26/07/2022 // (08/22)
Approx. five million euros for new Einstein Fellowships and the expansion of exceptional doctoral programs
The Einstein Foundation’s Executive Board has awarded funding to five international fellowships at Berlin universities and will also be supporting the research of two scholars already working in the German capital as Einstein Junior and Einstein Research Fellows. The Board has also approved the extension of six Einstein Visiting Fellowships and one Einstein Research Project. In addition, two PhD programs – in the fields of neuroscience and literature studies respectively – have been recognized as part of the recently launched Einstein Foundation Doctoral Program. The newly appointed fellows are conducting research in stochastics and quantum optics, behavioral science and economics with a focus on climate policy, the development of green catalysts, and histories and narratives of displacement and remigration from the Jewish community. Overall, approx. five million euros of funding has been announced.
Einstein Visiting Fellows
Elke U. Weber (Princeton University, USA)
A psychology professor at Princeton University, Elke U. Weber will begin an Einstein Visiting Fellowship at the Technische Universität Berlin, where she will research political decision-making powers and global action to tackle climate change through the behavioral and social sciences. Elke Weber will be attached to the Einstein Center Climate Change (which is currently in the process of being set up) and will draw on psychological theories to investigate the extent to which personal experiences, as well as social norms and interactions, affect decision-making and action. To ensure the study considers the specific social and existential factors that influence people’s decision-making, Elke Weber’s project will be based on a comparative analysis of existing studies on climate policy and environmental protection measures, comparing Berlin-Brandenburg, New Jersey (USA), and New Delhi (India).
Eric J. Johnson (Columbia Business School, USA)
Eric J. Johnson from the Center for Decision Sciences at Columbia University will also be working on a project for the forthcoming Einstein Center Climate Change that links climate research with the behavioral sciences and economics. Based at the Technische Universität, Eric Johnson will be researching decision architectures, i.e. ways of presenting choices and facilitating decision-making processes by utilizing the various social, economic, and psychological factors that shape our actions. Using empirical methods as well as face-to-face and online interviews, and in cooperation with the Universität der Künste and the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, the project’s aim is to develop approaches and tools for political structures and businesses that make it easier to implement measures to reduce individual or industrial CO2 emissions.
Elke Weber and Eric Johnson will also be affiliated with the Science of Intelligence Excellence Cluster at the Technische Universität.
After a successful appraisal, the following Einstein Visiting Fellowships are due to move into the second funding phase: John Chodera (bioinformatics), Channing Der (cancer research), Dieter Jaeger (neuroscience), Ann-Francis Miller (chemistry) and Bertil Tungodden (behavioral economics).
Einstein International Postdoctoral Fellows
Mathematician Tobias Hurth will be joining the Freie Universität Berlin, where his research will focus on random processes. Such processes and their parameter-dependent changes are omnipresent in science and technology, but the mathematical theory concerning bifurcations in such systems is still in its infancy. Together with the head of the Junior Research Group at the MATH+ Excellence Cluster, Maximilian Engel, Hurth will look to apply key cornerstones of ergodic theory to localized random processes as well as analytically and numerically developing the stochastic bifurcation theory. His analysis will focus primarily on Lyapunov exponents, which are key to forming an appropriate idea of entropy and equilibrium states. The theoretical insights obtained here could also help gain a better understanding of chemical reaction networks. The team of researchers led by Maximilian Engel will attempt to establish stochastic bifurcations so that this analysis can be applied to biological models of gene expression, cell growth, and random dynamics in deep neuronal networks.
Moritz P. Schwarz
The research group led by Linus Mattauch, Junior Professor of Sustainable Use of Natural Resources at the Technische Universität, will be joined by economist Moritz Schwarz, who previously worked on the Climate Econometrics project at the Institute for New Economic Thinking in Oxford. The team will use econometric methods to investigate how climate protection policy measures, including in the transport and healthcare sectors, impact public funding. The team will analyze specific climate policies, looking primarily at the extent to which issues such as mobility and climate protection are associated with social inequalities. To this end, empirical studies on European cities and the Berlin-Brandenburg region will be compared with analyses of economies in the Global South. The focus will be on issues such as the benefits and effects of a range of climate protection policies, the uneven distribution of global carbon emissions, and damage caused by localized air pollution, as well as the debate on inner-city driving bans.
Maxwell Ware, a postdoctoral research fellow in biology at Colorado State University (USA), will be joining the team at the Freie Universität Berlin, where he will be working alongside Emmy Noether research group leader Dennis Nürnberg to develop a photosynthesis-based process to produce nitrogen fertilizer that will eventually replace the conventional (and highly energy-intensive) Haber-Bosch process. Maxwell Ware will research a symbiosis between plants and a certain cyanobacterium. Like other cyanobacteria, this newly discovered strain can reduce atmospheric nitrogen to ammonia using certain cell types thanks to a naturally occurring enzyme that plants do not produce (nitrogenase). What is unusual about the cyanobacterium used in this process is that it does not compete for the same light spectrum as plants because it is capable of performing photosynthesis using dark red light, i.e. beyond the supposed red limit. To find out whether this process also affects these organisms’ ability to fix nitrogen, the bacteria and their hosts will be artificially modified. The molecular, metabolic, and morphological mechanisms will then be examined under different environmental conditions.
