Creat­ing the Future
Doctoral Projects

Doctoral 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.


Current projects

The follow­ing doctoral projects projects are supported

Optical and electronic neuro­mor­phic systems

Richard Kantel­berg – Hector Fellow Prof. Dr. Karl Leo

The research project "Optical and electronic neuro­mor­phic systems" focuses on bio-inspired and resource-efficient concepts for neuro­mor­phic comput­ing. The aim is to realise these concepts in optical and electronic systems based on organic semicon­duc­tor materi­als and to describe their physi­cal foundations.


Im Forschungsprojekt sollen neuromorphe Funktionen basierend auf organischen Halbleitern realisiert werden. Dazu können beispielsweise Faserstrukturen aus Poly-3,4-ethylendioxythiophen dienen. Die Struktuformel stellt das Monomer (3,4-Ethylendioxythiophen) dar.© Richard Kantelberg

The Algorith­mic Basis of Pattern Recog­ni­tion in an Insect Pollinator

Lochlan Walsh — Hector RCD Awardee Anna Stöckl

Human brains and vision-based robot­ics require inten­sive compu­ta­tion to recog­nize visual pattern features in various contexts and augmen­ta­tions, known as invari­ant pattern recog­ni­tion. The humming­bird hawkmoth (Macroglos­sum stellatarum) similarly uses pattern features on flowers to select suitable forag­ing sites, with only a fraction of the ‘compu­ta­tional power’. Aiming to under­stand how they do so with such efficiency, we will use behav­ioural, neural, and compu­ta­tional methods to uncover the algorith­mic basis of (invari­ant) pattern recog­ni­tion in insect pollinators.


Die algorithmische Grundlage der Mustererkennung bei einem Bestäuberinsekt


© Anna Stöckl

Higher rank Teich­müller theory with a focus on SO(p,q)

Laura Lankers — Hector Fellow Anna Wienhard

In a space­time we have one time dimen­sions and multi­ple space dimen­sions. In our reality we experi­ence three space-like dimen­sions. Now in differ­en­tial geome­try, nothing keeps us from consid­er­ing manifolds with multi­ple time-like dimen­sions. In this project we study algebraic struc­tures, in partic­u­lar the group SO(p,q), which describe the dynam­ics and the geome­try of so-called pseudo-Riemann­ian hyper­bolic spaces with at least one time dimension.


© Deposit­pho­tos

Using mathe­mat­i­cal model­ing to facil­i­tate the trans­la­tion of research findings

Katha­rina Lauk — Hector Fellow Jens Timmer

Despite exten­sive research in person­al­ized medicine, promis­ing person­al­ized thera­pies still fail to trans­late into clini­cal practice. In my research project, I aim to construct a pathway model that predicts the effects of poten­tial thera­pies by combin­ing mecha­nis­tic model­ing and exper­i­men­tal approaches to meet ideal crite­ria for facil­i­tat­ing the trans­la­tion of research to patients.


Mit der mathema+schen Modellierung die Transla+on von Forschungsergebnissen
erleichtern© Katha­rina Lauk

Molec­u­lar Spin Systems on Surfaces

Paul Greule — Hector RCD Awardee Philip Willke

Single magnetic molecules can be used as build­ing blocks to construct new artifi­cial spin systems which are inter­est­ing for future quantum devices. We use scanning tunnel­ing microscopy (STM) combined with electron spin resonance (ESR) to construct and inves­ti­gate such spin systems on a surface. This enables the study of funda­men­tal spin proper­ties on the atomic scale and explor­ing novel magnetic phenom­ena in multi-spin systems.


Molekulare Spin-Systeme auf Oberflächen© Paul Greule

The role of early vision for bidirec­tional neural communication

Tiago Lereno Mesquita — Hector Fellow Brigitte Röder

Collab­o­rat­ing with the LV Prasad Eye insti­tute, we inves­ti­gate sight recov­ery individ­u­als with a history of transient congen­i­tal blind­ness due to cataracts to unveil the neural mecha­nisms of sensi­tive periods in brain devel­op­ment. More specif­i­cally, we inves­ti­gate higher corti­cal repre­sen­ta­tions and whether and how they emerge if visual input arrives delayed e.g., not before mid-child­hood. The present PhD project will focus on object repre­sen­ta­tions and how they emerge in the inter­ac­tion with other visual areas. We expect a better under­stand­ing of how early experi­ence shapes adult brain connectivity.


