Microbiologist Volker Müller receives funding from German Research Foundation’s Koselleck Programme
Acetic acid-producing bacteria (acetogens) are very interesting for the biotech industry: They fix the climate gas CO2 and at the same time produce not only acetic acid, but also substances such as ethanol or – after genetic modification – products such as acetone or bioplastics. For many years now, microbiologist Volker Müller from Goethe University has been researching how these bacteria extract energy from CO2 – and has done so very successfully. Now he wants to crack the last puzzle of this energy production. As part of the renowned Reinhart Koselleck Programme, the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG) is now funding his project as a particularly innovative and refreshingly risky project.
FRANKFURT. They live in the soil, in sediments of bodies of water and in other oxygen-free environments: Bacteria known as acetogenic bacteria or acetogens that produce acetic acid from carbon dioxide (CO2) and obtain energy through this fermentation process. Phylogenetically, acetogens are among the oldest species of bacteria on Earth, having evolved more than three billion years ago, when the Earth's atmosphere was still oxygen-free. In recent years, the team of microbiologist Professor Volker Müller has partially elucidated how CO2 reduction is coupled with energy production: Acetogens have two different respiratory chains with the help of which they produce the cellular energy currency ATP, either with the central respiratory enzyme "Rnf" or with "Ech". Usually, a bacterial species possesses only one of these two respiratory chain types.
However, in addition to the enzymes Rnf or Ech, some acetogens also possess cytochrome-containing enzymes, which are central to oxygen respiration in both bacteria and higher cells. Although cytochomes were discovered in acetogens more than 40 years ago, no one has yet been able to demonstrate that acetogens – for which contact with oxygen is lethal – actually use their cytochromes for a form of respiration.
Over the next five years, the team led by Professor Volker Müller wants to find out what function cytochromes have in acetogens. The microbiologist explains: "Thanks to our many years of work on acetogens, we have the best prerequisites for cracking the riddle. These are very exciting times for us. After all, the cytochrome, which is much more complex to produce in biosynthesis for the bacterial cell, could actually be part of a third, oxygen-independent form of respiration. Or it may have a completely different function, perhaps serving to detoxify molecular oxygen and keep the bacterium from dying from oxygen."
With their basic research, the scientists want to prepare the ground for biotechnological applications of acetogenic bacteria. Currently, for example, 90 percent of the more than 3 million tons of acetic acid produced worldwide annually is obtained from fossil oil or gas. Müller: "If you want to use genetically modified acetogens to produce non-natural compounds such as acetone or bioplastics, you will need to have a sound understanding of the complex, essential metabolic processes in the bacteria. This is because the bacteria require a lot of energy for the non-natural compounds, which the chemical reduction of CO2 provides only to a limited extent. That is why with our research, we hope to make an important contribution to understanding energy production in acetogens, thereby opening the door for more efficient applications."
Professor Volker Müller holds the Chair of Molecular Microbiology and Bioenergetics at Goethe University's Faculty of Biological Sciences. He received his PhD in Göttingen, was a postdoctoral researcher at Yale University, habilitated in microbiology in Göttingen, and held a C3 professorship in microbiology at LMU Munich before coming to Frankfurt in 2002. He gained worldwide recognition for his work on the metabolism of acetogenic bacteria. His projects are funded by the German Research Foundation DFG and he coordinated a European research consortium on the application of acetogenic bacteria in industry. Currently, his work on the physiology and application of acetogenic bacteria is funded by a prestigious ERC Advanced Grant. With almost 300 publications, Müller is one of the world's leading researchers in the field of metabolism of anaerobic bacteria and archaea.
Image for download: https://www.uni-frankfurt.de/128212374
Caption: Professor Volker Müller, Goethe University Frankfurt (Photo: Uwe Dettmar for Goethe University)
Acetogenic bacterium contains both Rnf and Ech enzymes (01/2020)
Isolation of the Rnf enzyme complex
Professor Volker Müller
Department of Molecular Microbiology & Bioenergetics
Institute for Molecular Biosciences
Goethe University Frankfurt
Tel.: +49 (0)69 798-29507
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Goethe University announces second Klaus Heyne-Award for research in Romanticism
FRANKFURT. Goethe University's Klaus Heyne-Award for Research into German Romanticism, endowed with 15,000 euros, is bestowed every two years to young scholars from Germany and abroad who are in their qualification phase and have made an outstanding academic contribution to Romanticism research. Launched in 2021, the award is now being announced for the second time. Applicants are not restricted to one discipline, such as literary studies, but may come from other disciplines, such as art history, musicology, or philosophy.
The award and the associated prize money consist of two components: 5,000 euros will be awarded on a non-earmarked basis, while 10,000 euros will be made available to the recipient for the conception and organization of a conference on Romantic research.
