Three ERC Starting Grants for projects in Biochemistry and Neuroscience

European success for "MaxPlanck@TUM"

An ERC grant project is investigating chromosomes. (Image: nobeastsofierce / Fotolia)
An ERC grant project is investigating chromosomes. (Image: nobeastsofierce / Fotolia)

Research news

Three researchers from the "MaxPlanck@TUM" program will receive funding from the European Research Council (ERC). Along with three other members of the Technical University of Munich (TUM) they won ERC Starting Grants in this year's round of competition. Unique in Germany, "MaxPlanck@TUM" is a program for young professors run by the Max Planck Society and TUM. 

In „MaxPlanck@TUM“ excellent young scientists are appointed to lead a Max-Planck research group and in parallel to an Assistant Professorship at TUM. This provides them with outstanding research opportunities and at the same time clear career perspectives in the  TUM Tenure Track system: If they receive a positive assessment after a period of six years, the transition to a permanent, higher-paying professorship is guaranteed. Four of the current nine scientists in the "MaxPlanck@TUM" program have now already won an ERC Grant, one of the most important European research subsidies. 

This year in TUM engineering sciences Prof. Matthias Nießner, Prof. Antonia Wachter-Zeh und Prof. Majid Zamani had already won ERC Starting Grants. Starting Grants are intended for early-career scientists and are endowed with as much as € 1.5 million. The latest awards bring the total number of ERC Grants received by TUM in various categories to 96 ERC Grants. In detail, that's 22 Advanced Grants, 21 Consolidator Grants, 45 Starting Grants and 8 Proof of Concept Grants.

In the "MaxPlanck@TUM " programme the following projects have now been awarded:

Prof. Karl Duderstadt

The unique instructions for each organism are stored in DNA. To fit in cells, the DNA is twisted and compacted into chromosomes. During cell division, a large molecular machine, known as the replisome, unpackages and duplicates chromosomes to produce copies for the daughter cells. Mistakes during this process can have disastrous consequences leading to unstable inheritance and underlying many severe human diseases. The structure and operation of the molecular machine that conducts this process is not well understood. Karl Duderstadt, head of the research group "Structure and Dynamics of Molecular Machines", plans to change this by employing cutting edge imaging methods to directly observe these machines in action. These studies will reveal how the vital genetic code of life is faithfully copied and the origin of mistakes that can have disastrous consequences for future generations.

Karl Duderstadt is Professor for Experimental Biophysics at TUM and Max Planck Research Group Leader at the MPI for Biochemistry.

Prof. Julijana Gjorgjieva

How are neuronal circuits constructed and organized during the early post-natal stage of human development? Prof. Julijana Gjorgjieva addresses this question in her project "NeuroDevo". Together with her team she will apply a combination of data analysis, theory and modeling. Another project objective is ascertaining how neuronal circuits are changed by intact and disturbed sensory activities. In this context Gjorgjieva analyzes longitudinal sectional images of individual neurons and network activities via a synthesis of data from three collaborating laboratories. 

Prof. Gjorgjieva and her team are searching for new aspects of such activity that drive the refinement of circuits over a longer period of time. In addition, the group will investigate how activity and circuit properties mutually influence one another and how individual components impact the organization of circuits.

Julijana Gjorgjieva is Professor for Computational Neuroscience at TUM and Leader of the research Group "Computation in Neural Circuits" at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research.

Prof. Danny Nedialkova

Proteins execute the vast majority of processes in a living cell. Although they are made as linear chains of amino acids, they fold into various three-dimensional shapes to accomplish their tasks. Failures in this folding process can be catastrophic for cells and build-up of misfolded proteins is a hallmark of aging and neurological disorders.  Proteins start to fold as they are synthesized on ribosomes, the cellular machines that translate messenger RNA into amino acid chains. 

Danny Nedialkova and her research group aim to understand how events during messenger RNA translation shape cellular proteomes. After various experiments, the team hopes to define how protein synthesis and folding work together in healthy cells and how this synergy’s failure causes diseases.

Danny Nedialkova is Professor for Biochemistry of Gene Expression at TUM and Research Group Leader at the MPI for Biochemistry.

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