How can I get more outstanding

Outstanding scientists move to the University of Göttingen

Successful university with an open concept for young researchers

The University of Göttingen is using funding from the Excellence Initiative to set up four further junior research groups, which have been selected without thematic restrictions, based solely on the interests and research profiles of the leaders. With this concept of free floaters, it is successful in the international competition for the best minds: The university was able to attract an outstanding young scientist and three outstanding young scientists who had previously carried out research in Portugal, Great Britain and the USA to lead the groups. "Our free floater concept, which is unique in Germany, enables us to expand the research profile of the university to include new interdisciplinary approaches and at the same time to offer young scientists an attractive career path," said University President Prof. Dr. Kurt of Figura. The open concept is already being followed with interest by other universities in Germany. The topics of the four new Free Floater Junior Research Groups are the behavior of biomolecules, the expansion of the genetic code, biodiversity and language acquisition in children. Such groups were founded last year in musicology, social sciences, German studies and mathematics.



Dr. Holger Kreft in California with Ferocactus acanthodes. He heads the junior research group “Biodiversity, Macroecology and Biogeography”.


The junior research group “Computational Chemistry and Biochemistry” deals with the development of new methods of computer simulation for experimental scientific research. In order to investigate complex chemical processes in living systems, computer networks with high computing power, so-called supercomputers, have so far been necessary. The aim of the junior research group is to develop faster algorithms and use new types of hardware so that the behavior of biomolecules can be examined and predicted with a single computer. "The Göttingen campus with the university and the non-university research institutes is an ideal location for this because I can work here with excellent research groups in chemistry, physics, biology and computer science", says junior professor Dr. Ricardo Mata. The chemist, born in 1981, comes from the University of Lisbon and has been setting up his junior research group in Göttingen since October 2009.

How does a cell manage to accommodate a two-meter-long genome in a nucleus that is 100,000 times smaller without losing the ability to access its information at any time? In November the University of Göttingen invited Dr. Heinz Neumann, born in 1974, was appointed to a junior professorship to pursue this and similar questions. Currently, Dr. Neumann started the junior research group “Applied Synthetic Biology” at the Göttingen Center for Molecular Biosciences. Before that, the chemist spent three years researching the artificial extension of the genetic code at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England. Based on his work, scientists can now produce proteins with modifications and then examine them using biochemical and biophysical methods. The aim of his junior research group is to investigate questions from biochemistry and cell biology with the help of novel methods from synthetic biology. Dr. Neumann hopes that this will enable him to research the mechanisms of inheritance in detail and thus contribute to the fact that diseases that can be traced back to malfunctions in the inheritance process can be clarified and treated in future.

Two other scientists that the university was able to win over to the establishment of junior research groups with its free floater concept are Dr. Holger Kreft and Dr. Nivedita Mani. “In Germany, the university offers unique conditions for biodiversity research in an interdisciplinary network. The fields of systematics and taxonomy, geosciences and basic ecological research are extremely strong here, ”explains Dr. Makes his decision to accept the Göttingen offer. Why are there more species in some habitats than in others? Why do you find more than 300 tree species on one hectare of the Amazon rainforest, but only five on your own doorstep? Such questions are the focus of the junior research group “Biodiversity, Macroecology and Biogeography”. By evaluating existing data sets on the distribution of plant and animal species and linking the results with climate and satellite data, the scientists want, for example, to better predict the number of species in so far little explored areas or to model possible effects of climate change. After studying and doing a doctorate at the University of Bonn, Dr. Kreft, born in 1976, at the University of California, San Diego. At the end of November 2009, the University of Göttingen appointed him a junior professorship.

From University College London, Dr. Nivedita Mani will move to the University of Göttingen in early 2010 to continue her research on language acquisition in children. She will set up a junior research group that will examine in particular how children learn their mother tongue through the sound of words. For example, do children unconsciously associate similar sounding words? In order to investigate the mechanism of learning new words, the research group is also investigating how the hearing impaired learn new words and whether implants in the inner ear influence this learning process. Dr. For this purpose, Mani will set up a new research laboratory at the University of Göttingen, in which eye movements and brain waves can be measured, among other things. "It is very seldom that a university supports young scientists in such a way," says Dr. Mani. The Indian-born linguist, born in 1980, did research at Oxford University in Denmark, Oxford and London after completing her doctorate.

The leaders of the free floater junior research groups are appointed to junior professorships for six years with the option of being appointed to a permanent professorship (tenure track) afterwards. The decision about the permanent professorship is based solely on your academic achievements and teaching successes. They also receive funding to set up their research groups with several academic staff. They are supervised by the Göttingen Research Council (GRC), an independent body made up of representatives from university and non-university research institutions, which advises on developments at the science location.