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

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

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. 


© Ogunl­eye Adewale

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.


© Zaloa Aguirre

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

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.


© Dr. Eduard Fadeev AWI

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

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.


© Gustavo Medina Toledo

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

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.


© Rashi Pant

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.