News overview


Newsletter PS-Park 'n' Science, 16th edition, Jun 2016

English text version of the Park'n'Science newsletter

Table of Contents
Gravitational waves detected 100 years after Einstein's prediction
How climate and sedimentary deposits in the deep sea are connected
Quickly identifying tumors by using antibodies
Production of an AIDS vaccine in algae
Fighting hospital germs with sugar
Animal Testing Replaced by Micro-reactor
In brief

Gravitational waves detected 100 years after
Einstein's prediction

LIGO opens new window on the universe with observation of gravitational waves from colliding black holes /key contributions from Max Planck Society and Leibniz Universität Hannover researchers.

For the first time, scientists have observed ripples in the fabric of spacetime called gravitational waves, arriving at the earth from a cataclysmic event in the distant universe. This confirms a major prediction of Albert Einstein’s 1915 general theory of relativity and opens an unprecedented new window onto the cosmos.

Gravitational waves carry information about their dramatic origins and about the nature of gravity that cannot otherwise be obtained. Physicists have concluded that the detected gravitational waves were produced during the final fraction of a second of the merger of two black holes to produce a single, more massive spinning black hole. This collision of two black holes had been predicted but never observed.

The gravitational waves were detected on September 14, 2015 at 5:51 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (9:51 a.m. UTC) by both of the twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors, located in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington, USA. The LIGO Observatories are funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), and were conceived, built, and are operated by Caltech and MIT.

The discovery, accepted for publication in the journal Physical Review Letters, was made by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (which includes the GEO Collaboration and the Australian Consortium for Interferometric Gravitational Astronomy) and the Virgo Collaboration using data from the two LIGO detectors.

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute; AEI) in Hannover and Potsdam, Germany, and from the Institute for Gravitational Physics at Leibniz Universität Hannover (LUH) have made crucial contributions to the discovery in several key areas: development and operation of extremely sensitive detectors pushed to the limits of physics, efficient data analysis methods running on powerful computer clusters, and highly accurate waveform models to detect the signal and infer astrophysical information from it.

Advanced detector techniques from GEO600
The GEO collaboration includes Max Planck and Leibniz Universität researchers together with UK colleagues. They designed and operate the GEO600 gravitational-wave detector near Hannover, Germany. It is used as a think tank and testbed for advanced detector techniques.

Most of the key technologies that contributed to the unprecedented sensitivity of Advanced LIGO (aLIGO) and enabled the discovery have been developed and tested within the GEO collaboration. Examples of these are signal recycling, resonant sideband extraction, and monolithic mirror suspensions. AEI researchers together with the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. also developed and installed the aLIGO high-power laser systems, which are crucial for the high-precision measurements.

Collision in the computer: this simulation shows the two black holes with 29 and 36 solar masses, which dance around each other and will merge in a few moments. They emit gravitational waves – which have been observed in terrestrial detectors.
Collision in the computer: this simulation shows the two black holes with 29 and 36 solar masses, which dance around each other and will merge in a few moments. They emit gravitational waves – which have been observed in terrestrial detectors.
© S. Ossokine, A. Buonanno (Max-Planck-Institut für Gravitationsphysik), Simulating eXtreme Spacetime Projekt, D. Steinhauser (Airborne Hydro Mapping GmbH)

“Scientists have been looking for gravitational waves for decades, but we’ve only now been able to achieve the incredibly precise technologies needed to pick up these very, very faint echoes from across the Universe,” says Karsten Danzmann, director at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Hannover and director of the Institute for Gravitational Physics at Leibniz Universität Hannover. “This discovery would not have been possible without the efforts and the technologies developed by the Max Planck, Leibniz Universität, and UK scientists working in the GEO collaboration.”

Max Planck scientists developed and implemented advanced and efficient data analysis methods to search for weak gravitational-wave signals in the aLIGO detector data streams and carried out most of the production analysis. In addition, the majority of the computational resources for the discovery and analysis of the Advanced LIGO data were provided by Atlas, the most powerful computer cluster in the world designed for gravitational-wave data analysis, operated by the AEI. Atlas has provided more than 24 million CPU core hours for the analysis of Advanced LIGO data.

