Press releases – 2022

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Goethe University PR & Communication Department 

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Dec 7 2022

Goethe University enters into new partnership with Canada’s University of Saskatchewan – Canadian delegation’s inaugural visit includes representatives from science and politics

From Frankfurt to Saskatchewan: Joint research for the health of our planet

Joint research connects: The commitment to sustainability, biodiversity and planetary health brought individual researchers from the University of Saskatchewan and Goethe University together years ago. Now, the two universities have entered into a comprehensive international partnership. During the inaugural visit of a Canadian delegation made up of representatives from science and politics, which took place on December 4, 2022, the focus lay on plans for a sustainable cooperation. 

FRANKFURT. Sometimes it is interest in a student exchange, more often than not a joint research project that provides the impetus for an international university partnership. In the case of the new partnership between the University of Saskatchewan and Goethe University, it was a shared interest in water research: biologist Prof. Henner Hollert from Goethe University's Institute of Ecology, Evolution and Diversity, and his Canadian colleagues Prof. Markus Brinkmann and Prof. Markus Hecker, both at the Toxicology Centre within the University of Saskatchewan's School of Environment and Sustainability, have been conducting research together for many years. Fast forward to today, and the natural scientists are planning a transnational college for young scientists to focus on water safety and the health of an aquatic ecosystem. A few months ago, the three scientists' universities agreed on a comprehensive partnership that will tie the two institutions together in areas above and beyond sustainability research. 

Continuing this comprehensive cooperation was the main topic at the inaugural visit by University of Saskatchewan's Vice President for Research Prof. Baljit Singh and biologist Prof. Markus Brinkmann, who also serves as his university's special advisor for German university partnerships. The scientists were accompanied by Gordon Wyant, Minister of Education in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, as well as other members of his ministry. 

"We are very much looking forward to this new transatlantic partnership," said Goethe University President Prof. Enrico Schleiff. "Our connection with the research-intensive University of Saskatchewan is not limited to the joint research excellent scientists from both universities have been conducting in the fields of ecotoxicology and biodiversity for many years. We are also united by the conviction that as universities, we are called upon to develop creative interdisciplinary solutions for the world's societal challenges. We want to strengthen and inspire each other in the long term!" 

Dr. Baljit Singh, University of Saskatchewan's Vice President for Research, emphasized: “The University of Saskatchewan is excited to formalize our longstanding partnership with Goethe University, with whom we share common values and a commitment to academic and research excellence. We look forward to the collaboration between University of Saskatchewan and Goethe University researchers to develop solutions to complex global challenges." 

Further collaboration will include student, faculty and staff exchanges and internships, as well as the expansion of research projects and the development of joint academic programs. The agreement focuses on additional projects in water research, especially water security and water health, projects on the interactions between chemical pollution and biodiversity loss, as well as further inter- and transdisciplinary research in sustainability, biodiversity and planetary health. 

The Canadian guests also showed particular interest in Goethe University's new Sustainability Office, whose team informed the visitors about current and planned projects. 

Located in Saskatoon, the province's largest city, the University of Saskatchewan is one of Canada's leading research universities and, with about 25,000 students, one of the country's largest. It is a member of the U15 group of Canadian research universities and offers bachelor's and master's programs in more than 150 fields of study. It is also a member of the University of the Arctic (UArctic), a network of universities and institutes in the North Polar region. The University of Saskatchewan is one of the world's leading universities in the field of interdisciplinary water research, and is supported by the Global Institute for Water Security (GIWS) and the Global Water Futures (GWF) program. 

Goethe University is the third German partner university of the University of Saskatchewan, along with Greifswald and TU Darmstadt. 

