Press releases

 

May 23 2019
09:36

Goethe University researchers create postgraduate academy in Bamako (Mali) – almost € 1 million in funding from the Gerda Henkel Stiftung

Strengthening fundamental research in Africa 

FRANKFURT. Researchers from Goethe University and the University of Basel are creating a postgraduate academy in Bamako (Mali). The project, entitled “Pilot Africa Postgraduate Academy" (PAPA), has received € 973,000 from the Gerda Henkel Stiftung. The aim is to strengthen fundamental research in the humanities and social sciences in Africa. 

The sponsored project “Pilot African Postgraduate Academy" (PAPA) is aimed at early career researchers who have recently completed their doctoral degree in the area of humanities or social sciences and who work at universities in Africa. The goal is to deepen their understanding of the value of science for its own sake and foster their interest in conceptual fundamental research. “Africa is not only in need of applied research based on the needs of the development industry, but of excellent research that makes a contribution to the further development of global knowledge production as well, both in substance and in method," says Professor Diawara from the Institute for Ethnology at Goethe University, who conceived the Academy together with Professor Elisio Macamo from the University of Basel. 

“This project is unique in that the Henkel Stiftung is deliberately promoting the quality of fundamental research in Africa – not career paths or applied research," says Project Coordinator Dr Stefan Schmid from the Centre for Interdisciplinary Africa Research (ZIAF) at Goethe University. In 2018, Professor Diawara and Professor Macamo approached the Gerda Henkel Stiftung with the idea of developing a project for early career African researchers that was fundamentally different from the usual programmes. Together they will receive € 973,000 in funding from the foundation. The academy will be attached to the independent research centre “Point Sud" in Bamako, Mali, founded by Prof. Mamadou Diawara in 1997. 

An educational programme will be set up at the new academy which will encourage the scholars to engage in critical dialogue with their disciplines, the area studies and their identity as scientists with fundamental epistemological questions. The intensive education and supervision of these carefully selected young scientists will enable them to teach and publish at a new level after completing the three-year PAPA cycle.

Twice a year, there will be two-week workshops for 15 selected early career researchers and up to four established academics in Bamako. A mentoring programme will connect high-ranking researchers and award-winners with their homeland institutions. In addition, a strong network will be made available to scientists and academics from francophone African countries living both within and outside of Africa for exchange and common projects. 

The project is focused on early career researchers from seven francophone African countries that despite notable progress continue to play only a minor role in global knowledge production. The independent and established researching institution in Mali, Point Sud, constitutes the centre of this project due to its longstanding expertise and far-reaching network with partners throughout Africa. The Centre has been financed by Goethe University since 2003. The PAPA programme will be supported by selected mentors from Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Mali, Niger and Senegal, who will supervise the scholarship winners and implement the idea of the academy in their scientific environment. Together with the project “The bureaucratization of African Society" in Dakar, the newly founded Institute for Advanced Studies (IAS) in Accra, MIASA, the IAS in Stellenbosch and Nantes, and the new Africa Excellence Cluster at the University of Beyreuth, an entire network exists with an express interest in taking the Fellows' career development to a new level at the end of the project cycle. 

The project will be set up at Goethe University and coordinated jointly by Dr Stefan Schmid from Goethe University's Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies (ZIAF) and a new project coordinator at Pont Sud in Bamako. It is scheduled to start in July 2019 and will initially run until July 2022. 

Further information: Dr Stefan Schmid, General Manager of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Africa Research (ZIAF), Westend Campus, Phone: +49 69 798-32097, E-Mail s.schmid@em.uni-frankfurt.de

 

May 22 2019
13:32

EU-Project BRIGHTER sets its sights on 3D bioprinting systems with light sheet lithography

Producing tissue and organs through lithography

FRANKFURT. The production of artificial organs is a hot research topic. In the near future, artificial organs will compensate for the lack of organ donations and replace animal experiments. Although there are already promising experiments with 3D printers that use a "bio-ink" containing living cells, a functional organ has never been created in this way. A European consortium coordinated by Dr Elena Martinez (IBEC, Barcelona, Spain) and involving the Goethe University Frankfurt is now breaking new ground. The consortium is developing a lithography method that relies on light sheet illumination and on special photosensitive hydrogels that are mixed with living cells. 