“I am proud that the first two scientists to look at the signal were at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics and that our institute played a leading role in this exciting discovery,” says Bruce Allen, director at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Hannover. “Einstein himself thought gravitational waves were too weak to detect, and didn’t believe in black holes. But I don’t think he’d have minded being wrong!“

Accurate models of gravitational waves pave the way
Max Planck researchers developed highly accurate models of gravitational waves that black holes would generate in the final process of orbiting and colliding with each other. These waveform models were implemented and employed in the continuing search for binary coalescences in LIGO data. It is this search that observed the black-hole merger known as GW150914 with greater than 5-sigma confidence.

Max Planck scientists also used the same waveform models to infer the astrophysical parameters of the source, such as the masses and spins of the two black holes, the binary’s orientation and distance from Earth, and the mass and spin of the enormous black hole that the merger produced. The waveform models were also employed to test whether GW150914 is consistent with predictions from general relativity.

“We spent years modeling the gravitational-wave emission from one of the most extreme events in the Universe: pairs of massive black holes orbiting with each other and then merging. And that’s exactly the kind of signal we detected!” says Alessandra Buonanno, director at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Potsdam. “It is overwhelming to see how exactly Einstein’s theory of relativity describes reality. GW150914 gives us a remarkable opportunity to see how gravity operates under some of the most extreme conditions possible.” MPI-AEI

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How climate and sedimentary deposits in the deep sea
are connected

New findings by earth scientists from the University of Potsdam.

A research team, including Dr Anne Bernhardt and Professor Manfred Strecker from the University of Potsdam, is investigating how the products of erosion from continental erosion are carried from coastal estuaries into the deep ocean. The results of their research have been published in the renowned scientific journal Geology.

Research was carried out into the circumstances under which the products of erosion are transported into the deep ocean.
Research was carried out into the circumstances under which the products of erosion are transported into the deep ocean.

Deep ocean basins act as stores for the products of continental erosion. Sediment and associated organic material, as well as pollutants and nutrients, can be stored in the basins over long periods of time. Carbon from organic material, for example, is removed from the carbon cycle and cannot reach the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas. From a research perspective it is interesting to establish under which circumstances the products of erosion are transported into the deep ocean.

From a geological perspective, the transport of sediments into the deep ocean is most effective when sea level is low and the continental shelf is not covered by water, as was the case during the last ice age when large quantities of water were stored in ice caps. Rivers were able to cut into the smooth, exposed slopes of the shelf and pour their load of sediment down the steep slopes of the continental margin. And then the sediment can be carried further to the deep sea.

In order to test these connections, the researchers investigated sediment cores from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean along the edge of the Chilean continental margin. Precipitation is highly variable along the Chilean coast. The north of Chile is very dry while the south is very wet. At the same time plate tectonics plays a role, with the continental shelf in the north being very narrow, but very wide in the south. Strong ocean currents are active here at 200 to 300 meters below the surface of the sea. The earth scientists provide evidence for the fact that the combination of a very damp climate with high sedimentary deposits from the rivers and the existence of a broad shelf where a strong current can carry away sediment can lead to a high rate of sedimentation in the deep sea basins of the Pacific Ocean. By contrast, the unfavourable climate in the north of Chile, where dryness means few sedimentary deposits, leads to little sedimentation in the deep ocean. This is the case, despite the fact that the shelf is very narrow and is in accordance with the geomorphological situation of most continental margins when sea level is very low. The study makes clear that even today when the sea level is high, large quantities of sediments can be transported to and stored in the deep ocean.
Dr Barbara Eckardt

Quickly identifying tumors by using antibodies

Antibodies combat viruses and bacteria. They also attach themselves to cancer cells – in a typical, characteristic way. Fraunhofer scientists are using this property to detect cancer cells in tissue samples. Such rapid tests can already be applied by surgeons during operations – within a few minutes and without expensive equipment.

The tumor glows brightly on the bluish fluorescent MRI image. The ulcer is localized. With this information, the surgeon gets to work. Now, he has to rely on his eyes. The skill lies in not cutting away too much while still completely removing the diseased tissue. "Locating tumors accurately in tissue sections is not easy. It's easy to distinguish diseased from healthy tissue at the core of the cancerous ulcer, but not around the edges: Tumors spread out asymmetrically," says Dr. Joachim Storsberg of the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP in Potsdam-Golm. During surgery, a specially-trained professional, the histologist, examines the excised tissue samples with high-resolution microscopes. He identifies characteristic structures of cancer cells and informs the surgeon of whether or not there are any ulcers. This can take several days.

