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Pre-Doc Award 2017/2018

The Pre-Doc Award combines two goals: the advancement of research and the cultivation of a new generation of researchers. The fifteen selected projects embody the diverse research being carried out today at Leipzig University.

 

The Kick-Off-Event, November 2017

“2 Presentation Slides, 3 Questions, 4 Minutes” – Using this format the 15 winning 2-person teams (each made up of one doctoral candidate and one postdoc) introduced themselves, their topics, and their project plans. The event was held on 14 November 2017 at the ‘Villa Tillmanns’. The Chancellor of Leipzig University Professor Birgit Dräger and the Vice-Rector for Research and Young Academics Professor Erich Schröger were there to introduce the new programme.

 

Final Symposium in June 2018

The 15 selected 2-person teams presented their research and funding results at a final symposium held on 5 June 2018 at ‘Villa Tillmanns’ (click here for the English translation of this article). 12 of the 15 teams had already submitted grant applications and four had already received funding acceptance letters. University President Professor Beate Schücking, the Chancellor Birgit Dräger, and the Vice-Rector for Research and Young Academics Erich Schröger all gave positive assessments of the pilot Pre-Doc Award programme. In addition, the pre-doctoral students and postdocs who participated described it as an effective means of securing funding.

 

The Award Winning 2-Person Teams for 2017/2018

The following 15 two-person teams, each consisting of one pre-doctoral candidate and one postdoc were awarded funding in 2017-2018:

Carolin Böse-Sprenger & Dr. Rebekka Gersbach

Carolin Böse-Sprenger & Dr. Rebekka Gersbach

Photo: Swen Reichhold

Topic: Selbstbewusstsein und Gegenstandsbezug jenseits des Empirismus

Institution: Institute of Philosophy

Abstract: How is knowledge of the world possible in the face of error? One popular answer is minimal empiricism. Minimal empiricism is empiricist in that it holds that the fundamental ground we have for knowledge is sensory experience of the world; it is minimal in that it admits, following Kant’s and Hegel’s idealism, that in the case of us human beings sensory experience is informed by the faculty of reason, and thus provides grounds which are reasons. In making this idealist move minimal empiricism purports to overcome the traditional tension between the self-conscious authority of the knowing subject and the object-directedness of its acts of knowledge. But is this really so? In the dissertation I will be inquiring into the advantages of an empiricist epistemology (preserving the world’s mind-independence). From an idealist perspective I will then point to some severe problems and their origins, which will ultimately lead to a non-empiricist understanding of empirical knowledge.

Alessandro Braga & Dr. Chao Huang

Alessandro Braga & Dr. Chao Huang

Photo: Swen Reichhold

Topic: Establishing an animal model of predictive coding in the central auditory system

Institution: Institute of Biology

Abstract: Predictive coding is a fundamental aspect of brain function across species, crucial for the development of sensory-motor skills over the whole lifespan. The brain is constantly predicting the consequences of its own commands, and compares these predictions to outcomes in order to to adapt and learn.  Human studies have demonstrated the existence of predictive coding associated phenomena, such as sensory attenuation, in the interaction between the motor system and the hearing system. However, the methodological limitations of the human model prevent from investigating the neural substrates of these phenomena. Hence, we will establish a mouse model of predictive coding in the auditory system in order to enable a direct comparison to human data, by using similar behavioral tasks and EEG measurements. This will allow us to study underlying neural mechanisms inaccessible in humans by using invasive techniques such as optical imaging and multiunit recordings.

Luca Bruno & Dr. Martin Roth

Luca Bruno & Dr. Martin Roth

Photo: Swen Reichhold

Topic: Database characters as expressions of political thinking – Bedeutung fiktionaler Charaktere in der japanischen Populär- und Videospielkultur

Institution: Institute of East Asian Studies

Abstract: The study of Japanese anime/mangaesque characters and their potential for iteration and re-contextualization has been widely discuss, especially in light of their mode of supposedly generating engagement not on the basis of a unique identity in a unique setting, but rather on fan-recognized elements present in a character’s design and shared as part of the character’s host fan culture. However, as the character is subjected to re-contextualization, the way its constitutive elements are arranged still provide a connection with its host franchise, and in doing so, still allow the iteration of narratives and the statements it carries through a character’s identity referencing the character’s host storyline. The preservation of the character’s own identity allows in turn the preservation of narrative and its statements beyond re-contextualization, allowing critical examination of politics in a seemingly apolitical culture.

