Creating the FutureDoctoral Projects
Every year, the Hector Fellow Academy supports several doctoral positions for promising young scientists from all over the world. Under the supervision of a Hector Fellow, they will work on their innovative doctoral projects over a period of three years. In addition to financing their positions, they receive additional research funding from the Academy and take part in further training events.
The following doctoral projects projects are supported
Cloudy With a Chance of Rain: Simulating the Galactic Weather
Katrin Lehle — Hector RCD Awardee Dylan Nelson
Galaxies are embedded in a rich and complex atmosphere – the circumgalactic medium (CGM). Understanding the processes going on in the CGM is inevitable for a self-consistent model for galaxy evolution. Thus, we will shed some light on open questions about galaxy clusters using numerical simulations. We will analyze the already existing cosmological state-of-the art simulation IllustrisTNG and also write new types of simulation.
Genetic basis of bilateral asymmetry in a scale-eating fish
Xiaomeng Tian – Hector Fellow Axel Meyer
Most animals exhibit bilateral symmetry, but asymmetric traits have repeatedly evolved in different taxonomic groups. However, the genetic mechanisms responsible for asymmetric trait variation remain unclear. We will use the scale-eating fish, Perissodus microlepis, to dissect the genetic basis of its remarkable morphological and behavioural asymmetry. This study will yield important insights into the mechanistic underpinnings of asymmetric development and the origin of evolutionary novelty.
Neural processes of adaptive and maladaptive memory consolidation
Tobias Kraus – Hector RCD Awardee Monika Schönauer
Highly emotional memories are processed differently from neutral ones. For negative experiences, this can result in maladaptive memory formation which may foster emotional psychological disorders. This project aims to improve our understanding of adaptive and maladaptive memory processing. We will analyze brain activity in tasks that model maladaptive memory symptoms. By this, we hope to identify entry points for treatments that counteract maladaptive memory formation.
High-resolution 3D mapping of the human hypothalamus in 10 postmortem brains
Alexey Chervonnyy – Hector Fellow Katrin Amunts
Our study aims to analyse and map the cytoarchitecture of the human hypothalamus in histological sections of 10 postmortem brains. As a result, we want to develop a high-resolution 3D reconstructed histological model of the hypothalamus and its nuclei as a tool for assessing the structure-function relationship and a probabilistic cytoarchitectonic map of the hypothalamus that will reflect the variability of hypothalamic nuclei between individual brains, in terms of size and location in standard reference space.
Systems biology approach for elucidating bacterial revival after antibiotic treatment
Ogunleye Adewale – Hector RCD Awardee Ana Rita Brochado
The ability of non-resistant bacterial pathogens to survive antibiotics during infection (tolerance) contributes not only to global rise of antibiotic resistance, but also to chronical relapse of infections. The aim of the project is to understand what contributes to bacterial revival after antibiotic treatment and the underlying biological pathways. The findings of this project will contribute to better informed decisions on the selection of antibiotics to treat infections and prevent relapse.
Strategies to escape viral infection in archaea
Zaloa Aguirre – Hector RCD Awardee Tessa Quax
Viruses are the most abundant biological entities on Earth. Although they infect members of the three domains of life, little is known about the infection mechanisms of archaeal viruses. The aim of this research is to gain insight into the interaction between halophilic archaeal cells and their viruses by using a combination of light and electron microscopy with molecular biology and virological techniques.
Mechanical manipulation of molecular spins in CNT resonators
Tim Althuon – Hector Fellow Wolfgang Wernsdorfer
Carbon nanotube (CNT) resonators will be designed and fabricated to exploit their sensing properties. We will graft a single-molecule magnet (SMM) on such a CNT resonator in order to manipulate its spin states via the mechanical motion of the CNT. Using this nanomechanical approach, single-molecule magnets will be investigated with the long-term prospect of applying them in future quantum technologies.