The carbohydrate wind tunnel
Even a cell phone camera is sufficient to examine tissue samples for tumor cells. © Photo Fraunhofer IAP

Tests during surgery

The IAP has developed a polymer-based rapid test which visually differentiates tumor cells from healthy cells in a tissue section through the use of a simple microscope. Surgeons can already use the test in the operating room. This saves time and costs." Studies have shown that receptors sit on tumor cells, and certain specially-bred antibodies attach to these receptors: for example, estrogen antibodies on breast carcinomas. Using this "immunodiagnostic" method, the surgeon only needs a few minutes to make sure that all the diseased tissue has been removed," Storsberg says, explaining the added value of the new tests. "Once placed on the tissue sample, the antibodies search independently for their counterpart – the receptors which are typical for them".

After the surgeon has placed the antibody on the tissue sample, a colored water solution is added, with which the individual enzymes of the antibody oxidize. The color of the solution changes: The tissue sites at which this happens contain diseased tissue. "The test is quite versatile: Different antibodies can be used or combined depending on the type of tumor," explains Dr. Storsberg's colleague, Dr. Christian Schmidt. For reasons of reliability, a cross test characteristically dyes the healthy cells in the next step. Once neither of the two tests detect any more tumor cells, the surgeon can conclude the operation: He has cut out all of the diseased cells.

Smartphone or simple microscope

The scientists are working to make the color contrasts between healthy and diseased tissue cells more clearly visible. This work will be promoted in the Central Innovation Program for SMEs (in German, the Zentralen Innovationsprogramm Mittelstand - ZIM) by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. IAP

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Production of an AIDS vaccine in algae

Development of a new production site for pharmaceuticals

Today, plants and microorganisms are heavily used for the production of medicinal products. The production of biopharmaceuticals in plants, also referred to as “Molecular Pharming”, represents a continuously growing field of plant biotechnology. Preferred host organisms include bacteria, yeast and crop plants, such as maize and potato – plants with high space demands and maintenance requirements. With the help of a special algal strain, the research team of Prof. Ralph Bock at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology in Potsdam-Golm strives to develop a more efficient and resource-saving system for the production of medicines and vaccines. They tested its practicality by synthesizing a component of a potential AIDS vaccine.

The use of plants and microorganisms to produce pharmaceuticals is nothing new. In 1982, bacteria were genetically modified to produce human insulin, a drug that saves the lives of millions of diabetics every year. The transgenically synthesized insulin is 100% compatible with the immune system of the patients and, moreover, makes the laborious extraction of insulin from the pancreases of billions of slaughtered pigs and cows per year unnecessary.

Plants that have been used as production hosts for pharmaceuticals include, for example, tobacco, maize, rice, soybean, rapeseed and potato. However, most of these plants are primarily used as food and animal feed, and their dual use could result in potential conflicts. Moreover, these crop plants are often demanding regarding their space requirements, growing conditions and maintenance.

Chlamydomonas reinhardtii - a single-cell green alga: Test of succesful gene integration for a potential AIDS vaccine production.
Chlamydomonas reinhardtii - a single-cell green alga: Test of succesful gene integration for a potential AIDS vaccine production. © Rouhollah Barahimipour

In many respects, algae compare favorably with crop plants: they are unpretentious, display a high resource efficiency and grow fast. Moreover, they have the potential to be directly used for human consumption, thus making cost-intensive purification unnecessary and resulting in a reduction of the manufacturing costs by up to 60%. In the future, it therefore may become possible to develop vaccines that can be delivered painlessly by simple oral consumption.

Over the last three decades, the single-celled green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii has become increasingly popular among plant biologists. It is a freshwater alga that can be found almost everywhere in the world. Chlamydomonas is a model organism in basic research and has been extremely well characterized. Many molecular tools have been developed for research with this alga, including methods for genetic modifications. But why aren’t we using algae for biotechnological purposes already?

Algae are a rather diverse group of organisms, and the application of existing tools and methods to an alga is often far from straightforward. Also, tools that have been developed for Chlamydomonas often cannot be directly transferred to other algal species, such as algae that produce higher amounts of biomass or species that grow more efficiently in sea water. Moreover, even in Chlamydomonas, stable genetic modifications are still challenging. After the new genetic information is transferred into the genome of the alga, it is often not or not efficiently used and, what’s more, the alga can silence the foreign information over time, resulting in the loss of synthesis of the new protein. The research team of Prof. Ralph Bock seeks to generate improved algal strains to make them a competitive system in biotechnology.