Image for download: 

Caption: A sustainable partnership: Representatives of Canada's University of Saskatchewan (including Vice President for Research Prof. Baljit Singh, fourth from right) and Goethe University, represented by President Prof. Enrico Schleiff (third from right). (Photo: Jürgen Lecher / Goethe University) 

Further information
Cathrin Rieger
International University Partnerships
Goethe University
Tel: +49 (0)69 798-18156

Editor: Pia Barth, Public Relations Officer, PR & Communications Office, Tel. + 49 (0)69 798 12481, Fax + 49 (0)69 798 763 12531,


Dec 6 2022

New energy record for lead ion collisions at CERN – higher collision rates promise new insights into the beginnings of the universe

Big Bang research: ALICE experiment at CERN starts test operation with lead ions – Goethe University coordinated detector upgrade

The ALICE experiment at the CERN particle accelerator center in Geneva, Switzerland, investigates the state of matter shortly after the Big Bang, also known as the quark-gluon plasma. By causing lead ions to collide with each other, it is possible to create such a quark-gluon plasma for tiny fractions of a second. Now, for the first time, a test run at CERN for the ALICE experiment has generated collision energies of 5.36 teraelectronvolts per nucleon-nucleon collision – the highest collision energy ever achieved worldwide. Researchers led by Goethe University's Harald Appelshäuser prepared the central ALICE detector for these higher collision rates, which they hope will offer new insights into the origin of the universe. 

FRANKFURT. A few fractions of a second after the Big Bang, all matter in the universe constituted a kind of "elementary particle soup", known as quark-gluon plasma. By allowing heavy ions to collide in particle accelerators, it is possible to create such quark-gluon plasma for an extremely short time. Such lead ion collisions are central to the ALICE experiment at CERN's accelerator center, which aims to study the properties of matter as it existed shortly after the Big Bang. 

During a four-year renovation phase, lasting from 2018 to 2022, the world's most powerful particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, was once again improved and now is capable of accelerating significantly more lead ions than before. The ALICE detector was also upgraded during this time, enabling it to record the higher collision rates the LHC will deliver in the future. For this purpose, it was necessary to completely replace the readout detectors of the experiment's central detector, the so-called Time Projection Chamber (TPC). Prof. Harald Appelshäuser from Goethe University's Institute of Nuclear Physics is in charge of this project, which has been ten years in the making. Among other things, the new TPC will make it possible to determine the temperature of the quark-gluon plasma produced during the lead-lead collision. 

The tests now being carried out at CERN with lead ions will allow ALICE researchers to verify that the readout and signal handling work as expected. The enormous amounts of data generated during the measurements constitute a major challenge – for the TPC alone, the data volume comes to several terabytes per second. To sufficiently reduce the amount of data stored, this data stream must be processed in real time using effective pattern recognition methods. 

The EPN (Event Processing Nodes) computing cluster, which is based on both conventional processors (CPUs) as well as special graphics processors, was set up for this exact experiment. Leading the project is Prof. Volker Lindenstruth of the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies (FIAS) and Goethe University's Institute for Computer Science. 

The first measurements of the new energy constitute a great success for CERN's heavy ion program. Prof. Harald Appelshäuser: "We can hardly wait for the measurements to really start now." 

Images for download: 

Caption: The ALICE detector is being opened for an upgrade. Photo: Sebastian Scheid, Goethe University 

Further information
Prof. Harald Appelshäuser
Institute of Nuclear Physics
Goethe University
Tel: +49 (0) 69 798-47034 or 47023

Editor: Dr. Markus Bernards, Science Editor, PR & Communication Office, Tel: +49 (0) 69 798-12498, Fax: +49 (0) 69 798-763 12531,


Dec 5 2022

New study by Goethe University’s Academy for Islam in Research and Society (AIWG) on the career entry of graduates of Islamic Theology and Religious Education Studies

Career prospects for graduates of Islamic Theological Studies 

What profession do graduates of the recently established academic degree on Islamic Theological Studies at German Universities take up after having completed their studies? Within the German context, that question has now been addressed in a study prepared by Goethe University's Academy for Islam in Research and Society (AIWG), in collaboration with the Universities of Giessen and Mainz. The results of the study, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, were recently published in the Academy's "WiFo paper" publication series

FRANKFURT Up to 2,500 young people study Islamic Theology or religious education at German universities. Where do they work once they have completed their studies: in schools, as imams, as social workers, in the media? An interdisciplinary team from the universities of Giessen, Mainz and Frankfurt took a closer look at precisely this question, and the AIWG just published the qualitative and quantitative results of the study "Berufsfeld Islam" (“Islam as an occupational field") in its publication format "WiFo paper". 

More than 200 graduates of Islamic Theological Studies at universities in five German states were interviewed for the study: What professions did they pursue after studying Islam? How well do they feel their studies prepared them for the working world? What are the factors that favor career entry? The results show for which professions the Islamic Theological Studies introduced at German universities in 2011 primarily qualify students. 