Temporal and spatial microbial dynamics in the Arctic Ocean
Magda Cardozo-Miño – Hector Fellow Antje Boetius
The project investigates composition and function of microbial communities in Fram Strait, the major gateway between the Arctic and the Atlantic Oceans, and how these are linked with environmental conditions. A series of cutting-edge, molecular approaches are applied to assess microbial functional capacities, community composition and their temporal variation in a region under special threat by climate change. The project is supervised by Hector Fellow Antje Boetius.
Security and Anonymity in Quantum Networks
Ziad Chaoui – Hector RCD Awardee Anna Pappa
Due to technological advances we can now build devices that actively manipulate quantum mechanical objects, and using quantum objects as information carriers has many important implications for future communication. Quantum information can be used to achieve perfect security and provide efficiency for communication networks. This research project focuses on designing secure and anonymous quantum communication protocols in an effort to build a future quantum internet.
Machine learning methods for gravitational-wave data analysis
Maximilian Dax – Hector Fellow Bernhard Schölkopf
The detection of gravitational waves (GWs) has opened a new window on the universe, through which we can study the physics of black-hole and neutron-star mergers. By analyzing GWs we can infer properties of the corresponding astrophysical systems. Current analysis methods are however too computationally expensive to deal with the growing amount of data. My research is thus concerned with the development of more efficient methods for the GW analysis using powerful machine learning methods.
Land Subsidence & Groundwater Salinization in the Mekong Delta
Felix Dörr – Hector Fellow Franz Nestmann
Land subsidence and groundwater salinization are existence-threatening environmental changes in the Mekong Delta (MD). Their origin and process dynamics are not fully understood yet. By innovative measurement technology, field/lab investigations and numeric modeling, a comprehensive understanding of the processes is developed and the effect of potential countermeasures can be examined. The elaborated knowledge is the basis for sustainable water concepts in the MD and other delta areas worldwide.
Mitochondrial DNA mutational landscape in human T cells
Yu-Hsin Hsieh – Hector RCD Awardee Leif Ludwig
T cell differentiation and function are tightly regulated by numerous cellular processes, including cellular metabolism, which can be significantly affected by mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) mutations. However, the impact of mtDNA mutational burden on T cell differentiation and functional heterogeneity remains poorly understood. Thus, this project aims to characterize the mtDNA mutational landscape and its functional consequences in human T cells using single-cell multi-omics approaches.
High-throughput Virus Discovery in Next Generation Sequencing Data
Franziska Klingler – Hector Fellow Ralf Bartenschlager
Anelloviruses are a diverse group of ubiquitous viruses infecting humans and vertebrates. Their contribution to disease development remains elusive. We hypothesize that during lifelong, persistent infection disbalances in the viral community can drive onset and progression of disease, e.g. cancer. We aim at a thorough description of the viral spectrum present in healthy and diseased tissue by high-throughput screening of sequencing data and subsequent identification of viral variants correlated with pathogenesis.
Quantum simulation of strong interactions of light and matter
Valentin Klüsener – Hector Fellow Immanuel Bloch
The central paradigm of quantum optics is the absorption and emission of radiation by quantum emitters. When the coupling between an emitter and its environment becomes strong, intriguing radiative properties can be engineered, such as directional emission patterns or strongly modified emission rates. This project aims at accessing such effects in a system of ultracold atoms in optical lattices where artificial emitters decay by emitting matter waves rather than optical radiation.
Unveiling the Galactic History with Pulsating Variable Stars
Gustavo Medina Toledo – Hector Fellow Eva Grebel
This project aims to explore the use of young and old pulsating variable stars to improve our current understanding of the Milky Way. This will be achieved by performing a novel study of the kinematics, ages and chemical compositions of Cepheids and RR Lyrae stars which, in spite of being archetypes of different stellar populations, represent key tracers of the recent star formation and assembly history of the Galaxy.