In their latest study, the researchers used a gene that encodes an antigen of the HI virus. They optimized the foreign genetic information such that it allows the alga to better “understand” it and translate it more efficiently into the corresponding protein. To this end, the researchers identified characteristics of the genetic makeup of the alga and modified the foreign gene sequences accordingly. “Additionally, we generated an alga strain that is able to use the new genetic information much more efficiently than conventional strains”, explains Dr. Juliane Neupert, researcher at the Max Planck Institute. The optimized foreign gene, encoding a potential component of an AIDS vaccine, was then transferred into the new alga strain to test the efficiency and practical applicability of the new production system.
78 million people worldwide are infected with HIV, a virus that killed already more than 39 million people. Every year, 2 million people are newly infected, mainly in developing countries. This underlines the urgent need to develop an effective AIDS vaccine. More than 30 years of research resulted in the identification of a few virus proteins that are efficiently recognized by our immune system and, thus, are candidate components of a future AIDS vaccine. Among them is the so-called p24 protein.

“We were able to optimize the p24 gene structure and then transferred it into the genome of the optimized Chlamydomonas strain with the help of genetic engineering methods”, explains Rouhollah Barahimipour, first author of the study. “The alga was now able to use the optimized gene and to accumulate the p24 protein”, he confirms.

The researchers in Potsdam-Golm were able to identify the reasons for previous difficulties with synthesizing foreign proteins in Chlamydomonas. At the same time, they developed a new, highly efficient production platform for pharmaceutical proteins. Their work indicates a bright future for algae in biotechnology. As soon as a new vaccine is identified, this system can now be used for fast and efficient large-scale production. The research team published their results in the journal “Plant Molecular Biology”. MPIMP

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Fighting hospital germs with sugar

A synthetic sugar-based molecule activates the immune system and could serve as a vaccine against C. difficile bacteria

A vaccine against one of the most dangerous hospital germs may soon be available. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam and the Freie Universität Berlin have developed a substance that elicits an immune response against the gut bacterium Clostridium difficile. The potential vaccine resembles the sugar structures presented on the surface of the bacterium and therefore primes the immune system to recognize the pathogen itself. C. difficile infects a large proportion of patients in hospitals and kills around 15,000 people a year in the USA alone. Doctors could treat the infection with antibiotics, but the bacterium mutates constantly, allowing it to escape the effects of the drugs. The discovery by the Max Planck researchers may pave the way for developing inexpensive and effective vaccines and drugs against C. difficile.

Chlamydomonas reinhardtii - a single-cell green alga: Test of succesful gene integration for a potential AIDS vaccine production.
Sweet spot for therapeutic antibodies: The illustration above shows the three-dimensional structure of the sugar molecule PS-I of C. difficile (orange: carbon; red: oxygen; white: hydrogen).
© MPI of Colloids and Interfaces

Around 40 percent of patients in hospitals and nursing homes carry the gut bacterium C. difficile. Such patients are easy prey for the pathogen. Because the patients’ intestinal flora is often damaged by antibiotic treatments, the bacteria are able to spread unhindered. Moreover, treatment of the infection becomes increasingly difficult, as the bacteria tend to develop resistance to antibiotics.

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces have now constructed a molecule that could protect patients against C. difficile. It resembles the characteristic sugar coating on the surface of bacteria and, as such, is able to elicit a similar immune response as the bacterium itself. The molecule could thus be used as a vaccine, because once the immune system has produced antibodies against a pathogen, it is prepared to fend off the invaders in the event of a later infection.

Synthetic molecule as a cost-effective alternative for immunization

The researchers first investigated which parts of the sugar coating are actually necessary to trigger an immune response. They then constructed an artificial molecule with those properties by attaching the essential sugar structures to an amino acid backbone. Coupled with an immunostimulating peptide, the molecule stimulated the immune system in mice to produce antibodies that were effective against the similarly constructed surface sugars of C. difficile. The mice are therefore protected against a subsequent infection with the bacterium. Moreover, it may be possible to use the molecule to produce therapeutic antibodies that can be administered to sick patients to boost their immune system and combat infections.
Many bacteria bear characteristic carbohydrates on their surface, and it is known that these surface sugars are suitable for immunization purposes. However, the surface sugars usually have to be detached from specially bred microbes – an expensive and complicated process. By synthesizing artificial molecules for immunization, the researchers have now come up with a cost-effective alternative. “Our findings are a very good example of how basic research into the human immune response to sugars can lead to new candidates in the fight against dangerous hospital germs,” says Peter H. Seeberger, Director at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces and Professor at Freie Universität Berlin. As early as 2011, he and his team synthesized a molecule for immunizing against C. difficile; at the time, however, they used a different surface sugar molecule as a template.