Social work and teaching as important fields of employment
The central findings of the "Berufsfeld Islam" study: Almost half the graduates are employed in social work or related professional fields. Another 40 percent work in educational professions. By contrast, hardly any participants in the study work full-time as imams. In retrospect, most respondents see the study of Islamic theology or religious education as a phase of intellectual and personal development. However, feedback also showed that many wished their studies would have better prepared them for their later activities. 

Two-thirds of those who have completed a teaching degree program would choose this path again. After completing their studies, they have a relatively clear career profile in mind and a regulated transition into the teaching profession. However, many report increased structural hurdles and burdens, since Islamic religious education is still in the process of being established. 

By contrast, less than half would choose the theological focus again. After completing their studies, these graduates have to explore their own careers, and, in the first few years, are usually only employed on a temporary basis. It is worth noting, however, that the employment rate here is at the same level as that for other humanities. 

In general, the study shows that graduates make an above-average contribution to society. More than half of them are involved in voluntary work. In particular, those with a theology major often take on responsibility in religious and social institutions. 

"With the follow-up study of graduates, we now have important, systematically collected information on students' career entry for the first time. In addition, the results of the study can help students and prospective students get a clearer picture of the opportunities the degree programs offer and what additional key competencies are important for a successful career entry, especially in the humanities," comments AIWG Director Prof. Bekim Agai on the study results. "The study suggests that practice-oriented study programs, such as part-time master's degrees, should also be offered. Internships, volunteer work or semesters abroad are also helpful for a successful career start," says Prof. Naime Çakir-Mattner from the University of Giessen, who led the research project together with Prof. Constantin Wagner from the University of Mainz. The survey was conducted among graduates who had obtained a bachelor's degree or a state examination in Islamic theology or religious education at universities in Frankfurt, Erlangen-Nuremberg, Giessen, Münster, Osnabrück or Tübingen between 2016 and 2019. More than 200 of the total of some 570 graduates from this period took part in the study. 

About the project leadership
Naime Çakir-Mattner is a professor of Islamic theology, with a focus on Muslim lifestyles, at Justus Liebig University Giessen. Her research interests include migration, gender and religion, islamophobia and racism, Islam and Muslims in the European context. 

Constantin Wagner is Professor of Educational Science, with a focus on heterogeneity, at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. His research interests include heterogeneity and social inequality in post-migrant society and Islam(understandings) in postcolonial Europe. He is the author of the AIWG expertise "Who Studies Islamic Theology? An Overview of the Subject and its Students". 

About the AIWG "WiFo paper"
The WiFo papers series publishes project reports, position papers, and exploratory contributions from AIWG's scientific project groups . They take up Islamic-theological topics from inter-university projects and thus contribute to specialist discourses and interdisciplinary exchange. 

The study (in German) can be downloaded from the AIWG website: 

The key findings of Prof. Constantin Wagner's expertise “Who Studies Islamic Theology? An Overview of the Subject and its Students" is available online and includes an English summary on pages 7-9: 

Charts and book titles available for downloat at:
The images and charts provided may be used editorially only in the context of reporting on the publication. 

Caption: A new study by the Academy for Islam in Research and Society (AIWG) looks at the career entry of graduates in Islamic Theological Studies and religious education. (Charts: Erkin Calisir/AIWG) 

Further information
Stefanie Golla
Coordinator Science Communication and PR
Academy for Islam in Research and Society Goethe University
Phone: +49 (0)69 798-22459

About the AIWG
The Academy for Islam in Research and Society (AIWG) at the Goethe University in Frankfurt conducts interdisciplinary research and transfer activities with a focus on Islamic Theological Studies and Muslim life in Germany. It connects all faculties for Islamic Theological Studies or Islamic religious pedagogy located in a University in Germany. The academy addresses issues of social participation by including perspectives related to religion. The AIWG is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and by the Stiftung Mercator foundation.