Interested parties can submit their application documents until January 31, 2023. The award winner will be honored at a ceremony held at Goethe University on October 11, 2023.
The new science award is made possible by a generous bequest from pediatrician Prof. Dr. Klaus Heyne (1937-2017), whose particular passion was the art and literature of German Romanticism.
The first recipient of the new science award in 2021 was Dr. Joanna Raisbeck, a literary scholar teaching at Oxford, who was honored for the innovative achievement of her dissertation "Poetic Metaphysics in Karoline von Günderrode." In 2022, she received the Novalis Prize for the same work. With the help of the Heyne Award, Raisbeck recently hosted an international conference on “Romantic Materialities" at Goethe University. Thanks to the cooperation between the Heyne Award and the Freies Deutsches Hochstift – one of Germany's oldest cultural institutes and a non-profit research institution – she was also able to curate an exhibition of Karoline von Günderrode's manuscripts at the Deutsches Romantik-Museum, which is on view until mid-December.
Contact and further information:
Prof. Dr. Frederike Middelhoff (W1 professorship for Modern German Literature with a focus on Romantic Studies)
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And the winner is ... 1822 University Prize for Excellence in Teaching
FRANKFURT. The 1822 University Prize for Excellence in Teaching was presented at Goethe University Frankfurt for the 21st time. A Spanish lecturer, a bioscience professor and an educational science researcher were recognized for their work. The prize, which is awarded jointly by the Frankfurter Sparkasse Foundation and Goethe University and was bestowed in early November, aims to draw attention to exemplary teaching and highlight its importance. The candidates are nominated by the students.
The 1st prize of 15,000 euros went to Dr. Marta Muñoz-Aunión from the Institute of Romance Languages and Literatures. The 10,000-euro 2nd prize went to Professor Paul Dierkes, who holds the Opel-Zoo endowed professorship in Zoo Biology at Goethe University. Rounding out the awards, the 3rd prize (5,000 euros) went to Friedrich Wolf from the Institute of Social Pedagogy and Adult Education.
“The diversity at universities has been increasing for many years. This is a good thing, because our society needs lots of clever and creative minds who each bring their different perspectives and experiences. But this also increases the demands on teaching", says Ayse Asar, State Secretary in the Hessian Ministry of Science and the Arts. “The 1822 University Prize for Excellence in Teaching places the focus on students' success in learning. This year's award winners motivate their students with their ideas, are very practical, innovative, sustainable, and work with digital and hybrid learning formats – a forward-looking development that we also support financially with our program entitled 'High quality in studies and teaching, good framework conditions for studies' (Hohe Qualität in Studium und Lehre, gute Rahmenbedingungen des Studiums, or QuiS). I heartily congratulate the winners on their success."
“Good university teaching deserves much more attention", emphasized Professor Christiane Thompson, Vice President of Education at Goethe University, on the occasion of the 21st presentation of the 1822 University Prize for Excellence in Teaching. “After all, without high-quality education, there can be no cutting-edge research. The 1822 University Prize is an opportunity to recognize the great importance of teaching and to thank those who take on this task with exceptional joy, creativity and perseverance", said Thompson.
Dr. Ingo Wiedemeier, CEO of Frankfurter Sparkasse: “The Frankfurter Sparkasse Foundation has supported the 1822 University Prize for Excellence in Teaching for more than twenty years. This is not only a financial expression of our appreciation for the outstanding commitment of the lecturers. We also provide this funding out of our deep conviction that Goethe University, with its excellent reputation, is an extremely important factor in the attractiveness and prosperity of the entire region."
As experts in teaching quality, the students were consulted for their opinions again this year. They play an important role in the 1822 Prize from the very beginning, because only they have the right to nominate lecturers. In 2022, the students made good use of this right once again and submitted 15 nominations from eight faculties for consideration by the jury. A committee that includes all status groups then decided on the prizewinners. The criteria for the awards are outstanding quality of the courses, innovative ideas in teaching and particular commitment in the supervision of students. The research focus, crossover between theory and practice and extra dedication in the introductory phase all have a positive effect on the results. The students also played an important role in the award ceremony itself. Trainee teacher Janina Müller and philosophy student Valentin Teufel moderated the event, science slammer Luca Neuperti, who is studying sociology and computer science at Goethe University, gave an entertaining presentation about student learning under pandemic conditions, and the speeches in praise of the winners also came from students. The Philip Wibbing Trio provided musical accompaniment.
The 1822 University Prize for Excellence in Teaching was first awarded in 2002. Goethe University and the Frankfurter Sparkasse Foundation jointly created the prize to raise awareness of the importance of innovative university teaching and to make the work of outstanding lecturers more visible. The Frankfurter Sparkasse Foundation sponsors the first and third prizes totaling 20,000 euros, and the second prize (10,000 euros) is financed by Goethe University. The prize is awarded annually.
