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University of Bayreuth Centre of International Excellence "Alexander von Humboldt"

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Senior and Junior Fellows

Senior Fellows 2024

Professor Diego Bustos                                                                                                                                                 CONICET, Mendoza, Argentina

Project: Optogenetic Modulation of the cAMP/PKA/14-3-3 Trinity

Professor Diego Bustos

In optogenetics, photoreceptors enable spatiotemporally precise, reversible, and noninvasive control of cellular processes by light. Recent optogenetic approaches to regulate cell signaling, including recombination of bacteriophytochrome photosensor modules with cyclase effectors, are leading to the development of photoactivated adenylyl cyclases (PACs) that catalyze the synthesis of the second messenger 3,5-cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP). This second messenger, together with protein kinase A (PKA) and phospho-motif binding protein 14-3-3, form a common triad found in many cellular signaling pathways. We will use a PAC developed by the Moeglich lab to specifically modulate cAMP levels in two well-characterized PKA/14-3-3 regulatory systems: stabilization of the aryl acyl amine N-acetyltransferase protein, the key enzyme in melatonin production, and nucleus/cytoplasmic shuttling of the cAMP-responsive element-binding protein during adipogenesis of 3T3-L1 preadipocyte cells.

Host: Prof. Dr. Andreas Möglich, Chair of Photobiochemistry     


Dr Cassandra Gorman                                                                                                                                                                Anglia Ruskin University, Ely, United Kingdom

Project: Cosmological poetics and early modern English women writers, 1550 – 1700

Dr Cassandra Gorman

This project focuses on lesser-known natural philosophical and poetic writings by early modern English women (1550-1700), primarily in manuscript or in under-explored printed works. Notably, and in sympathy with Professor Florian Klaeger’s research interests, it identifies and aims to trace a remarkable cosmopoetics – a poetics associated with cosmological theories and tropes – across different forms of poetry by female writers. By exploring natural philosophical content in texts not primarily ‘scientific’ in purpose, the project rethinks the knowledge base of early modern women’s writing, as well as the history of the relations between natural philosophy – and indeed more recent scientific practice – and poetics more broadly. The intended outputs include open-access, digital editions of little-known poetic texts; an international conference at the University of Bayreuth; a critical article; and a monograph, Chemical and Astronomical Forms in Early Modern Women’s Manuscript Writings.

Host: Host: Professor Dr. Florian Klaeger, English Literature

Professor Christopher Meissner                                                                                                                                  University of California, Davis, California, USA

Project: Strategic Global Trade in the long-run. Empirical research using historical trade data

Professor Christopher Meissner

Political conflicts have a long history of threatening global trade. Especially countries that are highly integrated in an international devision of labour and global production networks are highly exposted to the risk of interrupted or affected trade relations. The collaboration will put the question into a historical setting and explore, how historical conflicts have the international economy in particular global value chains. On the base of newly gathered fine granular trade data, we study the effects of World War I on Germany’s global economic exposure as well as comparing it with other countries like the USA. The collaboration will bring historical knowledge and research experiences with great data packages together and also promote international connection for the Bayreuth History&Economics programme as well as the International Economics group (TRISTAN).

Host: Prof. Dr. Jan-Ottmar Hesse, Professor of Economic and Social History

Professor Markus Stock                                                                                                                                               University of Toronto, Canada                                                                                                                                                          

Project: Medieval Undergrounds: Subterranean Entanglements in Medieval and Early Modern German Literature

Prof. Dr. Markus Stock

Utilizing ecocritical and narratological methodologies, the project explores the ways in which literary and other texts shape and are shaped by the engagement with the underground in medieval and early modern Germany. The project reconceptualizes pre-industrial extractive and other vertical entanglements between humans and the planet’s subsoil spheres, touching on creative, mythological, religious, technological, and behavioural aspects of human communities.

Host: Prof. Dr. Cordula Kropik, Chair of German Medieval Studies

Professor Eyal Winter                                                                                                                                                             Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel

Project: Game Theoretic and Behavioral Study of Social Media

Professor Eyal Winter

With Professor Fabian Herweg and Professor Stefan Napel at the University of Bayreuth I intend to study incentive mechanisms for online social networks. In addition to the standard game theoretic analysis we will address relevant behavioral biases (such as conformation bias or salience bias) to reflect on some of the anomalies that take place in social media and suggest remedies. We hope that the by-products of our studies will help to improve the quality of content that appears on social media, increase efficiency and fairness of social media practices, and eventually, improve users’ benefits and experience from their interactions on social media. We plan to engage junior researchers in the project and build the infrastructure for a long-term collaboration between the Center for the Study of Rationality at the Hebrew University, and academic staff members at Bayreuth University who work in similar topics.

