Alumni News 01-2020

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Publication analysis as indicator for influence in science

Eight scientists at Ulm University among world's 'Highly Cited Researchers'
Eight of the most influential researchers worldwide conduct their research at Ulm University. The analysis published by the Web of Science Group ranks these scientists among the top 1% by citations in specialist publications – demonstrating the significance of their research.

Photos: Eberhardt/Uni Ulm, Grandel/Uniklinik Ulm, privat

Dies academicus at Ulm University
Ceremony celebrates record high in third-party funding and awards status of honorary senator

Ulm University celebrated its Dies academicus on Friday afternoon with highlights including the awarding of a new honorary senator status and prizes for outstanding achievements in research, teaching and gender equality. In his welcoming address, University President Professor Michael Weber looked back on developments at the University over the past few months and announced a new record.

Photo: Elvira Eberhardt/Uni Ulm

More women in top positions
Ulm University’s success in the Programme for Women Professors III

Ulm University is enjoying its third success in the federally and state-funded Programme for Women Professors. The programme, which was established by the Joint Science Conference (Gemeinsame Wissenschaftskonferenz – GWK), aims to promote equal opportunities at the university level and increase the proportion of women among university professors. The universities selected for their policies on gender equality are eligible to receive initial funding for up to three first-appointed female professors taking on tenured W2 or W3 professorships. Ulm University’s application was successful in convincing the evaluation committee of the strength of its gender equality policy in the second selection round of the programme’s third phase.

Brochure of Ulm University

Tree planting initiative at Ulm University
Taking a stand for the climate

Ulm University is taking a stand for more climate protection with an afternoon of tree planting scheduled for Friday, 13 March (12:30 pm). The initiative entails the planting of 50 tree seedlings in a wooded area of the University campus. Prior to the actual planting, scientists will be giving short lectures on the challenges that climate change presents. Interested parties will also have the opportunity to sponsor a tree.

Photo: Daniela Stang/Uni Ulm

Alumni News

Baden-Württemberg funding programme: “InnoTEACH” facilitates innovative transitions from the university into the career world

A graduate’s transition from the university to the workplace presents numerous opportunities for universities and businesses. Compared to the offers already in place for the transition period between school and university, there are relatively few offers specifically designed for the transition from the university to the workplace. This is something that will change in the near future, at least in our region. In a joint effort with Ulm University and the Ulm University of Applied Sciences, the Biberach University of Applied Sciences (Hochschule Biberach - HBC) has been successful in a state-sponsored call for projects with a proposal addressing just this issue. The HBC has secured 750,000 euros in funding over a period of two years, with their proposal entitled “InnoTEACH”. The State of Baden-Württemberg received 18 applications, four of which were ultimately selected to receive funding. 

Photo: Elvira Eberhardt/Uni Ulm

Focus Research

Ambitious EU project to combat the novel coronavirus
Antiviral agents and new test models 

The new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) has already claimed several thousand lives worldwide. A specific therapy or vaccination is not yet available. In a recently launched EU project, researchers led by Professors Jan Münch from Ulm University and Thomas Schrader (University of Duisburg-Essen) have set out to accelerate the development of an effective antiviral therapy. In cooperation with other European partners, the researchers want to quickly and efficiently test different potential active substances against the coronavirus. The consortium will obtain 2.8 million euros in funding for the two-year 'Fight nCoV' project, which is led by Stockholm University.

Symbolic image: mattthewafflecat/pixabay

Walking with atoms
Chemical bond making and breaking recorded in action 

Scientists have for the first time captured and filmed atoms bonding, using advanced microscopy methods they captured a moment of breaking a chemical bond, around half a million times smaller than the width of a human hair.Ever since it was proposed that atoms are building blocks of the world, scientists have been trying to understand how and why they bond to each other. Be it a molecule (which is a group of atoms joined together in a particular fashion), or a block of material or a whole living organism, ultimately, everything is controlled by the way atoms bond, and the way bonds break.

