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Scientists from Goethe University, the University of Basel and the Research Centre Point Sud opened a unique postgraduate academy in Bamako (Mali) on Monday
FRANKFURT. Strengthening basic research in African countries – this is the goal of the new postgraduate academy in the Mali city of Bamako – in particular in the humanities and social sciences. The academy, which was financed by the Gerda Henkel Foundation and conceived by scientists from Frankfurt and Mali, was ceremonially opened on 2nd March.
Despite great progress, the francophone African countries still receive scant consideration in the global production of knowledge. Especially in the humanities and social sciences, there is greater focus on the need for problem solving in politics and development industries – to the detriment of the potential for developing these fields. Professor Elisio Macamo from the University of Basel, one of the two founding directors, described the situation during the opening ceremony: “In politically-oriented discourses, science sees itself as obligated to provide solutions for human problems, and practical utility becomes the benchmark for determining the validity of knowledge." In fact, the debate about the extent to which science is required to produce relevant knowledge leads to a dilemma that has made the discussion very difficult. “Scientists, especially in Africa, are caught between communicating useful knowledge while simultaneously watering down scientific standards on the one hand, and maintaining scientific standards while simultaneously risking irrelevance on the other," says Macamo.
In a context which in public opinion is particularly characterised by “seemingly obvious problem areas" which are to be solved with the help of the scientific repertoire learned at universities, what role does basic research play in the humanities and social sciences? This is a question also asked by Professor Mamadou Diawara from the Institute for Ethnology at Goethe University, who founded the new academy together with Macamo and scientists in Mali. The conceptual and methodical development of the disciplines themselves are often neglected in the process. It is of more importance, however, to understand the problems thoroughly and formulate the right questions. Unfortunately, this is far from being a given. According to the scientists, the excess of “applied research" in the service of development politics leads to Africa increasingly falling behind in the production of global knowledge, a phenomenon particularly evident in francophone Africa, which is the focus of the project.
The “Pilote African Postgraduate Academy (PAPA)“ developed by Goethe University, the University of Basel and the research centre Point Sud in Bamako explicitly does not see itself as decolonial project. “We're not looking for an African science that does everything differently than the so-called European science. On the contrary, we want to free scientific vocabulary from these kinds of intellectual corsets," Macamo explained. PAPA intends to strengthen basic research in the humanities and social sciences. Fifteen early career scientists from eight countries began their work in research following the opening of the academy. Professors Mamadou Diawara and Elisio Macamo are responsible for the scientific leadership. The academy's training programme is designed to encourage scholarship recipients to engage in a critical dialogue with their discipline, area studies, and their identity as scientists to address fundamental epistemological questions. After concluding the three-year PAPA cycle, the carefully selected junior researchers will return to their native institutions to teach and research at a different level. Twice a year, the fifteen selected early career researchers and up to four established scientists in Bamako will take part in two-week workshops in Bamako. A mentoring programme will connect high-level researchers and award winners at their native institutions. In addition, a strong network is to be created for scientists and teachers from francophone African countries who live both inside and outside of Africa to exchange ideas and develop joint projects. The project will be funded by the Gerda Henkel Foundation for its first three years.
The event was ceremoniously opened by the Mali Minister for Education and Research, Professor Mamadou Famanta, and the German ambassador in Mali, Dr Dietrich Fritz Reinhold Pohl. The renowned Senegalese philosophy professor, Soulyemane Bachir Diagne from Columbia University, New York gave a lecture entitled „La question de l'Universel et les Etudes Postcoloniales“. Diagne also spoke in opposition to the radicalism of post- and decolonialists: “Of course we don't want to burn down the colonial libraries – we want to use and criticise them." He also spoke in opposition to “experience science," in which research on certain segments of the population can only be carried out by its own members, since all others are supposedly unable to understand their life reality. “The idea that the everyday problems of black women can only be studied by black women is absurd. This approach would quickly put an end to science," says Diagne. The opening ceremony ended with his brilliant lecture and a discussion with the fellows that lasted for over an hour.
The event continued in the afternoon at the research centre Point Sud which has been financed by Goethe University since 2012 as part of a DFG-programme. There, participants met the early career researchers who work at the centre. In the evening, the launch of the project was celebrated to traditional kora music.