Host: Prof. Dr. Fabian Herweg, Chair of Law, Business and Economics

Junior Fellows 2024

Dr. Philipp Braun                                                                                                                                                             Australian National University, Barton, Australia

Project: Simultaneous target set stabilization and obstacle avoidance and corresponding Lyapunov-like characterizations

Dr. Philipp Braun

Even after more than 130 years since first introduced by Aleksandre Mikhailovich Lyapunov in his doctoral thesis, nowadays so-called Lyapunov functions and related Lyapunov methods are still the main tool to characterize stability properties of solutions of dynamical systems.

While stability and stabilization (i.e., controller designs to reach a target set) and invariance and avoidance (i.e., controller designs to avoid obstacles and to guarantee safety) as individual concepts are well established and characterized, the combined problem achieving both goals at the same time is not sufficiently addressed yet.

In this project we will work towards theoretical results describing the combined control problem of simultaneous target set stabilization and obstacle avoidance using Lyapunov methods and Lyapunov-like characterizations. In addition to theoretical results, optimization and machine learning based numerical methods to address the problem will be investigated.

Host: Prof. Dr. Lars Grüne, Chair of Applied Mathematics

Dr Kan Ma                                                                                                                                                                           University of Birmingham, UK

Project: Novel chromium-based bcc-superalloys for advanced concentrated solar plant applications

Dr. Ma Kan

This project aims to develop new refractory metal based superalloys beyond the state-of-the-art nickel superalloys for advance power generation systems operating at temperatures above 900 °C. Breakthroughs in these high-performance, cost-effective materials will enable more efficient and sustainable energy production through supercritical CO2 Brayton cycles.

Host: Prof. Dr.-Ing. Anke Silvia Ulrich, Chair of Metals and Alloys

Dr. Matthias Zußner                                                                                                                                                             Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz (University of Graz), Graz, Austria

Project: The Concept of EU Digital Single Market Law

Dr. . Matthias Zußner

As the European Union has enacted countless legal acts which, taken as a whole, not only form the basic and framework order for the digital economy, but also provide fully-fledged sets of rules in many area, the EU Digital Single Market Law has not just become thematically unclear, but also seems to be losing its reference to the logics of the primary law’s foundations which it is enacted on. This raises fundamental questions, in particular with regard to the legal basis of competence (Does virtually all legislation fall under the EU's internal market competence, Art. 114 TFEU?) and the substantive guiding principles of the Digital Single Market Law (Is a new "fundamental digital freedom" emerging?). The aim of my research project on “The Concept of EU Digital Single Market Law” is to establish a coherent doctrine for the EU Digital Single Market Law.

Host: Prof. Dr. Christoph Krönke, Chair of Public Law I

Senior Fellows 2023

Professor Sang Won Bae, South Korea   Hide
Professor Bae

Professor Sang Won Bae

Kyonggi University, Yeongtong-gu, Suwon, South Korea

                                                                                                                                         Project: Higher-Order Color Voronoi Diagrams: Structures and Algorithms

In this research project, we study higher-order color Voronoi diagrams. Voronoi diagrams are one of the central topics in discrete and computational geometry, and have been extensively studied since the 1980s along with numerous applications in diverse disciplines of science and engineering. The color Voronoi diagram and its higher-order variant are relatively new concepts generalizing the ordinary Voronoi diagrams. Despite its natural generality and importance, however, neither structural complexity bounds nor algorithms are yet known in the literature. The purpose of this research project is thus to discover unrevealed structural and algorithmic properties of the higher-order color Voronoi diagram, aiming to establish tight bounds on its structural complexity and to present first efficient algorithms. By its own interest in theory and application prospect in practice, this research project is expected to lead various follow-up researches, finding new applications in different fields.

