Press releases – October 2020

Whether it is new and groundbreaking research results, university topics or events – in our press releases you can find everything you need to know about the happenings at Goethe University. To subscribe, just send an email to

Goethe University PR & Communication Department 

Theodor-W.-Adorno Platz 1
60323 Frankfurt


Oct 26 2020

Film and media scholars at Goethe University Frankfurt dissect the new media world of the pandemic 

Of drones, dating-apps and Trump’s COVID strategy

With the onset of the current pandemic, our lives have become more digital and more mediatized than ever before. But how can we understand this transformation, and how can we envision our lives in this “new“ media world? A new publication edited by a group of media scholars working in Frankfurt offers a glimpse of some of the research questions and challenges to come.

FRANKFURT. The current pandemic poses a particular challenge for film and media scholars. COVID-19 changes not just their work routines but transforms their very object of study: the media. “As a consequence of the pandemic, we have to adapt ourselves to new conditions of producing, accessing, consuming, sharing, and deploying media for the flow of information, labor, goods, policies, and culture”, says Laliv Melamed, post-doc researcher in the Graduate Research Training Program “Konfigurationen des Films” ( Together with her colleague Phillipp Keidl, Melamed has initiated and co-edited the collection “Pandemic Media”, which appears as an open access publication this week.

“‘Pandemic Media‘ is an attempt to meet the challenges of the pandemic with a series of flashlight essays which address current and future research questions in media studies”, says professor Vinzenz Hediger, project director of “Konfigurationen des Films”. In that spirit, the publication’s subtitles is “Preliminary Notes Towards an Inventory”.

“Pandemic Media“ brings together 37 contributions from the scientific network of “Konfiguration des Films” – a network that is truly global. Contributors include researchers working at universities in New York, Stanford, Toronto, Seattle, Oxford, London, Lagos, Utrecht, Frankfurt, Weimar or Paris. The diversity of the contributors is reflected in the variety of their topics and perspectives: These include the now ubiquitous drone images, the split-screen aesthetics of video conferencing software, dating apps, Trump’s television strategy against COVID, visualisations of the virus or the development and implementation of the COVID tracing app in Germany.

The publication’s cover is based on the current work of MAGNUM photographer Antoine D’Agata, who has been documenting the impact of the pandemic in Paris streets and hospitals with a heat sensor camera. D’Agata’s eerily suggestive images, which are on display at the Brownstone Foundation in Paris until the end of October, are also the subject of one the contributions to the volume.

Among “Pandemic Media”‘s innovations is the digital open access publication strategy, which allowed the editors to put the project in the short space of four months.  All contributions underwent a two-step double blind peer review process. The project director of “Konfigurationen des Films“ and Professor Antonio Somaini, who teaches at Université Paris-3 and is also a partner of Goethe University in the International Master Cinema Studies (IMACS, serve as co-editors.

The publication date for the 37 contributions and the introduction is 28 October 2020. “Pandemic Media“ is the latest volume in the „Configurations of film“ series published by meson press. The full publication can be accessed here:, first in html format, later as PDF files for download. The publication will be available in book form in time for the holidays.

Meson press is an innovative new publisher specializing in open access publications on digital media culture. “From our point of view, ‘Pandemic Media’ is an exciting pilot project”, comments Andreas Kirchner, co-founder and co-director of meson press. “Not only does the volume perfectly fit our profile, it offers us an opportunity to experiment with groundbreaking new publication formats.”

The Graduate Research Training Program “Konfigurationen des Films“, which is funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), has been studying the digital transformation of film culture since 2017. This summer, the second cohort of 12 doctoral candidates has assumed their positions and started their research projects.

Publication: „Pandemic Media. Preliminary Notes Towards an Inventory“, published by Vinzenz Hediger, Philipp Keidl, Laliv Melamed und Antonio Somaini

Images to download: 

Caption: The temperature of the pandemic: The book cover is based on a photo by Magnum photographer Antoine D’Agata, who has been documenting Parisian street scenes and processes in hospitals with a heat-sensitive camera since April (Foto: Cover (c) meson press/Mathias Bär/Antoine D’Agata)

Further information:

Dr. Philipp Keidl
Graduate Research Training Program „Konfigurationen des Films“

Dr. Laliv Melamed,
Graduate Research Training Program „Konfigurationen des Films“

Prof. Dr. Vinzenz Hediger
Speaker of the Graduate Research Training Program „Konfigurationen des Films“


Oct 16 2020

​Physicists from Frankfurt, Hamburg and Berlin track the propagation of light in a molecule

Zeptoseconds: New world record in short time measurement

In the global race to measure ever shorter time spans, physicists from Goethe University Frankfurt have now taken the lead: together with colleagues at the accelerator facility DESY in Hamburg and the Fritz-Haber-Institute in Berlin, they have measured a process that lies within the realm of zeptoseconds for the first time: the propagation of light within a molecule. A zeptosecond is a trillionth of a billionth of a second (10-21 seconds).

