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  • Creating the Future

    The Hector Fellow Academy initiates innovative research projects on latest scientific problems.

Overview of 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.

The following projects are supported:

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.  More ...

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. More ...

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. More...

Temporal and spatial microbial dynamics in the Arctic Ocean

Magda Car­dozo Mino – 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. More ...

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. More ...

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. More ...

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. More ...

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. More ...

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. More ...

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. More ...

Towards Understanding the Genetic Basis of Appetitive Aggressive Behavior

Jan Gerwin – Hector Fellow Axel Meyer

Aggressive behavior can be of two distinct origins: (1) reactive aggression, as a response to threatening or dangerous situations and (2) appetitive aggression, that is motivated by intrinsic factors, for example positive feelings through the exertion of violence. More ...

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. More ...

Bank Structuring in Urban Environments through Micro Groins

Andreas Müller – Hector Fellow Franz Nestmann

The European Water Framework Directive requires that all waterbodies achieve a good ecological status until 2027. In urban environments the restricted spatial conditions and different interests cause problems in river restoration. More ...

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. More ...

Speciation and population dynamics in the mesopelagic zone

Eva Paulus - Hector Fellow Axel Meyer

Mesopelagic fishes are an important part of the deep pelagic ecosystem in the world’s oceans. During my PhD thesis, I will collect and genomically investigate an especially abundant and little-studied order of fishes, the Stomiiformes. I will strive to learn whether and how their populations are genetically connected in their open-ocean habitat. I will aim to identify isolating barriers that are important for speciation and ask whether gene flow can occur over large distances. More ...

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. More ...

Mechanisms of Reproductive Isolation During Rapid Speciation

Sina Rometsch – Hector Fellow Axel Meyer

Reproductive isolation, the ceased exchange of genetic material, is crucial for the divergence of populations into distinct species. This is commonly facilitated by an extrinsic physical barrier, but rarely it can also occur devoid of such barriers. Whether speciation proceeds by the same or different reproductive isolation mechanisms under these two geographic scenarios remains a matter of debate. We aim to contribute to this fundamental question in biology by taking advantage of a model system of speciation: the Midas cichlid fishes. More ...

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. More ...

Gold-catalyzed functionalization of 1,3-diyne derivatives

Philipp Stein – Hector Fellow A. Stephen K. Hashmi

The efficient design of chemical processes is of great importance for the chemical industry. Current research makes an essential contribution to synthesizing complex substrates inexpensively in as few steps as possible and in high yield. This PhD project, under the direction of Hector Fellow A. Stephen K. Hashmi, therefore, deals with the mechanism and the functionalization of a wide range of 1,3-diynes with varying nucleophiles. More...

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. More ...

1,3-Diketon Based Ligands for Transition Metal Catalysis

Jonas Wunsch – Hector Fellow A. Stephen K. Hashmi

The development of catalysts to increase the chemical efficiency or to find completely new chemical reactions has found great interest. For this a wide variety of ligands are needed.
The doctoral is supervised by Hector Fellow A. Stephen K. Hashmi and aims at developing new ligands that are based on the formal double deprotonation of 1,3-diketones and thereby enlarging the chemical space of known ligands. For this new synthetic methods have to be found and the obtained ligands have to be tested and characterised. More ...

Epigenetic Underlying of Appetitive Aggression

Anja Zeller – Hector Fellow Thomas Elbert

Aggression can be distinguished in a reactive form, which is a protective response to an acute threat and an instrumental form, which is goal directed. Appetitive aggression is a sub form of instrumental aggression, which is defined by the experience of lust when perpetrating violence.

So far, the latter has been only assessed through self-report. The doctoral project under supervision of Prof. Thomas Elbert intends to create an objective, epigenetic marker for appetitive aggression. More ...