Host: Prof. Dr. Christian Knauer, Institute of Computer Science

Dr. Paul Bentley, UK  Hide
Dr Paul Bentley

Dr. Paul Bentley London, United Kingdom                                                                     Imperial College London, United Kingdom

Project: Prediction and detection of clinical deteriorations from wearable tracking of natural behaviour

Paul Bentley collaborates with Aldo Faisal, Professor of Digital Health at Bayreuth University, on a project aiming to automate observations in hospital inpatients, to forewarn deteriorations. The research utilizes a practical, wearable method for tracking natural behaviour, and will be trialled on hundreds of patients in UK and Germany.

Host: Prof. Dr. Aldo Faisal, Chair in Digital Health

                                                                                                                                                            Imperial College

Professor Christopher McNeill, Australia Hide
Professor McNeil

Professor Christopher  McNeill                                                                                                                                     Monash University, Clayton, Australia

Organic semiconductors are of interest for a range of applications including low cost solar cells but their complexity of microstructure hampers fundamental understanding. This fellowship will combine complementary expertise in materials science, materials processing, spectroscopy and theory to unravel the complex relationships between molecular packing, semiconductor properties and device performance.

Host: Prof. Dr. Anna Köhler, Chair of Experimental Physics II and  Prof. Dr. Eva Herzig, Juniorprofessor for Dynamics and Structure Formation – Herzig Group   

Junior Fellows 2023

Dr. Annelies Andries, Netherlands  Hide
Dr Annelies Andries

Dr. Annelies Andries                                                                                               Utrecht University, Utrecht, Netherlands 

Project: Gender in Translation: Bavarian Translations of French Opera,  1800-1825 

This project seeks to understand opera translation as a performative and embodied cultural negotiation practice. It takes as its case study early nineteenth-century operatic culture in München, Coburg, Bamberg and Bayreuth. It analyses how through the blossoming culture of imported and translated French operatic works and practices, the region dealt with the volatile relationship to (post)Napoleonic France and associated legal and political frameworks concerning gender and other aspects of identity.

Host: Prof. Dr. Kordula Knaus, Faculty of Languages & Literatures

Interview: Meet the Fellow: Annelies Andries 


Dr. Everton Maciel, BrazilHide
Prof. Maciel

Dr Everton Maciel                                                                                                                                Research Foundation of the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development, Brazil

Project: Linking Biodiversity patterns and ecosystem services to public policies in South American savannas in current and future scenarios

The tropical savannas of the Americas are among the most biologically diverse areas on the planet. These savannas are exposed to different pressures such as climate change, biological invasions, habitat loss and overexploitation.

This project has the following objectives:                                                     

(i) identify the species most vulnerable to global change; (ii) assess the persistence of these species in response to global change; (iii) identify conservation gaps and (iv) identify priority areas for conservation action in South American savannas.

Host: Prof. Dr. Steven Higgins, Chair of Plant Ecology

Interview: Meet the Fellow: Everton Maciel

Dr. Frank Poulsen, SpainHide
Dr Frank Poulsen

Dr. Frank Poulsen                                                                                                           King Juan Carlos University, Madrid

Project: Hermann Conring and the Legal History of the Holy Roman Empire

This project is part of a larger future project investigating the contexts in which scholars have developed legal history in Europe from 1600 to 1900: INTELLEX. The first part of this large project focuses on Hermann Conring (1606-1681) at the University of Helmstedt. In the 1640s, he held a controversial view that the Holy Roman Empire was not a continuation of the Roman Empire. Since Roman law did not apply, he proposed a codification of German law. What were the intellectual and wider socio-political and legal contexts for Conring’s claims? What sources and what historical methods did Conring use? What legal or political concepts did he teach and to whom? What impact did it have on constituting a discipline?

Host: Prof. Dr. Martin Ott, Institute for Franconian Regional History and Prof. Dr. Astrid Swenson, Institute for Franconian Regional History

Senior Fellows 2022

Professor Andrey Grigoriev, USAHide
Professor Andrey Grigoriev

Professor Andrey Grigoriev
Rutgers University, USA

Project: Predictive models of small RNA-directed mRNA surveillance in planarians

This Senior Fellowship will support a collaboration of an experienced computational biologist interested in small RNAs, Prof. Andrey Grigoriev (Rutgers University, USA), with the UBT host, Prof. Kuhn, who studies the regulation of planarian regenerative ability by piRNAs. The proposed new joint project will combine experiments and computation to (1) expand this research to the entirety of planarian small RNAs, and (2) to employ computational methods of artificial intelligence in this dynamic area of study for predicting small RNA targets in a stem cell system. Given the complementary skillsets and matching interests of Profs. Kuhn and Grigoriev, the proposed collaboration is timely and likely to significantly advance research on small RNA regulation of planarian stem cells and to result in a high-profile joint publication. On the applied side, this proposal could also significantly contribute to the development of stable transgenics in planarians and studies of regeneration in humans.

