European Research Council Sponsors Excellent Young Researchers from Universität Heidelberg
Posted September 12 2011
ERC Starting Grants for biologist Professor Jan Lohmann and physicist Professor Selim Jochim

Two outstanding young researchers from Universität Heidelberg have successfully applied for a generous five-year grant from the European Research Council (ERC). Biologist Professor Jan Lohmann and physicist Professor Selim Jochim have each received an ERC Starting Grant. This translates to 1.5 million euros for Professor Lohmann’s research on plant stem cell systems. Professor Jochim will also receive 1.5 million euros for his work on multiparticle physics in ultracold quantum systems.

Professor Lohmann’s project StemCellAdapt will reap the benefits of ERC sponsorship and delve into the way plant stem cell systems adapt to various environmental conditions and find out how those adaptation processes have contributed to the evolution of botanical species. His team will study cellular behavior in the living system based on different environmental conditions as well as elucidate the molecular and genomic foundations of that behavior. “The reason for our studies is the fact that plants, due to their immobile nature, adapt to the reigning environmental conditions with great flexibility and they simultaneously adjust their growth and their development based on parameters such as light and temperature,” explains Professor Lohmann. StemCellAdapt, which is located at the Centre for Organismal Studies of Universität Heidelberg, is expected to be sponsored come October of this year.

Jan Lohmann (born 1971) studied biology at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU München). As a doctoral candidate he worked at LMU München and the University of Jena. After having received a PhD in 1999, he did research for the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla (USA) before he switched to the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Tübingen in 2002. There he worked initially as a project manager before becoming a research group leader. In 2008 the scientist accepted a chair at Universität Heidelberg. At the Centre for Organismal Studies Dr. Lohmann is head of the Department of Stem Cell Biology. He is also a member of the Cluster of Excellence CellNetworks. Jan Lohmann was awarded with the EMBO Young Investigator Award, in addition to others, for his research.

The work group of Professor Jochim located at the Physikalisches Institut of Universität Heidelberg is working with highly evaporated gases at temperatures close to absolute zero (-273.15 degrees Celcius). These gases can be described using very simple physical laws and can be experimentally manipulated in a variety of ways. They are therefore especially suitable for realizing “universal” models for the most varied multiparticle systems. Jochim’s team wants to prepare systems that are similar to high-density matter in their basic physical properties as is likely found in the core of neutron stars. “Our goal is not to find structures that function exactly the same, but rather our fascination for this research lies in the fact that the complexity in comparison to high-density quark matter in neutron stars is so reduced that only the essential properties are left, which make the system exciting.” The sponsorship of the project Three-Component Fermion Lattice Experiment (3FLEX) by an ERC Starting Grant began on 1 August of this year.

Selim Jochim (born 1975) graduated in physics from Universität Heidelberg, the University of California in Berkeley and San Francisco State University. He received his doctorate at the University of Innsbruck (Austria) with a thesis about the first Bose–Einstein condensation of molecules. As a postdoctoral researcher he conducted research for the IBM Research Laboratory in Zurich (Switzerland) and for the University of Chicago (USA). From 2006-2009 he was a junior professor at the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in cooperation with Universität Heidelberg. In 2009 Selim Jochim was appointed as professorial chair of the Physikalisches Institut of Universität Heidelberg.

The ERC Starting Grants allow young and talented researchers the opportunity to create a name for themselves as innovative and independent scientists. The goal is to create a framework for the transition to an outstanding, independent research team. The criteria for the grant award are the scientific excellence of the up-and-coming young researchers and the innovative potential of their research proposals. Since 2008, eight scientists from Universität Heidelberg have received an ERC Starting Grant. Aside from Jan Lohmann and Selim Jochim, the physician Friedrich Frischknecht of the Heidelberg University Hospital has also successfully applied for an ERC grant.