Photo: Heiko Grandel

Clean particles
Wastewater purified with the help of complex nanoparticles and a magnet

In Germany, the water quality of rivers and lakes has improved significantly in recent decades. Many other countries around the world, however, are far from meeting this standard. Environmental and natural catastrophes can also severely pollute bodies of water. “In such cases, we often see quite a number of possible contaminants, from organic and inorganic substances to bacteria”, explains Professor Carsten Streb, head of the Institute of Inorganic Chemistry I at Ulm University. And then, of course, the virtually omnipresent microplastic particles also play a role.

Photo: Archismita Misra/Uni Ulm

Alzheimer trigger discovered
Beta-amyloid fibrils extracted from human tissue

Researchers from Ulm University have been successful in isolating and examining amyloid fibrils from the human brain for the first time. These protein fibres are suspected of being in part responsible for triggering Alzheimer’s disease and cerebral amyloid angiopathy. Researchers from Ulm, Tübingen, Halle and San Diego worked together on this study, which was published in the journal "Nature Communications".

Image: Kollmer et al., Nature Communications

AfD voters and young adults manipulated by filter bubble?
A closer look at the connection between personality and today's news sources

Young people who get their information solely from the news feeds on social media have a comparatively high risk of falling prey to so-called filter bubbles or echo chambers. As an indicator of this risk, psychologists at Ulm University have surveyed the number of online and offline news sources consumed. Among other things, they were able to show that non-voters, AfD voters and supporters of other small parties consume the least variety of news sources – and could thus be stuck in a bubble. The study, in which the researchers also investigated the connection between demographic characteristics, personality, authoritarian attitudes and the number of news channels consumed, was recently published in the journal Heliyon.

Photo: Austin Distel/

State of 'hibernation' keeps haematopoietic stem cells young
Niches in the bone marrow protect haematopoietic stem cells from ageing

All tissues age. The blood-forming system is especially affected by ageing processes. Haematopoietic stem cells, the precursors to blood and immune cells, age exceptionally fast, losing the ability to divide and regenerate. This weakens the immune system and increases the risk of blood cancer. An international team led by researchers from Ulm and Barcelona has now discovered special niches in the bone marrow that protect haematopoietic stem cells from ageing processes. In these protected niches, the stem cells are put into a state of hibernation in which they divide less frequently and thus remain 'young'. The scientists also found that chemotherapy is fatal for these niches.

Image: Mehmet Sacma

New target for Parkinson's disease therapy?
Blockade of specific calcium channels can protect nerve cells

Progressive degeneration  of dopamine-producing nerve cells in the brain leads to dopamine deficiency and ultimately to Parkinson’s disease. Scientists from Ulm University in Germany, together with partners from Cologne and Oxford, have now investigated this process in more detail. The researchers were able to show that the inactivation of a specific calcium channel (Cav2.3 R-type) can prevent neurodegneration. The results were published recently in the journal "Nature Communications".

Image: Benkert et al., Nature Communications

Studies and Teaching

Pencil and paper versus tablet computer
Study with pre-school children: What effect do writing tools have on literacy training?

Digitisation presents an ever-increasing challenge for schools as well. As the dispute over the Digital Pact showed, opinions are extremely polarised: Some see the tablet computer as a panacea to make German pupils fit for the future. Others firmly believe in the didactic superiority of classic tools such as pencil and paper. The results of a recently published intervention study with pre-school children speak for a healthy middle way. Researchers from Ulm University were able to show that analogue and digital writing tools each have their own strengths.

Photo: ZNL Uni Ulm

Experts for continuing education and distance learning convene in Ulm
Media-based learning in the area of continuing education

In late September, nearly 200 participants met at Ulm University for the 49th annual convention of the German Association for University Continuing and Distance Education (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Weiterbildung und Fernstudium). The focus of the event, which was co-organised by the School of Advanced Professional Studies (SAPS), was on the opportunities that emerge through digital change in the area of scientific continuing education.

Photo: Elvira Eberhardt/Uni Ulm