Main group heterohelicenes for applications in organic electronics and catalysis
Jan Niedens – Hector RCD Awardee Agnieszka Nowak-Król
This project is focused on the synthesis of novel helically chiral compounds containing diarylborole, arsole and stibole units. The aim of this research is to obtain materials with improved optical and electronic properties by joining helical chromophores via boron as a spiro-atom. Additionally, helicenes containing arsenic and antimony could be used as ligands in asymmetric catalysis due to their higher stability towards oxidation, compared to the common phosphine analogues.
Sensitive period plasticity and functional recovery after sight restoration
Rashi Pant — Hector Fellow Brigitte Röder
Visual experience during a sensitive period is crucial for the normal development of the brain. Individuals who are treated for congenital cataracts more than a few weeks from birth suffer from low visual acuity as well as specific deficits (such as impaired face processing). This project investigates the possible mechanisms that mediate this sensitive period, by non-invasively assessing brain structure and function in congenitally and developmentally visually deprived individuals.
Defining novel resilience pathways in rare monogenic disorders
Daniel Petersheim — Hector Fellow Christoph Klein
In the EU alone, approximately 30 million people are affected by a rare disease, many of them children. Most of the 6,000 to 8,000 rare diseases known to date are caused by the altered function of a single gene (Boycott&Ardigó, 2018). This project under the supervision of Prof. Christoph Klein aims to develop innovative strategies for precision medicine in rare diseases by (i) re-wiring aberrant molecular networks for therapeutic purposes and (ii) identifying novel “druggable” targets using CRISPR-Cas9-mediated genome-wide screens.
Helicity Preserving Cavity for Circular Dichroism Enhancement
Philip Scott – Hector Fellow Martin Wegener
Most modern drugs are made up of one handedness of a chiral molecule (one enantiomer). In many cases, depending on the handedness of the enantiomer, the drug could have either beneficial or harmful effects, thus is it desirable to be able to detect the handedness. Circular dichroism (CD) spectroscopy can differentiate between the handedness due to differential absorption of circularly polarised light but suffers from weak signals; therefore, a method that can enhance the signal is desired.
Realizing a Quantum Processor based on Strontium Rydberg Atoms
Maximilian Ammenwerth – Hector Fellow Immanuel Bloch
In this project, an innovative quantum gas microscope is developed that makes use of optical tweezers to rearrange neutral strontium atoms into configurable and defect-free patterns. This allows for rapid initialization of the system and serves as a starting point for the analog simulation of quantum many-body systems and as a qubit register for digital quantum computing. Exploiting long-range Rydberg interactions enables the simulation of spin models and the implementation of quantum logic gates.
Mechanisms underlying pathogenesis of SARS-CoV‑2 infections
Yannick Stahl – Hector Fellow Ralf Bartenschlager
SARS-CoV‑2 hat eine Pandemie ausgelöst und ist für mehr als 18 Millionen Infektionen verantwortlich. Es wird vermutet, dass COVID-19 das Ergebnis des Absterbens infizierter Zellen und einer exzessiven Aktivierung des Immunsystems ist. Um Zelltypen und Signalwege zu identifizieren, die zur Pathogenese oder viralen Replikation beitragen, werde ich Transkriptomanalysen und funktionelle Untersuchungen ausgewählter Gene vornehmen. Diese Arbeit könnte zu der Entwicklung neuer Therapien beitragen.
The investigation of the formation- and purpose of black matter in anaerobic methane oxidisers and methanogens
Stian Torset – Hector Fellow Antje Boetius
The project investigates the structure, purpose, and mechanisms of origin for amorphous carbon formed by methanogenic and methane-oxidizing archaea. I will use advanced biophysical, computational, and genetic tools to determine the genes, proteins and structures, including the molecular mechanisms involved in the formation of this carbon. Potential applications will be assessed. The project is supervised by Hector Fellow Antje Boetius.
Novel applications with organic thermoelectric modules
Shu-Jen Wang – Hector Fellow Karl Leo
This project aims at using modulation doped organic thermoelectric modules for energy harvesting in niche areas where module flexibility is key. We will develop novel device architectures based on modulation doped organic thermoelectrics to enable innovative applications.
Find here an overview of the already completed projects.