FRANKFURT. In 1999, the Egyptian chemist Ahmed Zewail received the Nobel Prize for measuring the speed at which molecules change their shape. He founded femtochemistry using ultrashort laser flashes: the formation and breakup of chemical bonds occurs in the realm of femtoseconds. A femtosecond equals 0.000000000000001 seconds, or 10-15 seconds.

Now atomic physicists at Goethe University in Professor Reinhard Dörner's team have for the first time studied a process that is shorter than femtoseconds by magnitudes. They measured how long it takes for a photon to cross a hydrogen molecule: about 247 zeptoseconds for the average bond length of the molecule. This is the shortest timespan that has been successfully measured to date.

The scientists carried out the time measurement on a hydrogen molecule (H2) which they irradiated with X-rays from the synchrotron lightsource PETRA III at the Hamburg accelerator centre DESY. The researchers set the energy of the X-rays so that one photon was sufficient to eject both electrons out of the hydrogen molecule.

Electrons behave like particles and waves simultaneously, and therefore the ejection of the first electron resulted in electron waves launched first in the one, and then in the second hydrogen molecule atom in quick succession, with the waves merging.

The photon behaved here much like a flat pebble that is skimmed twice across the water: when a  wave trough meets a wave crest, the waves of the first and second water contact cancel each other, resulting in what is called an interference pattern.

The scientists measured the interference pattern of the first ejected electron using the COLTRIMS reaction microscope, an apparatus that Dörner helped develop and which makes ultrafast reaction processes in atoms and molecules visible. Simultaneously with the interference pattern, the COLTRIMS reactions microscope also allowed the determination of the orientation of the hydrogen molecule. The researchers here took advantage of the fact that the second electron also left the hydrogen molecule, so that the remaining hydrogen nuclei flew apart and were detected.
“Since we knew the spatial orientation of the hydrogen molecule, we used the interference of the two electron waves to precisely calculate when the photon reached the first and when it reached the second hydrogen atom," explains Sven Grundmann whose doctoral dissertation forms the basis of the scientific article in Science. “And this is up to 247 zeptoseconds, depending on how far apart in the molecule the two atoms were from the perspective of light."

Professor Reinhard Dörner adds: “We observed for the first time that the electron shell in a molecule does not react to light everywhere at the same time. The time delay occurs because information within the molecule only spreads at the speed of light. With this finding we have extended our COLTRIMS technology to another application."

Publication: Sven Grundmann, Daniel Trabert, Kilian Fehre, Nico Strenger, Andreas Pier, Leon Kaiser, Max Kircher, Miriam Weller, Sebastian Eckart, Lothar Ph. H. Schmidt, Florian Trinter, Till Jahnke, Markus S. Schöffler, Reinhard Dörner: Zeptosecond Birth Time Delay in Molecular Photoionization. Science

Image download:

Caption: Schematic representation of zeptosecond measurement. The photon (yellow, coming from the left) produces electron waves out of the electron cloud (grey) of the hydrogen molecule (red: nucleus), which interfere with each other (interference pattern: violet-white). The interference pattern is slightly skewed to the right, allowing the calculation of how long the photon required to get from one atom to the next. Photo: Sven Grundmann, Goethe University Frankfurt

Further information:
Prof. Dr. Reinhard Dörner
Institute for Atomic Physics
Telephone +49 69 798 47003


Oct 14 2020

Three-year German-American project studies biology of LRRK2 

Goethe University partner in US$ 7.2 million research project on Parkinson’s disease

FRANKFURT. About ten percent of Parkinson's cases can be ascribed to mutations in the LRRK2 gene. Five research teams from the University of California in San Diego, Goethe University Frankfurt and the University of Konstanz want to explain in the next few years how mutations in the LRRK2 gene trigger Parkinson's disease and what possible targets there are for drugs. The US-American initiative “Aligning Science Across Parkinson's" has made the equivalent of € 6.1 million available for this project.

In the early 2000s, it was discovered that in many Parkinson's patients a certain enzyme called LRRK2 mutates and evidently plays a significant role in five to ten percent of hereditary Morbus Parkinson and between one and five percent of the spontaneous form. LRRK2 is an enzyme that attaches phosphate groups to other proteins in the human cell and is far more active than normal in the brain cells of Parkinson's patients, leading it to block transport processes in the cell. Many inhibitors against the LRRK2 enzyme have already been tested in the past, but they are not sufficiently effective or their side-effects are too severe.

The five teams from USA and Germany want now to elucidate in detail the enzyme's structure and how it works in the cell and thus create a basis for the targeted production of inhibitors. A first three-dimensional structure of the LRRK2 protein was recently published by the research team in the journal Nature. The initiative “Aligning Science Across Parkinson's", which is backed by The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, is supporting the project financially.