In order to progress from research results to actual use in patients, the scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam are working with Vaxxilon AG (Reinach, Switzerland) to develop novel carbohydrate-based vaccines. Vaxxilon has licensed a portfolio of vaccine candidates against a number of pathogens, including C. difficile. MPIMP

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Publication Prize 2016 for Jörn S. Lämke

Jörn S. Lämke
Jörn S. Lämke (Photo private)

As part of the 20th Leibniz Colloquium in Potsdam, the biologist Jörn S. Lämke has been awarded the 2016 Publication Prize for his outstanding studies in the field of epigenetics and for his publication in the Journal of the European Molecular Biology Organization. Lämke was IMPRS-PMPG doctoral student at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology and the University of Potsdam and has just completed his doctorate.

Jeff Schell Prize for two Young Researchers at the MPI-MP

Chlamydomonas reinhardtii - a single-cell green alga: Test of succesful gene integration for a potential AIDS vaccine production.
Dr. Martijn Gipmans (BASF), Federico Apelt, Dr. Danilo de Menezes Daloso, Prof. Mark Stitt
(Photo: MPI-MP)

Dr Danilo de Menezes Daloso from Brazil and Federico Apelt from Germany have both been awarded the Jeff Schell Young Researcher prize, worth 2,500 euro, for their research achievements. Federico Apelt, doctoral student at the MPI-MP, developed a new method for photographing and assessing plant growth with a new type of light-field camera. During his time at the institute, Dr Danilo Daloso investigated the citric acid cycle, which takes place in plant cell mitochondria.

Honorary Doctorate for Professor Hermann Nicolai

Professor Hermann Nicolai
Professor Hermann Nicolai (Picture: Sven Döring/MPG)

Professor Hermann Nicolai, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute) has been awarded an honorary doctorate by the Faculty Senate of the Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden. Professor Nicolai received the award for his long-standing commitment and close collaboration with researchers at the Chalmers University in the field of quantum gravity. Nicolai has been one of the world’s leading scientists in quantum gravity for many years.

Funding for Professor Haag and Till Hoeppner

Professor Johannes Haag
Prof. Haag (Picture: Karla Fritze)

Professor Johannes Haag and Till Hoeppner from the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Potsdam have received support in the first funding round of the Volkswagen Foundation’s “Original-isn’t it?” initiative. Their research project “On the way to a critical metaphysics” is one of 17 projects, which will receive funding totalling 1.7 million euro.

Jiayin Yuan has been awarded the Dozentenpreis from the Fund of Chemical Industry

Dr Jiayin Yuan
Dr. Jiayin Yuan (Picture: MPIKG)

Dr Yuan, chemist at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces received the highly endowed award in May in Düsseldorf. The foundation trustees appreciate Yuan’s excellent performance in his independent work to mark him as one of the next generation academic leaders. The polymer chemist and his team investigate special charged polymers, so-called poly(ionic liquid)s.

Honorary Doctorate for Professor Bryan S. Turner

Professor Bryan S. Turner
Professor Bryan S. Turner (Picture: K. Fritze)

Professor Bryan S. Turner, Max Planck Research Award winner in 2015, has been made Honorary Professor at the University of Potsdam. His main interest is in the secularisation of plural societies, and one of his objectives is to examine the roots of the tension between civil and human rights in order to understand how far this may be responsible for present-day conflicts.