Images may be downloaded here: https://uni-frankfurt.de/86320819
PAPA0001: Professor Mamadou Diawara (left) and the Minister for Education and Research, Professor Mamadou Famanta, at the opening in Bamako. (credit: Stefan Schmid)
PAPA0002: Presentation of the research centre Point Sud by Vice Director Professor Tiéman Diarra. (credit: Stefan Schmid)
PAPA0003: Group picture with fellows and mentors. (credit: Stefan Schmid)
PAPA004: The fellows of the new postgraduate academy. (credit: Stefan Schmid)
Further information: firstname.lastname@example.org; You can find further information on the PAPA project and the selected scholarship recipients on the Point Sud website: http://pointsud.org/pilot-african-postgraduate-academy-papa/?lang=en , on the Goethe University website (https://aktuelles.uni-frankfurt.de/forschung/staerkung-fuer-grundlagenforschung-in-afrika/ ) and the website of the Gerda Henkel Foundation (https://www.gerda-henkel-stiftung.de/pressemitteilung?page_id=120413#top
Study at Goethe University shows: When choosing a partner, fish pay attention to personality
FRANKFURT. Pet owners have been sure of this for long time, and scientific research provides confirmation: animals, too, have personalities. A study originating at Goethe University documents that even with regard to fish, their own personality traits and that of their potential partner is critical when selecting a “groom”.
Individual animals, from vertebrates to crabs and spiders, exhibit consistent behaviour tendencies that distinguish them from other members of their species. The most thoroughly researched personality trait in the animal world is propensity for risk-taking. A wide range of individuals, from very shy to quite courageous, can be found among the small freshwater fish Poecilia mexicana, which live primarily in the rivers of Mexico. Both traits can be of advantage: while shy fish have a lower risk of being eaten by predatory fish and birds, bold ones are often more efficient at finding food.
Risk-taking males also have advantages when it comes to choosing a partner, as shown in a study by Dr. Carolin Sommer-Trembo and other scientists at Goethe University. Using behaviour tests, males and females were first classified on a scale from shy to bold. A partner selection test followed, in which females were allowed to choose between two males with different risk-taking propensities. To prevent the females from being too strongly affected by other criteria, the males were selected so that they were almost identical in their external characteristics such as body shape, colouration and size.
The results seemed clear: bold males were preferred. But at second glance, the risk appetite of the females also played a role in the decision. Bold females exhibited the strongest preference for bold males, while this preference was weaker among shy females. Are courageous males more attractive to all females, or do less courageous males also have chance, since “birds of a feather flock together”? The study shows that these two mechanisms are intertwined and, as is so often the case, the truth is not a case of “either/or” but of “both/as well as”.
Publication: Sommer-Trembo C, Schreier M, Plath M (2020) Different preference functions act in unison: mate choice and risk-taking behaviour in the Atlantic molly (Poecilia mexicana). Journal of Ethology, DOI: 10.1007/s10164-020-00643-5
Images may be downloaded at: http://www.uni-frankfurt.de/86091187
Caption: The female Atlantic molly is not very colourful, while the tail fins of the male glow in various shades of yellow and orange (Credits: Claudia Earp (Fishes1 and 2) / Martin Plath (Fishes3))
Further information: Carolin Sommer-Trembo, Postdoc, Zoological Institute of the University of Basel, Vesalgasse 1, 4051 Basel, Telefon: +41 (0) 783079999, Email: email@example.com
PROXIDRUGS project led by Goethe University included in concept phase of “Clusters4Future” programme – search for novel active components for therapeutic solutions
FRANKFURT. PROXIDRUGS, the regional network led by Goethe University, aims at developing active molecules for selective intervention, opening new therapeutic avenues. Within the “Clusters4Future" ideas competition, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research has now selected the project for funding in the concept phase – as one of 16 finalists out of 137 proposals submitted.
“The body has developed an ingenious mechanism for disposing of superfluous or harmful proteins. We wish to seize this to break down disease-relevant proteins," says PROXIDRUGS coordinator Professor Ivan Đikić from the Institute of Biochemistry II at Goethe University, explaining the project's rationale. Developing better therapies for diseases such as cancer, heart or inflammatory disease is the goal of the alliance of biochemists, chemists, clinicians and pharmacists from Goethe University, the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology (IME) and TU Darmstadt.