Julia Franke & Dr. Jonas Held

Julia Franke & Dr. Jonas Held

Photo: Swen Reichhold

Topic: Moritz Schlick unter dem Aspekt seiner Kenntnis-/Erkenntniskonzeption. Beziehung von Schlicks analytischem Standpunkt zum transzendentalphilosphischen Ansatz Emmanuel Kants.

Institution: Institute of Philosophy

Abstract: Moritz Schlick was one of the most important thinkers of the Vienna Circle. His work was groundbreaking for the development of modern analytical philosophy. As my dissertation project will show, there are many reference points between Schlick and the philosophy of Immanuel Kant that philosophers didn’t take into account until today. Central to Schlick´s Philosophy is what I call the „Kenntnis-/ Erkenntniskonzeption“. This conception marks an important distinction between sensual and conceptual knowledge. My main thesis is that we cannot get a clear understanding of Schlick´s „Kenntnis-/Erkenntniskonzept“, without relating it to Kant´s philosophy. To take the influence of Kant‘s philosophy on Schlick serious means also to rethink the relation between analytic and transcendental philosophy.

 

 

Christoph Graf & Dr. Sabrina Weiß

Christoph Graf & Dr. Sabrina Weiß

Photo: Swen Reichhold

Topic: Transnational Spaces and Discontinuous Places: The Auspices of Santa Muerte in Los Angeles

Institution: Institute for the Study of Religions

Abstract: This research project is an ethnographic study of Mexican-American religious communities. It specifically focuses on the narratives and practices of the devotion to Santa Muerte in Los Angeles. The thesis aims to critically examine the role of religious identity construction for processes of social spatialization, both within this urban context and in relation to the transnational interconnections of migrant communities. It seeks to reveal how these connections and processes intertwine with the construction and negotiation of other social, ethnic and national boundaries. Due to the controversial reputation of this saint of death and her followers, and the increasingly contested role of migrant communities in the United States, the findings will have implications for current academic as well as political debates. 

Thomas Grochow & J.-Prof. Dr. Dr. Simone Fietz

Thomas Grochow & J.-Prof. Dr. Dr. Simone Fietz

Photo: Swen Reichhold

Topic: Auswirkungen der kongenitalen Toxoplasmose auf neurale Stammzellen im Kortex des Meerschweinchens

Institution: Institute of Anatomy, Histology and Embryology

Abstract: Toxoplasmosis is one of the most prevalent zoonotic diseases worldwide. The illness is caused by the single-cell parasite Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii). Immunocompetent adults with primary T. gondii infection are usually asymptomatic. However, if a mother gets infected for the first time during pregnancy, the parasite is able to cross the placenta and infects the fetus, which often leads to serious and progressive symptoms. A hallmark of congenital T. gondii infection is the involvement of the central nervous system. Until now, detailed data on the course of the infection and the specific host cell populations in the fetal brain are lacking. Therefore, our project aims to characterize the specific host cell populations and their alterations in the fetal guinea pig brain infected with T. gondii. Moreover, we are planning to establish the guinea pig as a suitable model organism for studying human congenital toxoplasmosis.

Leonore Jungandreas & Dr. Johannes Mülmenstädt

Leonore Jungandreas & Dr. Johannes Mülmenstädt

Photo: Swen Reichhold

Topic: Verbesserung der Darstellung konvektiver Prozesse und Wolken in der Klimamodellierung und deren Parametrisierung

Institution: Institute for Meteorology

Abstract: Climate change is one of the most discussed and most significant societal challenges of the 21st century. To predict the future climate, it is necessary to estimate the sensitivity of the climate system to the emission of greenhouse gases and other pollutants. Unfortunately, climate models produce a wide spread of model responses to a given emission scenario. The leading source of uncertainty is the unrealistic model representation of clouds and precipitation. In the last decade, a new generation of satellites has been collecting global vertical profiles of cloud and precipitation properties. Using this data, we can advance observational constraints from the currently used snapshots of the atmospheric state to constraints on processes, providing direct tests of the physical realism of climate models. Our goal is to translate these process-based observational constraints on the present-day atmosphere into smaller uncertainties in climate model predictions.