Host: Prof. Dr. Claus-Dieter Kuhn, Professor for RNA Biochemistry

Interview: Meet the Fellow: Andrey Grigoriev

Professor Jean-Michel Ménard, CanadaHide

Professor Jean-Michel Ménard
University of Ottawa, Canada

Project: Quantum THz photonics: using strongly coupled vibrations to modulate optical absorption

Resonant interaction between a molecular transition and a confined electromagnetic field can lead to the “strong coupling regime” giving rise to quantum states with new properties. Recently, there has been lots of interest in achieving this regime at vibrational energies to change chemical properties. Here, a similar approach is used to modulate optical absorption properties of molecules. First, an innovative plasmonic resonator will be used to achieve strong coupling regime with molecular vibrations in the terahertz region. Optical absorption will then be monitored as a function of the coupling strength. Finally, an intense driving field will be used to control the quantum state. Our work will help refine the general understanding of quantum systems and lead to new applications in quantum information, computation, and chemical sensing. Notably, we aim to develop a mean to perform deep infrared spectroscopy of vibrational transitions with a simple absorption measurement in the visible.

Hosts: Prof. Dr. Markus Lippitz, Experimental Physics III and Prof. Dr. Georg Herink, Ultrafast Dynamics

Interview: Meet the Fellow: Jean-Michel Ménard

Junior Fellows 2022

Dr. Marilize Everts, South AfricaHide
Dr. Marilize Everts

Dr. Marilize Everts
University of Pretoria, South Africa

Project: Pool boiling characteristics to investigate single-phase flow through tubes with a constant surface temperature

The seventh Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) is to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all, but unfortunately South Africa is facing an energy crisis.  Therefore, the Department of Energy has prioritised renewable energy technologies and aims to contribute 42% of the country’s energy mix by 2030. Being able to design more efficient heat exchangers for renewable energy applications can contribute to achieve this goal.  Accurate design information and correlations are key to optimise the heat exchangers. Extensive research has been done on single-phase flow through tubes heated with a constant heat flux.  However, gaps in literature still exist when it comes to tubes with a constant surface temperature due to the complexity of maintaining a uniform temperature along the tube length.  The aim of this project is to experimentally investigate pool boiling characteristics to maintain a constant surface temperature along the length of a submerged tube.

Host: Prof. Dr.-Ing. Dieter Brüggemann, Engineering Thermodynamics and Transport Processes

Interview: Meet The Fellow: Marilize Everts

Professor Nathaniel Umukoro, NigeriaHide
Professor Umukoro

Professor Nathaniel Umukoro
Western Delta University, Nigeria

Project: Food and Welfare: Assessing Nigeria’s Food Security Policies from a Social Policy Perspective

It is a very concerning situation that over 100 million people in Africa are facing catastrophic levels of food insecurity. Although it is a global problem, the situation in Nigeria is very worrisome. In the 2020 Global Hunger Index, Nigeria ranks 98th out of 107 countries. Consequently, a careful assessment of existing social policy framework for food security in Nigeria will help identify areas of strength and weakness in order for improvements to be made. Nigeria is strategically significant for the study of challenges confronting Africa because of the population and new challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.  The study will utilize the case study design and mixed method data collection and analysis approach. The research will be conducted in collaboration with the Prof. Dr. Tim Dorlach at the University of Bayreuth.  The research project will provide useful insights on how the COVID-19 pandemic influenced social policy responses to food security in a Global South country.