The Federal Ministry of Education and Research will support the project with funds of up to € 250,000 during the six-month concept phase starting in May. If the alliance then qualifies for the implementation phase, up to € 5 million will be available per year for PROXIDRUGS. With this funding scheme, the Ministry wants to turn scientific hotspots into powerful regional innovation networks. “Goethe University at the heart of the Rhine-Main region, a top location unique in Germany, bundles academic and industrial expertise for the development of innovative therapeutic concepts," says Professor Simone Fulda, the University's Vice-President, praising the consortium's approach, which is based on reprogramming of the cell's own systems.
Proteins destined for degradation are usually marked in an enzymatic reaction with the small protein ubiquitin. The cell's “shredder", the proteasome, recognizes this signal and breaks the respective protein down into its individual components, which are then recycled. At the focus of PROXIDRUGS is a novel class of drugs acting through a proximity-based mechanism: The corresponding molecules exhibit two functional units – one for the selective binding of the respective target protein and a second one to dock onto the required enzyme. In this way, any unwanted protein that has a suitable binding pocket can in principle be marked with ubiquitin and flagged for degradation.
First molecules based on this principle, called PROTACs (Proteolysis Targeting Chimeric Molecules), already exist. A major advantage is their high specificity and catalytic mode of action – meaning that each molecule can carry out multiple reactions, such that only a small amount of active drug is needed. First trials with PROTACs in prostate and breast cancer are currently underway. The researchers in the PROXIDRUGS alliance now want to create new molecules in this very promising class of drugs, e.g. for diseases that until now cannot be treated with small molecules.
One of the aims of the PROXIDRUGS alliance of Goethe University, TU Darmstadt and the Fraunhofer IME is to bundle existing expertise in basic and clinical research, in pharmaceutical and biotech companies in the Rhine-Main region within one network. “Translation of our results to the clinic will be challenging," says Đikić. “However, thanks to close collaboration with regional companies, which have already shown great interest in the project, and the involvement of University Hospital Frankfurt, I'm confident that we'll master this challenge."
Further information: www.bmbf.de/zukunftscluster
An image and the logo can be downloaded under: http://www.uni-frankfurt.de/85772916
Image Caption: Diagram of PROTACs' mode of action. A PROTAC is bifunctional and comprises a ligand (L, green) for the enzyme E3 ligase and a binding domain (L, red) for the target protein, connected via a short linker region (black). (Graphik: IBC2/GU)
Further information: Dr Kerstin Koch, Institute of Biochemistry II, Goethe University, Theodor-Stern-Kai 7, 60590 Frankfurt am Main, Germany, Tel.: +49(0)69-6301-84250, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Patenting and commercialization crown ten years’ development work based on the “Green IT” approach of Professor Volker Lindenstruth of Goethe University and the GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research
FRANKFURT. By 2030, data centres could be responsible for 13 percent of worldwide power consumption. In Frankfurt, the global network node with the highest data volume, data centres today already consume 20 percent of all local electricity – and this figure is rising. A large part of it is used for cooling power. Already today, the waste heat from single large-scale data centres could be used to heat up to 10,000 households.
An answer to this global challenge comes from Hessen. To be specific, it comes from Goethe University and the GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research, which were recently granted a European patent for their concept for an energy-efficient cooling structure for data centres. This patent now paves the way for the commercialization of the pioneering technology developed by Professor Volker Lindenstruth, Professor Horst Stöcker and Alexander Hauser of e3c. Together with parallel patents outside Europe, the invention can now be put to economic use throughout the world. The team has already received enquiries from various countries for the construction of such data centres.
The data centre is thus becoming an important export commodity “Made in Hessen". This success is also thanks to Innovectis, Goethe University's own transfer agency, and its managing director Dr Martin Raditsch, the driving force behind the invention's commercialization, as well as Dr Tobias Engert, head of the GSI's Technology Transfer Department. The successful commercialization of the patents is a perfect example of collaboration between a university and a major research facility in Hessen.
NDC Data Centers GmbH, a Munich-based company, has obtained the rights to market the green technology in data centre construction projects around the globe and is thus also making a major contribution to the careful handling of our energy resources against the backdrop of global digitalization.