Dilara Issayeva & Dr. Muslim Dvoyashkin

Dilara Issayeva & Dr. Muslim Dvoyashkin

Photo: Swen Reichhold

Topic: Catalytic and Diffusion Studies on Catalysts for CO2 Hydrogenation under Dynamic Reaction Conditions

Institution: Institute of Chemical Technology

Abstract: Supply of energy from renewable resources, such as solar and wind energy, has a fluctuating nature. The limited performance of batteries precludes the storage of the energy excess. One possibility to address this problem is utilization of hydrogen generated by electrolysis, e.g. by electrocatalytic water splitting, in further reactions for production of valuable chemicals. Such approach is known as the “power-to-chemicals” concept, in which methanol, formic acid, dimethyl ether, higher alcohols and other hydrocarbons can be produced as a result of CO2-hydrogenation reactions depending on the type of catalyst used and reaction conditions. The goal of our project is to address the influence of dynamic conditions on performance of a catalyst for methanol synthesis, including the possibility for occurrence of diffusion limitations resulting from them.

Raphael Krause & Dr. Stephanie Bremerich

Raphael Krause & Dr. Stephanie Bremerich

Photo: Swen Reichhold

Topic: (Meta-)seriality in German literature

Institution: Institute of German Language and Literature

Abstract: In the present age, metaization and seriality are ubiquitous in all media. It is often forgotten, though, that both concepts have a long history. If this fact is further neglected in research, however, it is not possible to comprehend both concepts adequately. As a consequence I intend to write a dissertation on (meta-)seriality in German literature. Metaphenomena can be defined as reflections of a medium in the medium itself. As a part of it, metaseriality means that a structure, which is genuine for a series, is reflected in the series itself. I pursue two main research interests, one being historical and one being systematical. Both are desiderata in current research. Firstly, I want to develop a workable concept of seriality in literature, which does not yet exist, because mostly TV-Series are given attention to and not serial formats in literature. Secondly, I want to analyze the history of (meta-)seriality within the history of German literature. All in all, it is my goal to enable a more differentiated view of the concepts of seriality and metaseriality in the future.

Ana Moledo & Dr. Steffi Marung

Ana Moledo & Dr. Steffi Marung

Photo: Ute Rietdorf

Topic: From anti-colonial activists to Third World revolutionaries: A history of social mobility across an beyond Lusophone Africa, 1950s – 1907s

Institution: Centre for Area Studies, Processes of Spatialization under the Global Condition

Abstract: Radical anti-colonial activism is a crucial piece to understand the multifaceted puzzle of 20th century global history. Its development, however, goes beyond a unidirectional narrative with easily identifiable locations or patterns. Taking the transnational trajectories of a set of anti-colonial actors from Lusophone Africa as the constitutive framework, this research project focuses on the mechanisms and infrastructures of mobility that enabled the establishment of subversive agendas and networks transcending the world of empire, nation-states and Cold War. Their encounters and transits through more than two decades across a multitude of geographical and institutional settings are the key to understand further post-colonial developments in Lusophone Africa as well as alternative visions of ordering societies and integrating them into a globalized world.