Host: Prof. Dr. Tim Dorlach, Global Nutrition and Health Policy

Interview: Meet the Fellow: Nathaniel Umukoro

Senior Fellows 2021

Professor Krzysztof Kozłowski, PolandHide
Photo Prof Kozlowski

Professor Krzysztof Kozłowski
Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Poland

Project: Media Use and Propaganda: The Bayreuth Wagner Festival 1933 - 1944

The Bayreuth Richard Wagner Festspiele was the apple of the eye of Nationalist Socialist propaganda. On account of various circumstances (historical and cultural) the Festspiele in the period 1933-44 has been omitted as a subject of research. The relevant media-satellites around this festival suffered a similar fate. This research project therefore aims to fill this hiatus and in so doing, examine the role of the Festspiele – as a primary medium of theatre and the media wedded to it – as a vehicle of propaganda in Nazi Germany. Moreover, based on archival materials, the project shall demonstrate the instrumental use of the media in the hierarchy of that time: 1) radio, 2) film, 3) press and 4) Programmheft. Further, the study highlights the consequences of the changes instigated by Hitler, whereby after 1939 the Festspiele turned into the 'Kriegsfestspiele'. This important historical turning point saw propaganda aims change as did the profile of the Bayreuth audience.

Host: Professor Anno Mungen, Research Institute for Music Theatre Studies (fimt)

Research stay: June-November 2021

Professor Stephanus Muller, South AfricaHide
Professor Muller

Professor Stephanus Muller
Stellenbosch University, South Africa

Project: How is South African art music (not) African art music?

The proposed research will consider, for the first time, the interfaces between art music production in South Africa and notions of African art music articulated Akin Euba and a host of other African scholars and composers. These interfaces – musical and discursive – have not been the object of scholarly enquiry. At stake is the important and overdue development of different perspectives on African musical modernity – research that requires the unique musical sources of the archive of the Iwalewahaus. The proposed research builds on an existing collaboration with the host at the University of Bayreuth, Dr. Lena van der Hoven, whose work on opera in Africa considers shared concerns with the definition and delimitation of ‘African’ as a descriptor for music production in (South) Africa. The award of the fellowship shall therefore not only strengthen, but also expand thematic and institutional collaborative capacity at the University of Bayreuth and at Stellenbosch University.

Host: Dr. Lena van der Hoven, Musicology

Interview: Meet the Fellow: Stephanus Muller

Research Stay: September-December 2021

Junior Fellows 2021

Dr. Justin Begley, FinlandHide
Photo Dr Begley

Dr. Justin Begley
University of Helsinki, Finland

Project: Botany Before Linnaeus: Poetry and Scholarship in the Res publica Botanica, c. 1660-1740

My project will chart the gestation and consolidation of botany as a distinct field in Europe from c. 1660-1740. During the Renaissance, it was generally physicians who studied plants for medical purposes. By the mid-eighteenth century, however, prestigious professorships appeared in the subject, and holders of existing chairs in medical botany drifted towards investigating plants as such. While Carl Linnaeus is now well studied, the field-shaping output of his immediate precursors has been severely neglected. My project will begin to fill this lacuna with two articles on three figures who were critical to raising botany’s status: Nehemiah Grew, Stephen Hales, and John Martyn. By charting how these botanists manipulated rhetorical tropes and literary traditions, I will provide an intricate backstory to August Strindberg’s memorable claim that “Linnaeus was actually a poet who happened to become a naturalist”, forging a tangible link between the “cultures” of science and literature.

Host: Professor Dr. Florian Klaeger, English Literature

Interview: Meet the Fellow: Justin Begley

Research Stay: October-December 2021

Publication resulting from the cooperation:

Justin Begley (2022): Stephen Hales (1677-1761) and the Uses and Abuses of Plant-Animal Analogies, Il bosco: Biodiversità, diritti e culture dal medioevo al nostro tempo, ed. by Alessandra Dattero (Viella), 257-274.

Dr. Abdelmjid Kettioui, MoroccoHide
Dr Kettioui

Dr. Abdelmjid Kettioui
L´École Nationale Supérieure d’Arts et Métiers, Moulay Ismail University in Meknes, Morocco

Project: Moroccan Activist Atheism in the Diaspora: The Neoliberal Politics of a Subcultural ‘Non-Movement’

This research project aims to map out Moroccan atheist activism in the diaspora as a subcultural “nonmovement,” (Bayat 2010). Emerging in the wake of the so-called Arab Spring in 2010/ 2011, these unorganized and marginalized voices of irreligion have steadily encroached upon a religious field theretofore monopolized by the state and the Islamists. Taking atheist activist Hicham Nostik as a case study, this study is based on interviews with key atheist, secular and Islamist-leaning activists in Morocco and abroad. Nostik mobilizes the Moroccan dialect to demystify Islam’s sacred Arabic texts through ‘subcultural modes of knowledge production’ (Kettioui 2020). Articulating an oppositional and decolonial position vis-à-vis Islam’s religious authoritarianism and the Arab invasion of North Africa in the seventh century, Nostik reproduces the neoliberal and supremacist idiom of New Atheism and remains reticent about state authoritarianism and the “coloniality of modernity” (Mignolo 2018).

