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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Find here an overview of the already completed projects.