Dr. Marta Muñoz-Aunión, who was awarded the 1st prize, is a Spanish lecturer at the Institute of Romance Languages and Literatures in Faculty 10. A total of 150 students signed her nomination – a clear sign that her teaching meets with strong approval. Her students praise the engaging and motivating nature of her classes, which increase their enthusiasm for the Spanish language. Dr. Muñoz-Aunión is very approachable and open to feedback and suggestions for improvement and adapts her teaching to the requirements. The jury was particularly impressed by the innovative formats Muñoz-Aunión offers, such as film workshops and writing and journalism projects. This was the third time that she has been nominated.
The 2nd prize went to Professor Paul Dierkes, Executive Director of the Department of Didactics – Biological Sciences and holder of the Opel-Zoo endowed professorship in Zoo Biology. Dierkes is described in the student nomination as being particularly approachable and open. He was already using online teaching methods before the pandemic and was, therefore, able to support the students well during the pandemic restrictions. His work in connection with the Opel-Zoo also gives the students valuable practical experience and insights. The behavioral biology course, which he established, is extremely popular with students. In his committee work, he is involved in coordination with the student community on the redesign of the bachelor's degree in biosciences.
The 3rd prize was awarded to educational scientist Friedrich Wolf. The jury recognized him above all for his innovative teaching methods, which he was already using extensively before the pandemic. The students noted in particular that he gave them courage and self-confidence in his courses as well as enthusiasm for his subject. In his courses, even content that appears uninteresting at first glance is filled with life. As a member of the media working group in the Faculty of Educational Sciences, he played an important role in implementing digital and hybrid teaching and provided for innovative teaching formats.
In addition to the winners, the following lecturers were also nominated:
Dr. Rupert Abele, Faculty 14 (Biochemistry, Chemistry, Pharmacy)
Dr. Mahmoud Bassiouni, Faculty 03 (Social Sciences)
Dr. Johannes Friedrich Diehl, Faculty 06 (Protestant Theology)
Professor Robert Fürst, Faculty 14 (Biochemistry, Chemistry, Pharmacy)
Dr. Mariam Kamarauli, Faculty 09 (Linguistics, Cultures, and Arts)
Maria Kofer, M.A., Faculty 09 (Linguistics, Cultures, and Arts)
Apl. Professor Lukas Ohly, Faculty 06 (Protestant Theology)
Samantha Ruppel, M.A., Faculty 03 (Social Sciences)
Professor Alexander Vogel, Faculty 11 (Geosciences and Geography)
Professor Johannes Völz, Faculty 10 (Modern Languages)
Dr. Marianne Wiedenmann, Faculty 04 (Educational Sciences)
Dr. Dirk Wiegandt, Faculty 08 (Philosophy and History)
Dr. Elizabeth Kovach
Tel: +49 (0)69 79817258
Kick-off for international "WOW Physics!" conference a resounding success
The international conference "WOW Physics! – Women in the World of Physics!", initiated by a female physics professor at Goethe University, brings outstanding female physicists onto the virtual stage and inspires participants of all ages and from all continents with its diverse program.
FRANKFURT. Women still constitute a minority when it comes to the field of physics; in Germany, only about 13% of physics professors are female, and the situation is not much better in other Western countries. There are many reasons for this, one of which is certainly the lack of role models. Giving them a stage and making the work of female physicists visible worldwide was the goal of this week's "WOW Physics! – Women in the World of Physics!" conference. The international event was held online, and made its debut at Frankfurt's Goethe University. Following the opening remarks by Germany's Federal Minister of Education and Research Bettina Stark-Watzinger and Hessian Minister for Science and the Arts Angela Dorn, Goethe University President Prof. Enrico Schleiff emphasized the importance of the conference's format: "The incredibly high number of participants illustrates the enormous importance and the outstanding contribution made by women in physics, and in the natural sciences in general! It gives us a sense of how important such events and support measures are, and how significant such networking events can be, especially in this field."
At 950, the number of participants exceeded the expectations of the conference organizers. "We are completely overwhelmed by this response and by the enthusiasm with which the event was received by the participants," says Laura Sagunski, professor at Goethe University's Institute for Theoretical Physics and conference initiator. She and her team were able to attract several renowned female scientists from all subfields of physics, who gave lectures at the 3-day event. Among those presenting their research were Laura H. Greene, who serves as one of the advisors to the U.S. president, and Melissa Franklin, who was involved in the discovery of the heaviest elementary particle known to date. Since numerous students and even pupils had registered for the conference, the aim was to present the content in the most comprehensible way possible.There was also room for non-scientific topics: Dorothée Weber-Bruls, for instance, recounted her path to becoming a patent attorney, which she started during her doctorate in physics, with intermediate stops at television and in management consulting. As president of Germany's Physical Society (Physikalischer Verein: Gesellschaft für Bildung und Wissenschaft) – the first woman to hold the position in the association's near 200-year history – physics education is a topic that is especially close to her heart: "My goal is to spark interest in the subject and to nurture talent." The conference also included a roundtable discussion on the paths taken by different women in science. The session was moderated by Jessica Wade, who is best known for her contributions to Wikipedia about scientists from underrepresented groups – a commitment that was recently awarded with the prestigious British Empire Medal. In addition to the challenges the panelists encountered at various career stages, the debate also offered practical tips. As a result, participants are able to make their virtual way not only home but potentially also into a future in physics, armed with both new knowledge as well as a large dose of encouragement.
