The funding of pioneering basic research is one of the priorities of the European Union. To this end, the European Research Council (ERC) has been established. To receive support, research projects must have a high potential for innovation. 41 ERC grants have already been awarded to researchers of the University of Vienna since 2007: 14 Advanced Grants, 5 Consolidator Grants, 21 Starting Grants and one Proof of Concept.
The philosopher Herlinde Pauer-Studer have been dealing with questions of analytic philosophy for years. Her focus was, in particular, on issues of ethical theory, social philosophy and political philosophy. In her project "The Normative and Moral Foundations of Group Agency”, the humanist researches the conditions under which groups and institutions, who are attributed a normative identity and responsibility for their doing, are reckoned as acting intentionally.
The microbiologist Christa Schleper has been studying archaea for many years. Together with bacteria, these microorganisms were the first living organisms on earth. In her ERC project "TACK Superphylum and Lokiarchaeota Evolution - Dissecting the Ecology and Evolution of Archaea to Elucidate the Prokaryote to Eukaryote Transition" Christa Schleper studies newly discovered groups of archaea that could shed light on important transitions in early evolution.
The computer scientist Monika Henzinger is Professor of Computational Science – Algorithmics and Information and Communication Technology at the Faculty of Computer Science. The goal of her ERC project "Challenges in Graph Algorithms with Applications" is to develop more efficient algorithms to address graph algorithmic problems and to finally employ them in particular fields of application.
The philosopher Martin Kusch is Professor of Applied Philosophy of Science and Epistemology. With his ERC project "The Emergence of Relativism – Historical, Philosophical and Sociological Perspectives" he aims at achieving a better understanding of the relativistic position. The initial objective is to study the development of relativistic motives, in particular among German-language culture and academia of the 19th and early 20th century, from the perspective of the history of ideas. Moreover, efforts are made to explain important stages of this process from the angle of sociology of science and to better identify the strengths and weaknesses of different relativistic positions.
Over the past years, the Quantum Nanophysics (QNP) Research Group led by the physicist Markus Arndt has managed to reveal surprising, unusual phenomena such as quantum delocalisation and quantum interference on the basis of highly complex molecules composed of hundreds of atoms. The goal of his ERC project "PROBIOTIQUS" (Processing biomolecular targets for interferometric quantum experiments) is to develop different new tools for new quantum physics experiments based on biomolecules such as amino acids, nucleotide clusters, proteins, DNA strands and self-replicating molecules at the limits of life.
The chemist Nuno Maulide studies new synthetic techniques for the extraction of medical substances. With his ERC project "VINCAT" (A Unified Approach to Redox-Neutral C-C Couplings: Exploiting Vinyl Cation Rearrangements) Maulide wants to succeed in rendering chemical reactions more efficient and environmentally friendly in order to develop new reactions that can take place without generating such waste products.
The quantum physicist Markus Aspelmeyer examines optical precision measurements and the quantum optical control of micro- and nanomechanical systems and their application to fundamental and applied questions of quantum physics. The goal behind his ERC Consolidator Grant is to develop methods for the quantum control of levitated massive objects. Unlike previous quantum experiments on micromechanical resonators, this should allow to gain access to an unprecedented parameter regime of large mass and long quantum coherence time.
The molecular biologist Sascha Martens studies the molecular mechanisms of autophagy – the process that is responsible for the degradation of cellular components. Autophagy does not only help the cell during periods of starvation by recycling the cell's own components and using them to produce energy but also during the "disposal" of defective cellular components and pathogens. With the ERC Consolidator Grant Sascha Martens wants to find out how cells generate autophagosomes. Autophagosomes are little vesicles (blisters) that transport unnecessary or unwanted cellular components to the cellular waste-bin, the so-called lysosome.
The philosopher Christophe Erismann is an expert in the history (of philosophy) of the Early Middle Ages. With the ERC Consolidator Grant he wants to implement a project based on the history of philo sophy that aims at achieving a better understanding and fairer assessment of the contribution of authors from the 9th century in the field of philosophy, in particular the field of logic. From a transcultural perspective, a team comprising philologists and historians of philosophy thus studies the four big linguistic traditions of the Mediterranean that saw thinkers who addressed the Aristotelian categories and the logic inspired by Aristotle in general, namely the Greek, Latin, Syrian and Arabic traditions.
The physicist Paul Winkler focuses on basic research with regard to cloud formation. The goal of his ERC project "Quantifying Aerosol Nanoparticle Dynamics by High Time Resolution Experiments" is the quantitative analysis of mechanisms that occur during nanoparticle formation. A phase transition takes place not only during cloud formation but also during nanoparticle formation, making it possible for several gas molecules in the air to form a new particle of only a few nanometres through nucleation. Through the addition of further molecules, these new particles can become cloud condensation nuclei.
The art historian Hartmuth focuses on Eastern Europe, for which there is still no clear definition in the discipline. He is author of fundamental publications on the history of Islamic architecture in the Balkans. In his ERC project "Islamic architecture and Orientalizing style in Habsburg Bosnia", he is the head of a large research team. He and his team wish to study this cultural heritage, which is not widely known, from different perspectives.