Colin Rosenberg & J.-Prof. Dr. Sebastian Schüler

Colin Rosenberg & J.-Prof. Dr. Sebastian Schüler

Photo: Swen Reichhold

Topic: Evolution of Religion, Moral and Social Complexity

Institution: Institute for Religious Studies

Abstract: The dissertation project is being conducted within the framework of the interdisciplinary research programme Cognitive Science of Religion (CSR), which applies a new approach, i.e. methodological naturalism, to research on religion. The goal of this approach is to represent religious thinking and action as the product of genetic-cultural co-evolution. The project focuses on the cognitive-psychological aspects that underpin socio-sexual and cooperative behavioural norms. In light of the above, new insights on social transformations during the so-called “Axial Period” as well as on contemporary socio-religious studies can be gained. Thus, one aspect of the project is the critical examination of the project’s methodology, in which the interfaces drawn between “science” and the “humanities” are constructively evaluated and where necessary criticized.

Franziska Rosinsky & Dr. Edyta Burga-Daghish

Franziska Rosinsky & Dr. Edyta Burga-Daghish

Photo: Erik Paternoga

Topic: Identifizierung, Isolierung und rekombi-nante Herstellung von Oxidoreduktasen für die Anwendung in der Synthese von Pestizid-Metaboliten

Institution: Institute of Pharmacy

Abstract: The toxicological properties of pesticides are well studied. Therefore, we know a lot about toxicity of pesticide and we have to know more about the effect of metabolic products of pesticide on our health and environment. The aim of this project is the investigation of pesticide degradation in plants. After detailed analysis of pesticide metabolism in the model plant, we get the information about the enzymes responsible for the particular enzyme reaction. A biomimetic approach using the identified enzymes as biocatalysts enables toxicological studies of metabolites. Furthermore, enzymes are highly interesting tools for synthetic chemistry and can be used as biocatalysts for the investigation of new green synthetic methods. Therefore, substrate-scope investigation of enzymes plays an important role for this project.

Janett Thielemann & Dr. Christina Weinberg

Janett Thielemann & Dr. Christina Weinberg

Photo: Swen Reichhold

Topic: Aktivitätsbasiertes Screening nach neuen selbstschneidenden Ribozymen mittels RNA-Sequenzierung

Institution: Institute of Biochemistry

Abstract: RNAs can fold into complex structures, which allow them to perform a number of biological functions. Those RNAs able to catalyze chemical reactions are called ribozymes. A subset of all known ribozyme classes, so-called self-cleaving ribozymes, share that they cut their own phosphate backbone at a specific position to enable their biological function. However, despite thousands of self-cleaving ribozyme examples, only a few selected representatives in a few organisms have so far been linked to a biological role. Here, we introduce a method with which we want to screen for novel self-cleaving ribozyme classes and which will enable us to study the in vivo activity of known self-cleaving ribozymes. We hope that the discovery of additional self-cleaving ribozyme classes as well as further insight on self-cleaving ribozyme activity will allow us to decipher more biological functions of self-cleaving ribozymes in the future.

Franziska Werner & Dr. Fanny Büchau

Franziska Werner & Dr. Fanny Büchau

Photo: Swen Reichhold

Topic: Rolle des Rolle des Keratin-Desmosomen-Komplex in der Mechanotransduktion

Institution: Institute of Biology

Abstract: Keratin cytoskeletal proteins protect the skin against mechanical stimuli by forming cytoskeletal networks and by supporting cell adhesion via interaction with desmosomes. Cell-specific expression of keratin isotypes regulates the strength of keratin networks and of adhesion in various epidermal compartments. Keratin gene mutations cause network collapse, cell fragility, cell softening, alter gene expression and affect wound healing. How defects in keratins leads to these changes, remains incompletely understood, in contrast to the better understood role of actin. To address how keratins affect cell signaling and behavior, cultured keratinocytes differing in their keratin status will be exposed to uniaxial stretch for defined times. Subsequent analysis will be performed by immunofluorescence microscopy and transcriptome assays, focusing on pathways known to mediate stretch-dependent responses. This will elucidate mechanisms by which keratins are involved in mechanotransduction.

 

 

Scientific posters

These posters present the projects. They were introduced by the 15 selected 2-person teams at the final symposium. 

Impact of Teaching Practices on Preschooler's Social-Emotional Development
Catalytic and Diffusion Studies on Catalysts for CO2 Hydrogenation under Dyamic Reaction Conditions
Predictive Coding in Audiomotor Processing