Brandenburg’s best Start-up Teams

The twelfth Brandenburg Senior Coaching Service competition took place in 2016. It was organised by Potsdam Transfer, the centre for start-ups, innovation, knowledge and technology transfer of the University of Potsdam and the Brandenburg Institute for the Promotion of Start-Ups and Small Businesses (BIEM). In addition to the coaching of volunteer managers, the three best teams received prizes totalling 5,000 euro and a voucher for consultancy services. The competition jury awarded the first prize to the “diamond inventics” team, which had received funding from the Federal EXIST initiative. The team comprised members from the University of Potsdam, the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research (IAP) and the Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology (IZI). The biotechnologist Dr Robert Niedl, the business economist Katja Richter, the physicist Alexander Anielski, and the product designer Nicole von Lipinski together with the Potsdamer Wasser-und Umweltlabor (PWU) now intend to launch an inexpensive, disposable, rapid-testing system based on platform technology to identify microorganisms in water. The second prize was awarded to the “Crash Alerter” project, also from the University of Potsdam, with a patent from the Wildau Technical University of Applied Sciences. This start-up is developing a mobile app which detects vehicle crashes automatically and emits an emergency signal, a so-called eCall, to a pre-set recipient. Reaction time can be reduced by up to 50% using the eCall system and may possibly help to save lives. The third place went to the “Amparo” project team, which is developing an inexpensive product which revolutionises prosthetic shaft technology and makes it possible for lower leg amputees in developing countries to obtain modern prostheses. The materials used and the reduced production time minimises cost per patient. A special prize was awarded to the University of Potsdam’s “Joinlocals” enterprise. Their mobile app, developed by Alexander Rubbel, Phillip Rode and Felix Mohn, uses innovative algorithms to link travellers, locals and recent arrivals.

Animal Testing Replaced by Micro-reactor

Liver cell cultures used for testing

Researchers throughout Europe are working on test procedures to assess the harmful side effects of medicines without animal testing. Researchers from the EU-funded project “HeMiBIO” have come up with a promising technique, which employs a new kind of micro-reactor. Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology (IZI), together with a team from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, have developed a micro-bioreactor in which liver cells can be cultured, preserved and observed for about a month, a relatively long period. The liver is the most important detoxification organ in the body.

Therefore, it makes sense to investigate the effect of substance toxicity on liver cells. As Dr Claus Duschl, Head of the IZI department for Cellular Biotechnology, points out: “Both in animal testing and in conventional lab testing, the procedure has generally employed endpoint measurement. Using these methods a number of doses of an active substance are administered and then the necrotised tissue or the dead animal is analysed. It is not possible to analyse in detail how the substance acts on the cells”.

Third „Plants and People“- Conference in Potsdam-Golm
Prototype of the bioreactor developed for the EU-funded project HeMiBio © Fraunhofer IZI-BB.

It is completely different with the micro-bioreactor: tiny sensors monitor, in real-time, how much oxygen the liver cells are consuming. When the metabolism is stimulated, consumption is high. If the cell is dying, oxygen consumption goes down. Cell biologists can use these sequences to figure out which metabolic processes are happening in cells at any specific time. This is what the researchers on the HeMiBio project are taking advantage of. If a toxic substance is added, the sensors in the micro-reactor detect the exact changes in the consumption of oxygen. In this way, one can determine precisely which steps are influenced or interrupted by the active substance.

The joint team has already established that the micro-bioreactor works. However, there is still a lot to be done. The researchers want to use the reactor to look at the different types of cells which exist in the liver.


Refugee teachers to obtain qualifications from the university

Refugee teachers to obtain qualifications from the university
Picture: K. Fritze

Hundreds of men and women have applied to the University of Potsdam for the first programme in Germany for refugee teachers to obtain teaching qualifications. Professor Miriam Vock, who set up the project, said: “We have been overwhelmed by the response.” She had originally expected around 15 participants. Thanks to additional funding from the Brandenburg Science Ministry, two more courses could still start in the summer semester. The applicants are predominantly highly qualified, experienced and highly-motivated to work in Germany as teachers. “We are hoping that other universities will soon be setting up similar programmes”, says Miriam Vock from the Department of Education. More teachers are urgently needed for the many refugee children in German schools. Initially, the teachers, most of which come from Syria, will receive an intensive course in the German language at the university’s Centre for Language and Key Competences. Then, from September onwards, they will be familiarised with the German school system. Numerous schools have already said that they are prepared to give these refugee teachers an insight into teaching practice in their schools. The university’s Centre for Teacher Training and Educational Research is also involved. “Schools work very differently in Syria”, explains Dr Frederik Ahlgrimm, who was also involved in setting up the programme. The plan is for German trainee teachers to take part in the course and partner with refugee teachers so they can teach each other about the school systems in their countries of origin. According to the Vice President for Studies and Teaching at the University of Potsdam and Director at of the Centre for Teacher Training and Educational Research, Professor Andreas Musil: “for students, this will be very helpful for their work with refugee children in the future”. This is a great opportunity to gain intercultural competences.