Bio-printing systems that build up structures layer by layer (bottom-up approach) have considerable disadvantages. On the one hand, the printing process takes far too long, so that the survival chances of the cells in the bio-ink and in the polymerised layers considerably decrease. Furthermore, the extrusion pressure leads to a considerable cell death rate, especially for stem cells. In addition, the resolution of the method, around 300 micrometers, is far too low to reproduce the delicate structures of natural tissue. Finally, it is particularly difficult to integrate complex hollow structures, e.g. blood vessels, into the cell tissue. 

"With our project, we want to go the other way round by developing a top-down lithography method," explains Dr. Francesco Pampaloni from the Buchmann Institute for Molecular Life Sciences (BMLS) at Goethe University. The process works in a similar way to lithography in semiconductor technology. Instead of the semiconductor and the photosensitive layer, which is illuminated by a mask, a hydrogel with photosensitive molecules is used. This is exposed to a thin laser light sheet using the technique invented by Prof. Ernst Stelzer for light sheet microscopy. This leads to the formation of branched chain structures (polymers) that serve as a matrix for colonisation by living cells. The remaining, still liquid hydrogel is washed out. 

"This method will enable us to adjust the spatial structure and the stiffness with an unprecedented resolution so that we can create the same heterogeneous microstructures that cells find in natural tissues," explains Pampaloni. Pampaloni expects that completely new possibilities will emerge for the bio-fabrication of complex tissues and their anatomical microstructures. In addition, the specific properties of the matrix can be used to introduce stem cells into well-defined compartments or to enable the formation of vessels. Further advantages over conventional 3D printing systems are high speed and cost-effective production. 

BRIGHTER stands for "Bioprinting by light sheet lithography: engineering complex tissues with high resolution at high speed". Starting in July 2019, the project will be funded for three years as part of the European Union's renowned and highly selective "Future and Emerging Technologies" (FET) Open Horizon 2020 Programme. BRIGHTER will be financed with a total of € 3,450,000, of which € 700,000 will go to a team led by Dr. Pampaloni in Prof. Stelzer's Physical Biology Group in the Biosciences Department of the Goethe University. Further partners are the IBEC (Barcelona, Spain, coordination), Technion (Haifa, Israel) and the companies Cellendes (Reutlingen, Germany) and Mycronic (Täby, Sweden). 

An image may be downloaded here: http://www.uni-frankfurt.de/78299401
Caption: Light sheet bio-printing. A hydrogel composed of living cells and photosensitive molecules is deposited in a special cuvette. A thin laser light sheet illuminates the gel following a programmed pattern (green beam). This leads to the formation of 3D micro-structures that reproduce the tissue architecture and function. The remaining, still liquid hydrogel is washed out after the printing process.
Credit: F. Pampaloni, BRIGHTER, 2019 

Further information: Dr Francesco Pampaloni, Physical Biology, Faculty of Biological Sciences, Riedberg Campus, Phone: (069) 798-42544, fpampalo@bio.uni-frankfurt.de, https://www.physikalischebiologie.de/people/francesco-pampaloni

 

May 22 2019
08:17

Study proves effectiveness of new psychotherapy / publication in JAMA Psychiatry

Help for youth who have experienced sexual or physical abuse

FRANKFURT. There have not been many scientifically evaluated therapies for teens and young adults who have suffered physical or sexual abuse until now. Psychologists at Goethe University have closed the gap by developing a psychotherapeutic approach designed specifically for this age group. Its effectiveness has now been proved in a nationwide study lasting four years. 