The basis for these activities is the visionary concept of a significantly optimized cooling system for data centres with the highest possible level of energy efficiency, which was developed by Volker Lindenstruth, Professor for High-Performance Computing Architecture at Goethe University and former head of the Scientific IT Department at GSI. On the basis of his concept, data centres and commercial IT systems can today be operated with up to 50 percent less primary energy consumption in comparison to conventional data centres.
The technology has been in use for years and is being continuously improved: The first data centre of this type was Goethe University's own, which was set at in the Infraserv industrial park. Another very data centre, the Green IT Cube, was built by the GSI Helmholtz Centre in Darmstadt and financed from funds provided by the German federal government and the Federal State of Hessen via Helmholtz expansion investments. The concept enables the realization and particularly efficient operation of data centres for large-scale research facilities such as FAIR (Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research), which is currently being set up at the GSI. Later, the Green IT Cube will be the central data centre for FAIR, one of the largest projects worldwide in support of research. Moreover, the waste heat from the servers in the Green IT Cube is already being used today to heat a modern office and canteen building on the GSI campus.
Apart from the high energy savings associated with the use of this new technology, the construction of such data centres is also extraordinarily cost-efficient, thus minimizing procurement and operating costs: An expedient coupling of ecology and economy.
Lindenstruth's supercomputers have received several awards for their energy-efficient concept in recent years. At the end of 2014, one of his computers ranked first place in the global listing of the most energy-efficient supercomputers, thanks to its greatly optimized computer architecture.
Goethe University's success in the area of green IT is also spurring on its current application, together with Mainz, Kaiserslautern and Saarbrücken, to host one of the new National High-Performance Computing Centres. Thanks to the optimized computer architecture based on the Hessian green IT approach, considerably more computing power could be made available to users at the same cost. Goethe University would therefore be an ideal location for one of the new centres.
Views on the green supercomputer technology:
Angela Dorn, Hessen's Minister of Science, says: “My sincere congratulations to Professor Lindenstruth and his team. I'm especially pleased that this success has been accomplished in a field close to my heart: The energy turnaround to which green IT can make a very important contribution. I'm also very happy that we as the Federal State of Hessen have contributed to this success. The first supercomputer in which Professor Lindenstruth used his energy-saving technology was the LOEWE-CSC at Goethe University's data centre in the Infraserv industrial park. Hessen's Ministry of Science supported this investment with a total of almost € 2 million in the shape of both direct funding as well as from the LOEWE programme. We're therefore today harvesting together the fruits of this funding and the LOEWE programme launched in 2008."
Professor Birgitta Wolff, President of Goethe University, says: “Just as in Goethe's days it made no sense to harness more and more horses in front of a stagecoach in order to increase the speed, so today we are facing a fundamental paradigm shift in IT. Back then, the railroad was the answer to the problem of speed. Today, the smart IT sector has a huge sustainability and energy problem. To satisfy its enormous hunger for data, our IT-based society requires new energy concepts for supercomputers that drastically reduce power consumption. Volker Lindenstruth from Goethe University has developed such a solution. Its successful patenting with the support of our subsidiary Innovectis is a major step in the right direction: The dissemination and commercialization of this truly smart technology."
Professor Volker Lindenstruth, Professor for High-Performance Computing Architecture at Goethe University, says: “Our successful patent registration is a milestone for the further global commercialization of our “Green IT" approach. We've already received enquiries for it from various regions worldwide. This gives our work a further boost, the more so since with NDC we now have a strong business partner at our side to help with the practical steps."
Professor Karlheinz Langanke, Research Director of the GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research and FAIR – Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research in Europe, says: “The Green IT Cube high-performance computing centre at the GSI Helmholtz Centre is an outstanding example of how practical and usable know-how and developments evolve out of basic research. The Green IT Cube was developed for enormous volumes of measurement data from scientific research: It provides the highest computing capacities required and is at the same time extraordinarily energy-efficient and space-saving."
Markus Bodenmeier, NDC co-founder and partner: “With the help of the innovations created by Professor Volker Lindenstruth from Goethe University and by the GSI, NDC Data Centers GmbH builds the most energy-efficient and resource-friendly data centres. In so doing, we can guarantee over the long term the benefits offered by the exponential growth of digitalization. We're in keeping here with the current trend – all major cloud operators are at present keeping a very close eye on the impact of their activities on the environment."