Host: Professor Paula Schrode, Religious Studies

Interview: Meet the Fellow: Abdelmjid Kettioui

Research stay: June-September 2021

Dr. Violeta Radovich, ArgentinaHide

Dr. Violeta Radovich
Post-Doc (CONICET) at the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina

Project: International ocean governance beyond national jurisdiction – towards an environmental integrative approach based on participation of indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs)

Specific objectives:

1) Investigate the negotiations of a new legally-binding treaty under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (LOSC) aiming at the protection of marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction, specially the topics marine genetic resources (MGRs) and  marine protected areas (MPAs); taking especially into account regulation of participation of IPLCs to provide their traditional knowledge.

2) Study negotiations in the Conference of the Parties (COPs) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) for identifying and protecting ecologically or biologically significant marine areas (EBSAs), especially as regards IPLCs participation.

3) Analyze negotiations as of 2014 in the COPs to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as regards the role of the Ocean and IPLCs participation.

4) Compare and integrate the above-mentioned regulations to detect strengths and weaknesses in environmental ocean regulation and propose integrative solutions.

Host: Professor Eva Julia Lohse, Public Law

Interview: Meet the Fellow: Violeta Radovich

Research Stay: September 2021 - January 2022

Joint Publication: Violeta Radovich, 2023: Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities ̓ Participation provisions in Negotiations on Conservation of Marine Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction, in: (Eds. Peters and Lohse) “Sustainability Through Participation? Perspectives from National, European and International Law”, Brill Academic Publishers, Leiden.

Violeta Radovich, Eva Lohse, Margherita Poto, 2023: Case study: Exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons at the sea in Argentina: Is knowledge co-created or only a non-binding formal requirement? In Coproduction of Knowledge in Climate Governance (Eds. Lohse and Poto); Berliner Wissenschafts-Verlag, Berlín, p. 173 – 182.

Dr.-Ing. Gianvito Vilé, ItalyHide

Dr.-Ing. Gianvito Vilé
Politecnico di Milano, Italy

Project: Deciphering microkinetic relationships in single-site catalysts for sustainable chemical processes

Single-site catalysts (SSCs) represent a pinnacle in catalyst design with remarkable potential for sustainable chemical transformations. These materials isolate well-defined and accessible metal atoms within a porous heterogeneous carrier, achieving activities and selectivities matching those of traditional homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysts. This area of research has received an explosion of interest in recent years, thanks to advances in catalyst design and characterization, and due to their outstanding catalytic performance. Despite their uses, no study has explored in great detail how the reaction mechanism can be a function of the SSCs structure. Here, we aim to integrate the application of cutting-edge characterization methods with dedicated microkinetic modelling, in order to rationalize the kinetic response of these materials. This will enable to ascertain those structure-activity relationships that are key for catalyst design and further optimize the materials structure.

Host: Professor Andreas Jess, Chemical Engineering

Interview: Meet the Fellow: Gianvito Vilé

Research Stay: July-August 2021, December 2021 - January 2022 and June-September 2022

Senior Fellows 2020​

Professor Sarah Colvin, United KingdomHide
Prof Colvin

Professor Sarah Colvin
University of Cambridge, United Kingdom

Project: Towards a Politics of Fiction

In a time when distinctions between truth and fiction are a potentially world-changing political issue, it becomes necessary to re-examine the political and social power of stories. This project develops current thinking about narrative environments, narrative exclusion, and epistemic violence, to assess stories’ potential to create and overcome divisions. It investigates contemporary narrative engagement with politics in and beyond the nation-state and addresses the meaning of aesthetic form for the political dimension of cultural production. By developing a taxonomy of the politics of fiction we will enable new understanding of the social and political power of stories.

Sarah Colvin holds a BA, MA, and DPhil from the University of Oxford and is the Schröder Professor of German and a Fellow of Jesus College in the University of Cambridge. She has held Chairs at the Universities of Edinburgh, Birmingham (as Director of the DAAD Institute for German Studies) and Warwick, a Humboldt Senior Fellowship at the University of Potsdam, and a Guest Lecturership at Bielefeld’s Graduate School in History and Sociology. She is the representative for literary studies on the international Committee of Experts for the DFG’s Excellence Strategy. She currently leads the research group Cultural Production and Social Justice.