About four to 16 percent of children in Western countries experience physical abuse; the percentage that experiences sexual abuse is between five and ten percent. Victims suffer from constraints in many areas of their lives as a consequence, and are at increased risk for mental illness as well, especially post-traumatic stress disorder. This is associated with stressful symptoms such as flashbacks, anxiety, sleep disorders and irritability. Things and situations that recall the traumatic events are often avoided. However, early treatment can help prevent long-term consequences. 

The team led by Dr Regina Steil, Senior Academic Council at the Institute of Psychology at Goethe University, developed a developmentally adapted cognitive processing therapy specializing on the situations and needs of teens and young adults between the ages of 14 and 21. It consists of 30 to 26 sessions over four to five months and is subdivided into four treatment phases. After a period of getting to know the therapist, the teens first learn to regulate their emotions and apply strategies for dealing with stress. Only after this do they begin to process their thoughts and feelings about the sexual or physical abuse and gradually regain a sense of security and control. 

A study funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research has now demonstrated that this new form of psychotherapy effectively reduces psychological stress. The study was led by Professor Rita Rosner, Chair for Clinical and Biological Psychology at the Catholic University Eichstätt, and encompassed treatment locations in Berlin (Babette Renneberg), Frankfurt (Regina Steil) and Ingolstadt (Rita Rosner). First results were published in the American Medical Association's “JAMA Psychiatry", which is one of the most renowned scientific psychiatric journals worldwide. 

In the study, the young patients were randomly assigned either to the new psychotherapy or to a treatment that is usual in Germany. The control group was given the option to be treated according to the new therapy once the study was completed. Toward the end of the therapy, or waiting period, the groups were compared with regard to psychological stress. The group that received the new therapy demonstrated significantly fewer symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder than the control group. Symptoms of other mental disorders, such as depression or borderline personality disorder, were also improved to a greater degree in this group. These differences were still evident three months after therapy conclusion. “The successful clinical trial of this new treatment represents an important step toward improving the treatment situation of traumatized youth and teens," summarises Dr Regina Steil. 

Publication: Rosner R, Rimane E, Frick U, et al. Effect of developmentally adapted cognitive processing therapy for youth with symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder after childhood sexual and physical abuse: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA Psychiatry. Published online April 10, 2019.   doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2018.4349 

Further Information: Dr Regina Steil, Institute for Psychology, Faculty 5, Bockenheim Campus, Phone.: +49 69 798-23379 , steil@psych.uni-frankfurt.de

 

May 20 2019
11:45

A new project at Goethe University examines reconstruction after 1945 in newsreels and documentaries 

Film images of war ruins 

FRANKFURT. How did post-war non-fiction films – newsreels and documentaries – represent wartime deconstruction and reconstruction efforts? How did these films trigger public debate and influence the formation of European post-war societies? These issues are the focus of a research project in film studies at Goethe University in cooperation with colleagues in Italy, France and the Czech Republic, due to launch next week. The project is being funded at approximately € 1 million within the framework of the European HERA programme. 

Public spaces were the focus of the HERA programme's 6th funding call. HERA stands for Humanities in the European Research Area. The programme, which is funded within the framework of the EU research funding programme Horizon 2020, focuses particularly on the humanities. Submitted applications were required to deal with the culture and integration of public spaces in Europe. 

“Visual Culture of Trauma, Obliteration and Reconstruction in Post-WW II Europe“ is the title of the project with which Professor Vinzenz Hediger from Goethe University and his colleagues from France, Italy and the Czech Republic were successful. With the plan to investigate war destruction and reconstruction in non-fiction film from 1949 to 1953, they were able to assert themselves along with 21 other projects out of a total of 300 applicants, and to exhaust almost the entire funding amount of a maximum of one million euros. The German subproject, which is also responsible for the coordination, will receive approximately half of this sum. The funds come mostly from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. 