Other statements by experts involved:
Dr Martin Raditsch, Managing Director of Innovectis GmbH, a subsidiary of Goethe University explains: “The application in practice of this technology is a very nice example of how results from basic research at the University and their transfer lead to technological solutions for societal challenges. Through our technology, the advancing digitalization of industry and society can be accomplished in a far more energy-saving way."
Dr Tobias Engert, Director of the Technology Transfer Department at the GSI, is very pleased about the invention's success: “The cooling concept of the Green IT Cube at the GSI is based on an innovative idea for the reduction of energy costs, and together with Innovectis we've now been able to successfully market it to NDC. Equipped with an innovative cooling system, the Green IT Cube meets the high requirements of optimum energy efficiency coupled with the highest possible computing power, and it will later become the central data centre for the new accelerator FAIR – Facility for Antiproton an Ion Research. The commercialization of the patents is certainly one of the most important examples of technology transfer from the GSI into industry." His colleague Michael Geier, Director of the Patents Department, adds: “The sale of the patents to NDC corroborates how important it is to protect new technical solutions developed at research facilities such as the GSI through patents. Such patents are a deciding factor for technology transfer into industry, through which income is generated that then flows back into research."
High-resolution 3D microscopy shows how plants adapt flexibly to their surroundings
FRANKFURT. Plants use their roots to search for water. While the main root digs downwards, a large number of fine lateral roots explore the soil on all sides. As researchers from Nottingham, Heidelberg and Goethe University of Frankfurt report in the current issue of “Nature Plants", the lateral roots already “know" very early on where they can find water.
For his experiment, Daniel von Wangenheim, a former doctoral researcher in Professor Ernst Stelzer's Laboratory for Physical Biology and most lately a postdoc at Malcolm Bennett's, mounted thale cress roots along their length in a nutrient solution. They were, however, not completely immersed and their upper side left exposed to the air. He then observed with the help of a high-resolution 3D microscope how the roots branched out.
To his surprise, he discovered that almost as many lateral roots formed on the air side as on the side in contact with the nutrient solution. As he continued to follow the growth of the roots with each cell division in the microscope, it became evident that the new cells drive the tip of the root in the direction of water from the very outset, meaning that if a lateral root had formed on the air side, it grew in the direction of the agar plate.
“It's therefore clear that plants first of all spread their roots in all directions, but the root obviously knows from the very first cell divisions on where it can find water and nutrients," says Daniel von Wangenheim, summarizing the results. “In this way, plants can react flexibly to an environment with fluctuating resources."
The result is based on many hours of film material recorded using Light Sheet Fluorescence Microscopy (LSFM), a technique developed by Ernst Stelzer. In a vivid video clip, Daniel von Wangenheim shows the root-branching process in slow motion. His tweet has already attracted considerable attention from his colleagues in the field. https://twitter.com/DvonWangenheim/status/1224365891292405760)
Publication: Daniel von Wangenheim, Jason Banda, Alexander Schmitz, Jens Boland, Anthony Bishopp, Alexis Maizel, Ernst H. K. Stelzer and Malcolm Bennett: Early developmental plasticity of lateral roots in response to asymmetric water availability, in Nature Plants (3 February 2020), https://doi.org/10.1038/s41477-019-0580-z)
A picture can be downloaded under: http://www.uni-frankfurt.de/85595433
Caption: Light Sheet Fluorescence Microscopy is based on two processes: 1) lateral illumination of the specimen with laser light along a plane and 2) detection of fluorescent light emitted from a thin volume centred around the illumination plane. The plant (Arabidopsis thaliana) is mounted in a three-dimensional assembly, stands upright in a plant-derived gel appropriate for the species and supplied with medium and light.
Image rights: Daniel von Wangenheim.
Further information: Dr Daniel von Wangenheim, Plant and Crop Sciences, School of Biosciences, University of Nottingham, UK, Email: email@example.com
Professor Ernst Stelzer, Institute for Cell Biology and Neuroscience and Buchmann Institute for Molecular Life Sciences, Riedberg Campus, Tel.: +49(0)69-798-42547, Email: Ernst.Stelzer@physikalischebiologie.de