Editor: Dr. Anke Sauter, Science Editor, PR & Communication Office, Tel: +49 (0) 69 798-13066, Fax: +49 (0) 69 798-763 12531,


Dec 1 2022

Physicist receives prestigious European Research Council grant to study quantum mechanical tunneling effect 

Tunneling particles in 3D: ERC Starting Grant for Goethe University’s Dr. Sebastian Eckart

In the world of quantum physics, electrons sometimes manage to overcome the binding forces of the atomic nucleus and leave the atom, even though they do not actually have enough energy to do so. For his research into this so-called quantum mechanical tunneling effect, physicist Sebastian Eckart of Goethe University Frankfurt has now been awarded one of the coveted European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grants. He and his team will use the funding of about 1.8 million euros over the next five years to analyze the quantum mechanical tunnel effect in three dimensions. The ERC Starting Grants are intended to enable young scientists to drive forward independent research projects over several years

FRANKFURT. The "Starting Grant" from the European Research Council offers experimental physicist Sebastian Eckart from Goethe University's Institute of Nuclear Physics the opportunity to literally enter new physical territory with his research group: "We want to look at the quantum mechanical tunnel effect in three dimensions," Eckart says. This has not been possible in this form until now, even though the tunnel effect has been known for decades and is well-studied due to its fundamental importance for quantum physics. 

In the tunnel effect, a particle passes through a potential barrier which, according to the rules of classical physics, is insurmountable for the particle. An analog example from mechanics would be a ball that can roll over a hill only if its kinetic energy exceeds the potential energy it has at the top of the hill. In quantum mechanics, particles are occasionally able to overcome such hills even if they do not actually have enough energy to do so: They "simply" move through the hill, an act known as "tunneling." The tunneling effect in fact is one of the seemingly paradoxical quantum phenomena. In quantum mechanics, it can be explained a bit like this: Due to the peculiarities of quantum physics, particles are in fact also waves. An offshoot of these particle waves is capable of reaching through the potential barrier and thus enables the particle to manifest itself beyond the barrier and "free" itself from it. 

"We take simple argon atoms as the system for study and send a beam of this noble gas through our sample chamber," Eckart says. The potential barrier required for the tunneling effect consists of the electromagnetic attraction the atomic nucleus exerts on the argon atoms' electrons. Using extremely strong laser pulses that hit the atom from different directions and reach an intensity of about a quadrillion watts per square centimeter at the point of intersection, the electrons in the atom can every now and then be "persuaded" to tunnel. Even if the frequency of the irradiated laser pulses is too low to cause direct ionization, at such strong-field intensities the electric fields of the laser pulses shift the electron particle waves in a way enabling the tunneling effect – something that occurs in about a quarter of the atoms. 

Particularly exciting for the fundamental understanding of the tunnel effect will be how the properties of the laser pulses – i.e. their directions of oscillation in all three spatial dimensions – interact with the tunneling electrons. Although it is known that the angular momentum of the light particles and the electrons can have a strong influence on the tunneling effect, certain combinations in the properties of the laser pulses and the released electrons serve to strengthen or weaken this effect. However, to date this has never been studied in all three dimensions. To do just that, Eckart is using a Frankfurt co-invention: the COLTRIMS reaction microscope, which allows atomic events to be resolved in three dimensions. This will make it possible to answer old and fundamental questions about quantum physics as well as light-matter interaction. 

Images for download: 

Caption: Dr. Sebastian Eckart of Goethe University's Institute of Nuclear Physics. Photo: private 

Further information:
Dr. Sebastian Eckart
Institute of Nuclear Physics
Goethe University Frankfurt
Tel. +49 (0)69 798 47019

Editor: Dr. Markus Bernards, Science Editor, PR & Communication Office, Tel: +49 (0) 69 798-12498, Fax: +49 (0) 69 798-763 12531,


Nov 21 2022

Frankfurt physicists receive prestigious awards from world's largest physics society

German Physical Society honors Goethe University’s Sebastian Eckart and Thomas Wilhelm 

Two Goethe University physicists have been awarded high-ranking prizes by the German Physical Society. Dr. Sebastian Eckart from the Institute of Nuclear Physics has received the Gustav Hertz Prize, endowed with 7500 euros, for his contributions to fundamental questions of quantum mechanics. Professor Thomas Wilhelm from the Department of Physics Education was bestowed with the Robert Wichard Pohl Award and a prize money of 5000 Euro for his outstanding contributions to the modernization of physics education. The awards were announced by the German Physical Society (Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft, DPG) on November 17, 2022. 