Frankfurt is an ideal central location for this research in film studies: the city on the Main was heavily damaged, and debates have taken place here over reconstruction vs. starting new like in hardly any other city in Europe – to this day. The project, however, will concentrate on the years following the war: there is a lot of material to be examined. To gain access to this material the four principal investigators – in addition to Hediger, Professor Francesco Pitassio in Udine (Italy), Dr. Lucie Cesalkova in Prague and Professor Sylvie Lindeperg in Paris – have recruited the assistance of the national film archives. With their expertise and equipment, the material can be digitised and made available to a wider scientific community, says Hediger.

The project focuses on public spaces such as the Römer in Frankfurt, marketplaces and other politically relevant places. Both formal and substantive aspects will be examined: how many aerial photographs are there? Can repeating elements be determined? Are there symbols that repeatedly surface in the debate? What effect did filmic reporting and documentation have on the debate? What are the differences and commonalities among the various European countries? “Our hypothesis is that these films not only presented, but also made a massive contribution," says Hediger. Public spaces play a central role in democracy, as does their presentation in the media. In addition to the three principal investigators, one or two postdocs each will be involved in the project. 

The kick-off meeting to begin the three-year research project took place on 9th and 10th May in Frankfurt. The research team successfully developed workflows and refined research tools, which includes the creation of a sophisticated research database and the outlines of the main deliverable of the project, the Virtual Exhibition, a multi-lingual, film based educational experience which will be attached to the European Film Gateway 

Further Information: Prof Vinzenz Hediger, Professor for Film Studies, Institute for Drama, Film and Media Studies, Faculty 10, Westend Campus, Tel. +49 (0)69 798-32079: +49 (0) 151 644 188 35, hediger@tfm.uni-frankfurt.de

 

Apr 24 2019
12:21

Ivan Dikic from Goethe University elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 

Joining the company of Albert Einstein and Michelle Obama 

FRANKFURT. Professor Ivan Dikic, Director of the Institute of Biochemistry II, has been elected to the venerable American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Birgitta Wolff, Goethe University President, congratulated the physician and biochemist: “I am proud that following Jürgen Habermas, a second scientist from Goethe University has now been accepted to the Academy's illustrious society." 

From more than 1,300 nominations, the Academy appoints 200 new members each year from science, the arts, business, government and public affairs – including, this year, former First Lady Michelle Obama. Dikic has been elected as one of 23 international honorary members in the field of biological sciences, within which he has been recognised in more than one section. He is being honoured for his work in deciphering the role of ubiquitination and autophagy as quality control pathways in cells 

“I am deeply honoured to join this circle of distinguished personalities," Dikic said. “My gratitude goes to all past and present members of my lab, my mentors, and colleagues at Goethe University and to my family for their enduring support and friendship. I also wish to send a message to new generations stressing that science is an amazing profession where we can explore new ideas freely, enrich our creativity by curiosity, benefit society and have fun by sharing knowledge and working together with students and colleagues around the world." 

“One of the reasons to honour extraordinary achievement is because the pursuit of excellence is so often accompanied by disappointment and self-doubt," said David W. Oxtoby, President of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Founded in 1789, the Academy's members include Benjamin Franklin (elected 1781), Charles Darwin (1874), Albert Einstein (1924), the anthropologist Margaret Mead (1948), the economist and Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman (1959), Martin Luther King, Jr. (1966) and actor John Lithgow (2010).

The Academy will induct new members in a formal ceremony in Cambridge, Massachusetts in October. 

A picture may be downloaded here: http://www.uni-frankfurt.de/77441741 Credit: Uwe Dettmar 

Further information: Professor Ivan Dikic, Director of the Institute of Biochemistry II and the Buchmann Institute for Molecular Life Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, Niederrad Campus, Phone: +49 69 6301-5964, dikic@biochem2.uni-frankfurt.de, http://www.biochem2.com