Host: PD Dr. Kyung-Ho Cha, Contemporary German Literary Studies

Joint Publication: Sarah Colvin, Stephanie Galasso, (eds)  (2022), Epistemic Justice and Creative Agency. Routledge

Dr Vincent Merckx, The NetherlandsHide
Prof Merckx

Dr Vincent Merckx
Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Leiden, The Netherlands

Project Title: Carbon transfer in arbuscular mycorrhizal networks

In the mycorrhizal mutualism – one of the most widespread symbioses on earth – plants and their root-associated fungal symbionts mutually exchange carbon for water and soil nutrients in complex underground networks. However, the existence of several ‘cheater’ plant lineages – plants that exploit mycorrhizal fungi for carbon – demonstrates that this ‘fair-trade’ mycorrhizal mutualism is vulnerable to subversion. We aim to test the hypothesis that cheating plays a significant role in forest ecosystems with an in-depth study, which fuses stable isotope abundance analyses, RNA sequencing, and growth experiments. The results will increase our understanding of how plants compete and coexist in terrestrial ecosystems.

Vincent Merckx (*1980) started his scientific career at the University of Leuven (Belgium) in 2004, with a PhD study on the evolution of mycoheterotrophic plants. Following stays at the labs of Prof. Tom Bruns and Prof. Chelsea Specht at UC Berkeley (USA), where he worked on fungal associations of mycoheterotrophic plants, he moved to the Netherlands to work at the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden. At Naturalis, he leads the Understanding Evolution research group, which aims to address macro-evolutionary questions in plants and fungi. In addition, he is an Associate Professor at the University of Amsterdam. 

Hosts: Professor Gerhard Gebauer, Head of the Laboratory of Isotope Biogeochemistry and
Junior Professor Johanna Pausch, Agroecology

Interview: Meet the Fellow: Vincent Merckx

Professor Philip Smith, USAHide
Prof Smith

Professor Philip Smith
Yale University, New Haven, USA

Project: Wagner, Bayreuth and the Negotiation of Sacred Meaning

Using the perspective of cultural sociology this mixed-method project examines the personal and public meanings attached to Richard Wagner, his operatic works and the Bayreuth Wagner Festival. These are characterized by complexity and unease. On the one hand Wagner’s music is associated with humanism and feelings of spiritual and aesthetic transcendence. On the other hand there is the taint of Wagner’s antisemitism, the festival’s profound connections to National Socialism, and social exclusivity. Topics of the research include the experience of the festival and music, the relation between aesthetics and morals, and the pragmatics of seeking deep experiences. 

Philip Smith is Professor of Sociology at Yale University where he is known as a key figure in the Strong Program in cultural sociology. He has a PhD from UCLA in Sociology and an MA in Social Anthropology from Edinburgh University. Smith has written widely in the areas of social and cultural theory and cultural sociology. His most recent book "After Durkheim" (Polity Press, 2020) considers the evolution of the Durkheimian tradition in sociology, anthropology and social theory over the past 130 years.

HostDr. Florian Stoll, Department of Sociology

Joint Publication: Philipp Smith & Florian Stoll (2021): A Maximal Understanding of Sacrifice: Bataille, Richard Wagner, Pilgrimage and the Bayreuth Festival, Religions, 12(1), 48; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12010048.

Class as Collective Representation: Lessons from Wagner and Bayreuth on the Discrete Harms of the Bourgeoisie

Dr Heikki Takala, FinlandHide
Dr Takala

Dr Heikki Takala
University of Helsinki, Finland

Project: Phytochrome-based Biotechnology in Bacteria

Photoreceptor proteins allow organisms to sense and respond to light. In optogenetics, they enable the precise light-driven manipulation of various biological processes. Phytochromes are red/far-red light sensing family of photoreceptors. Here, we study the signal transduction mechanisms in bacterial phytochromes and apply them for optogenetics. We characterize a novel phytochrome type that acts as a light-gated transcription factor. We harness this and other phytochromes for the optogenetic regulation of bacterial gene expression, which also yields an efficient screening platform for the discovery and analysis of other phytochrome variants. The project provides unprecedented insight into phytochrome signaling and novel optogenetic implements.