© Tiago Lereno Mesquita

Neuroim­­mune-vascu­lar inter­play in Alzheimer’s disease

Matteo Rovere — Hector Fellow Chris­t­ian Haass

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) has a multi­fac­to­r­ial etiol­ogy which includes, among others, vascu­lar dysfunc­tion and aberrant neuroim­mu­nity. We aim to inves­ti­gate the gene ABI3 as a poten­tial connec­tion between these two facets of AD patho­phys­i­ol­ogy. Through trans­genic murine models, and using a combi­na­tion of biochem­i­cal, immuno­his­to­chem­i­cal, and in vivo imaging techniques, we will explore how the late-onset AD risk variant S209F ABI3 affects neurode­gen­er­a­tion, immune fitness, and vascu­lar dynamics.


S209F ABI3 knock-in and knockout transgenic mice exhibit neurovascular defects and microglial branching and motility changes. Our project aims to identify the molecular mechanism(s) behind these phenotypes through a combination of biochemistry and molecular biology, in vivo imaging on transgenic mouse models, and multi-omics and neuroimaging data collected on large AD patient cohorts.© Matteo Rovere

Multi­di­men­sional Model­ing of Inborn Errors of Hematopoiesis in a new three-dimen­­sional Human Bone Marrow Organoid Model System

Megha Vargh­ese Mukher­jee — Hector Fellow Christoph Klein

Rare genetic disor­ders lead to a failure to produce enough blood cells that are frequently fatal, seen most often among young children. These diseases are primar­ily monogenic, caused by the loss of function in a single gene. To inves­ti­gate the effects of this loss of function, my project seeks to mimic it outside of the human body, specif­i­cally in human bone marrow organoids (BMOs). By study­ing BMOs, the aim is to identify criti­cal factors contribut­ing to bone marrow failure and ultimately use this infor­ma­tion to develop new diagnos­tic methods.


Human iPSC-derived bone marrow organoids – modeling errors in hematopoiesis© Megha Vargh­ese Mukherjee

Steps Towards Solving the Enigma of Multi­ple Popula­tions in Star Clusters

Abhinna Sundar Saman­taray — Hector Fellow Eva Grebel

Star clusters used to be consid­ered to consist of stars that all formed simul­ta­ne­ously and with the same elemen­tal abundances. The surpris­ing discov­ery that these clusters contain multi­ple popula­tions with charac­ter­is­tic abundance inhomo­geneities remains an enigma. I will inves­ti­gate whether rotational mixing is a plausi­ble culprit, using massive emission-line stars as tracers of rapid rotation. Also, I will assess the valid­ity of certain light elements as signa­tures of multi­ple populations.


Steps Towards Solving the Enigma of Multiple Populations in Star Clusters© NASA, ESA, Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), A. Nota (ESA/STScI), and the Wester­lund 2 Science Team

Triggered contrac­tion of self-assem­bled DNA nanotube rings

Maja Illig — Hector RCD Awardee Kerstin Göpfrich

DNA nanotubes are widely used as a mimic for cytoskele­tal filaments in bottom-up synthetic biology. Using a synthetic starPEG construct that acts as a crosslinker, we succeed in bundling the few nanome­ter thick DNA nanotubes. In bulk they self-assem­ble into micron-scale rings. We achieve their contrac­tion upon temper­a­ture increase or molec­u­lar deple­tion with crowing molecules such as dextran (in collab­o­ra­tion with Kierfeld group, TU Dortmund).


Triggered contraction of self-assembled DNA nanotube rings© Maja Illig

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.


Wolkig mit Aussicht auf Regen: Simulationen des galaktischen Wetters© Katrin Lehle

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.


© Xiaomeng Tian

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.


© Tobias Kraus

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.


Hochaufgelöste 3D-Kartierung des menschlichen Hypothalamus in 10 postmortalen Gehirnen© Alexey Chervonnyy

Systems biology approach for eluci­dat­ing bacte­r­ial revival after antibi­otic treatment

Adewale Ogunl­eye – 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. 


© Adewale Ogunleye 

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.


© Hector Fellow Academy

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. 


© Tim Althuon

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.


© Ziad Chaoui

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.


© Stephen R. Green

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.


© Felix Dörr

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.


© Yu-Hsin Hsieh

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.


© Franziska Klingler

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.


© Valentin Klüsener

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.


© Jan Niedens

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.


© Daniel Petersheim

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.


© J. Feis et al., Phys. Rev. Lett.

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.


Realisierung eines Quantenprozessors auf der Basis von Strontium-Rydberg-Atomen© Maxim­il­ian Ammenwerth

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.


Mechanismen der Pathogenese von SARS-CoV-2 Infektionen© Yannick Stahl

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.


© Stian Torset

Alumni projects

Find here an overview of the already completed projects.