FRANKFURT. Sebastian Eckart has succeeded in conducting groundbreaking experiments in atomic physics on the shortest time scale: Using ultrashort laser fields, he was able to generate ring currents in single atoms by selectively removing electrons with a specific sense of orbit from the atom. The result was an ion with a defined ring current in which the majority of electrons orbit in one direction around the atomic nucleus. This demonstrated the possibility of storing information in individual atoms in the form of ring currents, whereby "writing" and "reading" occur in a few femtoseconds (one femtosecond is 0.0000000000001 seconds). In another paper, Eckart was able to measure tiny time delays – of only about 0.02 femtoseconds – of electrons emitted from molecules. In his latest work, he succeeded in creating an entangled pair of atoms within a few femtoseconds. Entanglement is a quantum effect in which particles can only be described together, even if they are at a greater distance from each other. The "spooky action at a distance" – so coined by Einstein – can now finally be studied at the atomic level with extremely high time resolution. 

How can teachers improve learning in physics lessons, from primary school to university? This question has been at the forefront of the mind of physics educationalist Professor Thomas Wilhelm for more than two decades. He has shown that the teaching concepts developed by him enable students to understand the material taught better than in conventional lessons. However, the didactic preparation of the material alone is not enough, his research shows, because it also depends on how one embeds physical terms in pupils' everyday concepts of physics and with their way of thinking and approaching learning itself, i.e. with the "mindset". Thomas Wilhelm has produced a number of books with teaching materials, has written several textbooks for physics teacher training programs and physics teachers, and has published a large number of practical teaching articles in teacher journals. In its tribute to the award winner, the DPG writes: "His work is characterized by a strong subject and school orientation and combines his numerous projects for the development of teaching concepts and materials well-grounded in research on physics pedagogy. His projects have a great impact on teachers and contribute significantly to the further development of physics teaching." 

Sebastian Eckart studied physics in Constance from 2009-2015 with stays abroad in Italy and Oman. He completed his master's thesis under Professor Alfred Leitenstorfer, Chair of Experimental Physics at the University of Constance. In 2019, he completed his PhD at Goethe University Frankfurt in the group of Professor Reinhard Dörner at the Institute of Nuclear Physics. In 2020, his outstanding PhD on "Strong Field Ionization in Two-Color Fields" received the Dissertation Award of the Association of Friends and Sponsors of Goethe University and the Institute of Physics, the main professional association for physicists in the UK and Ireland. After research stays in Berkeley and Vienna, Sebastian Eckart is now a postdoctoral researcher at Goethe University. 

Thomas Wilhelm studied physics and mathematics for the grammar school teaching profession, after which he worked as a grammar school teacher in Marktbreit. In 2005, he received his doctorate from the Justus-Maximilians-Universität of Würzburg for his thesis on dynamic visualisations in mechanics. His habilitation in 2011 was on innovative video-based approaches to the analysis of motion videos. In 2012, he accepted an appointment at Goethe University, where he has since been a professor of physics education. He has received numerous prizes and awards for his research, including the Frankfurt Physics 2021 Science Prize. 

The Gustav Hertz Prize recognizes outstanding, recently completed work by young physicists to encourage scientists at an early stage in their careers. The work has to come from the fields of experimental or theoretical physics, show some degree of completion, and contain new insights. In this context, "insights" are not understood solely in the sense of fundamentals; rather, results are also valued in terms of application and practice. The Gustav Hertz Prize was created in 1992 following the merge of the Prize of the DPG – Physics Prize – and the Gustav Hertz Prize of the Physical Society of the former German Democratic Republic (GDR). 

The Robert Wichard Pohl Award is awarded for outstanding contributions to physics that have a special impact on other disciplines in science and technology, for exceptional achievements in the dissemination of scientific knowledge in teaching at university, in the classroom and in physics education research. With some 55,000 members, the German Physical Society is the world's largest professional physics society. 

Images for download: 

Caption: Goethe University award winners:
Professor Thomas Wilhelm, Department of Physics Education. Photo: private
Dr. Sebastian Eckart, Institute of Nuclear Physics. Photo: private

Editor: Dr. Markus Bernards, Science Editor, PR & Communication Office, Tel: +49 (0) 69 798-12498, Fax: +49 (0) 69 798-763 12531,