Heikki Takala attained his PhD in the field of cell- and molecular biology in the University of Jyväskylä in 2011. After a postdoctoral period in Jyväskylä, he visited Dr. Sebastian Westenhoff at the University of Gothenburg as a postdoctoral researcher in 2013–2015. This period was followed by an Academy of Finland Postdoctoral Researcher position in the University of Helsinki in 2015-2018. To date, Dr. Takala works as an independent group leader in The University of Helsinki. His research vision is to understand the mechanisms underlying the function of light-driven proteins, especially phytochromes, and apply them for novel optogenetic tools.

HostProfessor Andreas Möglich, Chair of Biochemistry III: Photobiochemistry

Joint Publication: Elina Multamäki,... Andreas Möglich and Heikki Takala. "Comparative analysis of two paradigm bacteriophytochromes reveals opposite functionalities in two-component signaling." Nature Communications 12: 4394 (July 2021). https://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/acssynbio.2c00259

Interview: Meet the Fellow: Heikki Takala

Junior Fellows 2020

Dr Yannig Luthra, United KingdomHide
Dr Luthra

Dr Yannig Luthra
University of Essex, United Kingdom

Project: Social Freedom and Unfreedom

My project critically examines a liberal tradition that casts social freedom as a matter of limitations on an individual's option space. I explore a contrasting idea that unfreedom lies in the enactment of instrumentalized social roles. Unfreedom exists where it is fundamental to one’s role as a participant in a social formation that one is to act as an instrument set to the purposes of power holders. Social freedom, in turn, lies in a social form of agency, a kind of living together, that is precluded by the instrumentalizing power relations of domination. 

I am an independent researcher affiliated with the University of Essex. I am working toward an integrated understanding of the unfreedom inflicted in domination, social power, the intersection of sociality and individuality, and a kind of freedom marked by forms of agency that are characteristic of persons. I have a PhD in Philosophy from UCLA.

HostsProfessor Cristina Borgoni Gonçalves, Professor of Epistemology and
Professor Gabriel Wollner, Professor of Political Philosophy

Interview: Meet the Fellow: Yannig Luthra

Dr Celia Rodriguez Dominguez, SpainHide
Rodriguez Dominguez

Dr Celia Rodriguez Dominguez
IRNAS-CSIC, Seville, Spain

Project: Connecting the Dots Between Root, Xylem and Stomata 

Understanding the physical constraints to transpiration and photosynthesis during drought is of paramount importance to (i) predicting vegetation response to climate change and (ii) identifying plant traits that confer drought tolerance. Stomatal closure is one of the first response to drought, making plants to conserve water but also limiting their carbon assimilation. However, its trigger during soil drying remains contentious. We aim to combine physiological and imaging experiments to investigate whether the loss in belowground conductivities and/or xylem cavitation represent important limitations to stomatal conductance. 

Celia started her PhD at the University of Seville (2010, Spain) studying the control of transpiration in fruit trees by combining plant-based sensors with stomatal mechanistic models. She spent research stays at Sonoma State University (Dr Tom Buckley, 2011, USA) and the University of California, Los Angeles (Dr Lawren Sack, 2012, USA). After a 3-year postdoc at the School of Plant Sciences of the University of Tasmania (Prof Tim Brodribb, 2016, Australia), she moved to IRNAS-CSIC where she finished her studies as a Marie-Sklodowska-Curie Fellow. Currently, she is a Juan de la Cierva postdoctoral researcher at IRNAS-CSIC where she continues exploring innovative ways to determine the optimal provision of water for crops based on key plant physiological traits.

HostsProfessor Andrea Carminati, Professor of Soil Physics and Professor Johanna Pausch, Professor of Agroecology

Interview: Meet the Fellow: Celia Rodriguez Dominguez

Joint Publication: P. Duddek, A. Carminati, N. Koebernick, L. Ohmann, G. Lovric, S. Delzon, C.M. Rodriguez-Dominguez, A. King & M.A. Ahmed. (2022). The impact of drought-induced root and root hair shrinkage on root-soil contact. Plant Physiology, 189: 1232 - 1236

M. Mantova, H. Cochard, R. Burlett, S. Delzon, A. King, C.M. Rodriguez-Dominguez, M.A. Ahmed, S. Trueba & J.M. Torres-Ruiz. (2023). On the path from xylem hydraulic failure to downstream cell death. New Phytologist, 237: 793 - 806

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