Einstein Research Fellow
Andreas Eckert, a professor of African history at Humboldt-Universität Berlin, plans to use his Einstein Research Fellowship to write a comprehensive historical study of labor in Africa since 1945. He was inspired to embark on the project after noticing that the issue of labor – a concept that vanished almost entirely from Africa-related research post-1990 – had, for some time, been growing in relevance once again. This was linked to a developing interest in the informal and precarious forms of labor that are especially visible on the continent, but also due to an increased focus on types of employment that fall outside of “traditional” paid labor. In his monograph, Andreas Eckert aims to outline the shift that has occurred in labor practices and cultures, analyze the diverse range of subjective experiences and labor relations, and focus on individual and collective struggles in a world shaped by inequality. At the same time, he will critically examine key concepts such as proletarianization and informalization, as well as global history perspectives. During his Einstein Fellowship, Andreas Eckert’s post at Humboldt-Universität will be covered by global historian Felix Brahm.
Einstein Junior Fellow
Sven Ramelow will join the “Sensors with entangled photons in the mid-infrared region” project at Berlin’s Humboldt-Universität, where he already leads the Emmy Noether Nonlinear Quantum Optics junior research group at the Department of Physics. In recent decades, enormous technological progress has been made in approaches to preparing, altering, and measuring the quantum states of light. Phenomena such as quantum entanglement and quantum superposition make completely new types of applications possible, and quantum sensors with quantum light play a particularly crucial role. They are similar to sensors that operate with standard light as used in imaging, microscopy, and spectroscopy, but can build on and expand their sophisticated technology. Ramelow’s approach uses quantum-based measurements with undetected photons, an innovative process where entangled photon pairs are used to collect measurement information in different infrared regions without the need for infrared lasers or detectors. The first industrial applications are already being developed in partnership with Ramelow. Now the project is aiming to further develop basic quantum sensor research and adapt the technology for use in other settings, such as diagnostics imaging in healthcare.
Einstein Research Project
A team led by Stefan Rinke, a Latin American historian at the Freie Universität, and Stefanie Schüler-Springorum from the Centre for Research on Antisemitism at the Technische Universität will research “Personal testimonies of Jews returning to Berlin from Latin America (1945/49-1970)” as part of an Einstein Research Project. Between 1933 and the end of World War II, Latin America was a key destination for all those fleeing the National Socialist regime. Following Allied victory in 1945, however, it also became a hiding place for many who had committed crimes during Nazi rule. German Jews remigrating from Latin America to the German Federal Republic between 1945 and the start of the 1970s often hoped that they would be able to retrieve their stolen property thanks to the passing of the German Restitution Laws. Papers documenting these attempts can be found in the basements of some of Berlin’s official buildings in records compiled by the State of Berlin’s restitution authorities. These files contain statements made by victims explaining the circumstances they faced under National Socialism in Germany and in Latin America. This project will use these documents and resources from German and Latin American archives to examine the lives of Jews living in exile in Latin America. Researchers will focus on family situations and networks, knowledge acquisition, continuing antisemitism, and the challenges posed by remigration and the quest for restitution in post-war Berlin. In addition to the institutions named above, the team will be aided in their research and analysis by the Selma Stern Center for Jewish Studies Berlin-Brandenburg, the University of Potsdam, and the Ibero-American Institute. The Jewish Museum Berlin, the Exilmuseum, and the Documentation Centre for Displacement, Expulsion, Reconciliation will also be involved in the project.
In addition, two structured postgraduate programs have been awarded funding through the new Einstein Foundation Doctoral Program. They are the International Doctoral Program in Computational Neuroscience at the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience Berlin (BCCN Berlin) and the Friedrich Schlegel Graduate School (FSGS) at the Freie Universität Berlin.
The Friedrich Schlegel Graduate School of Literary Studies is a structured doctoral studies program at the Freie Universität Berlin that was created by and funded through the German Universities Excellence Initiative from 2007 to 2019. The Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin came on board as a key partner in 2012. Since 2019, the FSGS has been closely linked to the Cluster of Excellence 2020 “Temporal Communities. Doing Literature in a Global Perspective” and is responsible for the cluster’s doctoral studies program. The School facilitates projects that conduct comparative research in the field of literature studies spanning various periods and languages or examine literature in relation to other aesthetic media. The FSGS will use its Einstein funding to set up an online pre-doctorate program for Masters graduates from the Global South. With digital courses and support services that can be accessed remotely, and funding for a twelve-month residency in Berlin, the program is designed to help participants prepare their PhD project and raise third-party funds.
The International Doctoral Program in Computational Neuroscience at the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience (BCCN) Berlin was created in 2007 as a joint research program by the Technische Universität, the Humboldt-Universität, the Freie Universität, and Charité – Universitätsmedizin. Its cross-institutional design aims to train a new generation of researchers who are familiar with both mathematical/computer-based methods and neuroscientific approaches. Research on the brain and diseases that affect its function will thus be given a scientific language that can be used across disciplines and levels in the fields of neurobiology, cognitive science, and information technology. The BCCN Berlin also plans to use the funding provided by the Einstein Foundation Doctoral Program to recruit more qualified doctoral candidates from the Global South and offer career planning support to individual PhD students.
The Einstein Foundation Berlin is an independent, not-for-profit, science-led organization established as a foundation under civil law. For over ten years, it has promoted international cutting-edge science and research across disciplines and institutions in and for Berlin. It has funded 200 researchers – including three Nobel laureates – over 70 projects, and seven Einstein Centers.
For Research. For Berlin.