Conference information: WOW Physics! (9-November 11, 2022):Overview · Indico (cern.ch)
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Festive event marks the anniversary of the interreligious institution
FRANKFURT. Although the building on Goethe University's Westend Campus was inaugurated in 2010, due to the Corona pandemic, its tenth anniversary had to be cancelled. Making up for that, a “10+2" celebration was held on November 10, 2022. The "House of Silence" is no mosque or church and it is not only aimed at believers. Instead, it serves as a place for all those seeking a moment of peace and contemplation in university life. In their welcoming speeches, both Ayse Asar, state secretary in the Hessian Ministry of Science and the Arts and one of the House's founding members – it was inaugurated during her time at Goethe University – and Goethe University President Prof. Enrico Schleiff paid tribute to the House of Silence as a unique place of diversity and tolerance within the university setting.
"When the House of Silence first opened its doors
on October 5, 2010, it did so out of a deliberate choice to set up a space on
the Westend Campus that is equally open to members of all religions," Schleiff
emphasized, adding that, “Anyone looking for denominational symbolism will be
searching in vain. The aim of the House of Silence is to practice openness,
tolerance and pluralism under one roof. True to its name, this openness is not
limited to the practice of religion alone, but also applies to meditation, for
example. As a university place of deceleration and contemplation, it is aimed
at the entire university public: After all, the pandemic-related increase in
the use of video conferencing, digital teaching or e-mail – which has meanwhile
become a real-time medium – contribute significantly to an acceleration of our
society and our everyday life, making places of deceleration more valuable than
ever. In this respect, the conceptual expansion of functions ensured that the
House of Silence remains relevant also in times like these."
"It is impossible to imagine Goethe University's Westend Campus without the 'House of Silence,'" said Ayse Asar. "When it was built 12 years ago, the main priority was to create adequate spaces for prayer. But to me, the 'House of Silence' is so much more: It offers the university, whose students come from 130 different countries of origin (spanning all five continents), the chance to develop new forward-looking ways for communal work and life. In so doing, it makes an extraordinary contribution to the university's representation of academic living and learning culture, on the one hand, and to opening up the possibility of intercultural dialog, personality development and an independent structuring of communal life, on the other. After all, we need bright and creative minds to tackle the challenges of the present and the future with empathy and inquisitiveness. That is why it is all the more gratifying to see that this very concept has been working for 12 years already. I offer up my warmest congratulations on this anniversary and would like to wish all university members continued inspiring encounters in the 'House of Silence'."
The idea for an interreligious place first came up during Goethe University's move to the Westend Campus. The "House of Silence" was designed by Munich-based architectural firm Karl und Probst: It features high walls, an interesting lighting design and a work of art in gold. Instead of the university running the house, it is operated by an "Association for the Promotion of Interreligious Dialog at Goethe University Frankfurt am Main", which was specifically founded for this purpose. Both the association and its board are made up of representatives of all religions.
The anniversary was marked with an event in Goethe University's ceremonial hall. In his speech, Prof. Rudolf Steinberg, Chairman of the Association's Board of Trustees and one of the institution's co-founders, referred to the House of Silence's genesis and development, emphasizing that, "As a constitutional lawyer, I am convinced that this form of religiosity has its place in a secular university." The keynote address on the topic of "Spaces of Silence and the Struggle for the Religion-Sensitive University" was given by religious studies scholar Prof. Alexander-Kenneth Nagel of the University of Göttingen. For the concluding panel discussion on "The Truth of Others", moderated by Prof. Joachim Valentin, Chairman of the Council of Religions Frankfurt (Rat der Religionen Frankfurt), Nagel was joined by Prof. Anja Middelbeck-Varwick, Prof. Christian Wiese and Prof. Armina Omerika (all Goethe University). The closing remarks were delivered by Rania Boujana, chairwoman of the Islamic university community. Ahead of the festivities, students of the religious study foundations had held a prayer in the House of Silence.
More on the topic: UniReport interview with Prof. Rudolf Steinberg on the “House of Silence" Nice and quiet: A place for deceleration on campus | Aktuelles aus der Goethe-Universität Frankfurt (uni-frankfurt.de)