European area study. On the basis of specific practices of contraception, abortion, and sexual activity before, outside, and within marriage, the project investigates the transformation in the everyday significance of religious teachings and authorities.

After studying political science, sociology, and history in Innsbruck and Toulouse, Veronika Settele attained her doctorate at the Free University of Berlin in 2020 with a thesis on the history of agricultural animal husbandry in the 20th century. This resulted in two monographs: “Revolution im Stall: Landwirtschaftliche Tierhaltung in Deutschland, 1945–1990” (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2020) and “Deutsche Fleischarbeit: Geschichte der Massentierhaltung von den Anfängen bis heute” (C.H. Beck, 2022). Veronika Settele is currently a research associate at the University of Bremen.


© privat

Jun.-Prof. Dr. Juliana Troch
(Earth Sciences)
RWTH Aachen University, Petrology and Fluid Processes Teaching and Research Unit
“Sourcing lithium from granitic magmas“

Lithium is a key raw material for modern technologies; accordingly, demand has risen sharply in recent years. An important source of lithium are so-called pegmatites – extremely coarse-grained variants of granite rock, which are often highly enriched with elements such as lithium and rare earths and usually occur in the immediate vicinity of granite intrusions. By means of several series of experiments on a modernized piston cylinder apparatus, this project investigates the influence of lithium on the crystallization temperatures of granitic magmas. These play an important role in the discussion as to whether lithium pegmatites form under specific magmatic or hydrothermal conditions.

Juliana Troch investigates the role of fluids in magmatic systems and volcanoes. She studied earth sciences at Kiel University and ETH Zurich, where she earned her doctorate in 2019. Following postdoc sojourns at Brown University and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in the USA, she has been a junior professor at RWTH Aachen University since 2022.


© privat

Phd. Dr. Xiaojue Zhu
Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research
“Harnessing artificial intelligence to decipher and predict turbulent flow reversals“

The study of flow reversals, seen in celestial and terrestrial realms, intrigues scientists. We propose an innovative approach, merging artificial intelligence (AI) with physics principles, to unravel these mysteries. For the Sun, the Hale cycle presents intriguing patterns, but erratic solar cycles challenge predictability. Earth's magnetic reversals, though documented, lack clear explanations due to complex dynamics. We focus on the simplified Rayleigh-Bénard (RB) system, offering insights into flow reversals. RB, a classical model for various natural flows, remains challenging due to limited parameter regimes and high computational costs. Reduced-order models like Proper Orthogonal Decomposition help but have limitations. We propose an AI-driven Convolutional Long Short-Term Memory model, embedding physics principles, to predict flow reversals across diverse parameters. This interdisciplinary approach aims to deepen our understanding of flow reversals, offering insights into natural systems' intricate behaviors.

Xiaojue Zhu earned his PhD in Physics from the University of Twente, The Netherlands, in 2018. Following this, he served as a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard University (USA) before assuming his current role as an independent Max Planck Research Group leader at the MPI for Solar System Research in Göttingen in mid-2021.