In 2014 the Finnish physicist Toma Susi has discovered, together with collaborators from the UK, that silicon impurities, occasionally found in graphene, jump during imaging. This discovery has built the foundation for his current multidisciplinary ERC Starting Grant "Atomic precision materials engineering (ATMEN)", it will allow Susi to combine experiment and simulation to develop electron beam manipulation into a practical tool. Its goals are to improve our understanding of the mechanism, advance the implantation of atoms beyond silicon, accelerate accurate modeling, and automate manipulations.
The medicinal chemist Markus Muttenthaler will henceforth be conducting research on new therapeutic approaches for gastrointestinal disorders at the Department of Biological Chemistry of the University of Vienna. Since 2015, he has been leading his own research group at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience in Brisbane (University of Queensland) on the basis of a highly respected Australian research grant. Muttenthaler will come to the University of Vienna in autumn 2017. In his ERC project, Muttenthaler will focus on new gastrointestinal wound healing mechanisms and, among others, assess the therapeutic potential of the receptor for the hormone oxytocin.
The microbiologist David Berry conducts research on thousands of microorganisms that inhabit the human body and form our gut microbiome. These microorganisms survive by maintaining a close symbiotic relationship with their human hosts. They are vital for our nutrition and health. Together with his team, David Berry examines the underlying principles of the gut microbiome’s structure and function. Subsequently, these principles form the basis for the development of new strategies for the health-promoting modification of the gut microbiome.
The philosopher Georg Schiemer studies structuralism as a central position within modern philosophy of mathematics. Its central claim is that mathematical theories only describe abstract structures or structural properties of their objects. His ERC project "The Roots of Mathematical Structuralism" aims at broadening the understanding of this position and of its origins in the history of philosophy and the history of mathematics.
The research focus of the physicist Bernadett Weinzierl is aerosol physics. Aerosols are tiny particles suspended in air. They can be transported over long distances impacting air quality, weather and climate thousands of kilometres downwind of the source. In her ERC project "A-LIFE" (Absorbing aerosol layers in a changing climate: aging, lifetime and dynamics) the physicist examines absorbing aerosol layers as well as the interaction between the absorption and lifespan of aerosols.
The evolutionary biologist Qi Zhou explores the evolution and function of the Y chromosome, which determines the male sex. In the course of his ERC project "Evolution and Impact of Heterochromatin on a Young Drosophila Y chromosome" Qi Zhou now wants to study how genomic parasites of the Y chromosome can be "tamed" in order to prevent them from harming other parts of the genome. Moreover, he wants to gain insight into the dynamics of sex chromosomes and find out how they develop during the evolution of a species.
Christian Göbel is an expert in Chinese studies, in particular in political innovation in China, and political scientist. With his ERC project "The Microfoundations of Authoritarian Responsiveness: E-Participation, Social Unrest and Public Policy in China" he examines the impact of digital mechanisms of participation on government performance and the relation between the state and individual social groups. The results should help to get a better understanding of the Chinese governments' responsiveness to citizens' needs and social stability in China.
The research activities of the microbiologist Dagmar Wöbken focus on studying microorganisms in the soil, in particular so-called dormant organisms that are in some kind of resting state. Her ERC project "Revealing the function of dormant soil microorganisms and the cues for their awakening" aims at identifying the dormant organisms in the soil for selected processes and at revealing their involvement in the processes as well as the mechanisms that regulate their activity and dormancy.
Using sources from the Middle Ages, the Indologist Dagmar Wujastyk conducts research on the application of yoga, ayurveda and Indian alchemy in medicine. In the course of her ERC project "Medicine, Immortality, Moksha: Entangled Histories of Yoga, Ayurveda and Alchemy in South Asia" she studies the historical background of the links between the three South Asian disciplines of yoga, ayurveda and Indian alchemy and iatrochemistry. She examines how the reciprocal exchange between these disciplines that took place during the medieval and early modern period shaped today's medical orientation of modern yoga.
The physicist Jannik Meyer examines novel materials (e.g. graphenes) via high-resolution electron microscopy. With his ERC project "Picometer scale analysis of novel materials" (PICOMAT) the team led by Meyer tests and develops new innovative approaches. The basis for the project is a unique electron microscopy lab that is currently being established at the University of Vienna.
The neurobiologist Kristin Teßmar-Raible studies the marine bristle worm Platynereis dumerilii that synchronises its reproduction rhythm with the lunar cycle, thus serving as an "internal clock". With her ERC project "Molecular neurobiology of a moonlight entrained circalunar clock" she tries to unravel how this can work on a molecular level: She is looking for the light-sensitive sensory cells that detect lunar light, so-called moonlight receptors.
The chemist Nuno Maulide studies new synthetic techniques for the extraction of medical substances. The goal of his ERC project "From Flat to Chiral: A unified approach to converting achiral aromatic compounds to optically active valuable building blocks" (FLATOUT) is to convert flat molecules that can be produced at low cost, e.g. benzene, into chiral molecules using light and catalytic processes.