Co-Project Manager Stefan Knapp, Professor for Pharmaceutical Chemistry at Goethe University, explains: “By comparing LRRK2 mutations in Parkinson's patients with normal LRRK2, we want to find out which tasks LRRK2 assumes in the cell, how the enzyme moves three-dimensionally, and how the mutated LRRK2 contributes to nerve cells dying off. While the expertise of our colleagues in the USA lies in various imaging methods, here in Frankfurt we'll develop chemical probes to localize and study LRRK2 in cells and we will produce recombinant LRRK2 variants that will help us to understand their three-dimensional structure."

Co-Project Manager Florian Stengel, Professor for Cellular Proteostasis at the University of Konstanz, says: “In the framework of this project, we here in Konstanz want to identify the cellular interaction partners of LRRK2. In this way, we'll be able to complete our picture of its cellular role and thus make it possible to develop a drug against LRRK2 mutated Morbus Parkinson."

Article on the first three-dimensional structure of the LKKR2 protein: C K Deniston, J Salogiannis, S Mathea, D M Snead, I Lahiri, M Matyszewski, O Donosa, R Watanabe, J Böhning, A K Shiau, S Knapp, E Villa, S L Reck-Peterson, A E Leschziner. Structure of LRRK2 in Parkinson's disease and model for microtubule interaction. Nature. 2020 Aug 19

Pictures to download:

Caption: Professor Stefan Knapp, Institute of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Goethe University, Frankfurt (Foto: Uwe Dettmar)

Further information:
Professor Stefan Knapp
Institute of Pharmaceutical Chemistry
Goethe University Frankfurt
Phone: +49 69 798-29871

Professor Florian Stengel
Department of Biology / Laboratory of Cellular Proteostasis and Mass Spectrometry
University of Konstanz
Phone: +49 7531 88-5172


Oct 6 2020

​Study by Goethe University shows: Particulate matter is also reduced – ventilation remains necessary because of CO2

Risk of infection: Air purifiers remove 90 percent of aerosols in school classrooms

FRANKFURT. Atmospheric researchers from Goethe University have demonstrated that air purifiers with a class H13 filter (HEPA) can lower aerosol concentration in a classroom by 90 percent within 30 minutes. Because this significantly reduces the risk of airborne infection with SARS-CoV-2, the scientists recommend placing such air purifiers in classrooms. In most cases, students and teachers did not find the noise made by the purifier disturbing. The study is now available as a preprint, prior to appearing in a scientific journal. (

The most dangerous route to an infection with SARS-CoV-2 is via the air: For example, when infected persons sneeze or cough, they catapult relatively large droplets which, however, sink to the ground within a radius of two metres. Important are also aerosols, much smaller droplets, which we emit when speaking or breathing. Studies show that infectious SARS-CoV-2 pathogens can still be detected in such aerosols over three hours after emission and several metres away from an infected person. The fluid in such aerosol particles evaporates quickly, making them smaller and able to disperse in a room within a few minutes.

Together with his team, Joachim Curtius, Professor for Experimental Atmospheric Research at Goethe University, tested four air purifiers in a classroom with 27 students and their teachers over a period of a week. The purifiers had a simple prefilter for coarse dust particles and fluff as well as HEPA and active carbon filters. Together, the filters processed between 760 and 1,460 m3 of air per hour. Apart from aerosol load, the researchers also measured the volume of fine dust particles and CO2 concentration and analysed the noise levels caused by the device. The result: Half an hour after switching it on, the air purifiers had removed 90 percent of the aerosols from the air.

Professor Curtius explains: “On the basis of our measurement data, we've calculated a model that allows the following estimate: An air purifier lowers the amount of aerosols to such a considerable degree that the risk of being infected by a highly contagious person, a superspreader, is greatly reduced. That's why we're recommending that schools use HEPA air purifiers this winter with a sufficiently high air flow rate."

Noise measurements and a survey among students and teachers revealed that in most cases the noise made by the air purifier was not considered disturbing, provided that the appliance was not running at the highest level.

The researchers also measured that the air purifier – apart from lowering the risk of infection –additionally reduced allergens and fine dust particles (PM10). Joachim Curtius: “An air filter does not, however, replace opening the window at regular intervals, which is important for decreasing CO2 concentration in the room. Our measurements in the classrooms showed that levels often exceeded the recommended limits. Here, we recommend installing CO2 sensors so that students and teachers can monitor this themselves."

Publication: Joachim Curtius, Manuel Granzin, Jann Schrod: Testing mobile air purifiers in a school classroom: Reducing the airborne transmission risk for SARS‐CoV‐2. Preprint: medRxiv 2020.10.02.20205633; doi:

Further information:

Professor Dr. Joachim Curtius
Institute for Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences
Goethe University
Tel.: +49 69 798-40258