Integration through Qualification

As of the 1st December, the University of Potsdam Transfer GmbH will be running a further free course for academics from other countries to acquire qualifications in business administration. Advance registration is being taken for this course. The 12-month long training course is designed for German-speaking migrants living in the State of Brandenburg, who have qualifications from another country. The preference is for those with qualifications in economics, science or law. The objective is for them to gain business knowledge and interdisciplinary qualifications and contacts which should help them to find jobs in the regular labour market.


Graduate Farewell Party and Campus Festival both on the 14th July

Formal Ceremony with stunning backdrop

The University of Potsdam’s 25th Anniversary celebrations came to an end on the 15th July with an academic ceremony and a reception for guests from politics, business and society, but the Campus Festival was held the day before, at 14:00 on the 14th July. The University of Potsdam Campus Festival is a permanent fixture of university life and, whether you are attracted by Campus Health, Campus Games, Campus Family, Campus Science or Campus Alumni, the festival offers a varied programme for young and old and university members or visitors. This year, it took place at the same time as the graduation ceremony of the class of 2015/2016. The University of Potsdam invited all 2015/2016 graduates and doctoral candidates and their families and friends to a joint graduation ceremony. This year, the formal ceremony took place in front of the impressive backdrop of the colonnade of the Neues Palais. Former students were welcomed for the last time (at least for the moment) by Professor Oliver Günther, PhD, President of the University of Potsdam. This year’s best students from the five university faculties also received their awards.

Graduate Farewell Party and Campus Festival both on the 14th July
Graduate Farewell Party and Campus Festival



New Fraunhofer Conference Center at the Potsdam-Golm Science Park

On 23 June 2016 the Fraunhofer Conference Center was inaugurated in the presence of Brandenburg’s Minister of Science Dr. Martina Münch, Fraunhofer Chairman Prof. Dr. Georg Rosenfeld, and the President of the University of Potsdam Prof. Dr. Oliver Günther. The new building is ideal for events with up to 250 participants and is available for conferences, workshops and network meetings.

The need for space for internal events, meetings for major joint projects, and national and international conferences is growing thanks to the successful scientific and business developments at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP located at the Potsdam-Golm Science Park. The conference center can be used for events by Fraunhofer institutes and neighboring institutes on campus, as well as by other scientific institutions.
With financial support from the federal government and the state of Brandenburg, the conference center was built over the past one and a half years at a cost of around 3.6 million euros as part of the third expansion phase of the Fraunhofer IAP. It was designed by the architects Schmidt-Schicketanz and Partner GmbH, who had designed the Fraunhofer IAP’s Application Center which opened in 2012. The building, which is fitted with state-of-the-art conference technology, is shared with the division of the Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology IZI-BB located in Potsdam. The 275 m² conference room can be divided into two and can, therefore, be used for two events simultaneously.

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The Brandenburg Main State Archive

is the main archive of the federal state Brandenburg. It is responsible for documents and materials from the state government of Brandenburg, the state administrative agencies, its governmental agencies and their predecessors.

The Brandenburg Main State Archive
The Brandenburg Main State Archive

The “Brandenburgisches Landeshauptarchiv” makes its certificates, registers, files, maps, plans, posters, audio-visual records and many other archival objects available to help carry out public tasks as well as to protect legal concerns. The archival materials are used for historical studies or projects, e.g. regional, local or genealogical studies.

The Archive conserves its complete collection of records and keeps them safe, but these records need to be made available for consultation at the same time. Another permanent task is the appraisal and acquisition of archival material from the administrative agencies of Brandenburg which they no longer need for their daily work or whose retention periods have expired.

The Brandenburg Main State Archive
About 50,000 linear metres of records and archival material dating from the 12th century to today

With all its tasks the “Brandenburgisches Landeshauptarchiv” serves as a link between past, present and future. The Main State Archive of Brandenburg contains about 50,000 linear metres of records and archival material dating from the 12th century to today. Among these records are approx. 10,000 charters and about 130,000 maps and plans.
The “Brandenburgisches Landeshauptarchiv” is an institution under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Culture, Science and Research of Brandenburg.

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In brief

A book entitled “25 Jahre Universität Potsdam -Rückblicke und Perspektiven” (25 Years of the University of Potsdam – Retrospect and Prospects) has been published this year to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the University of Potsdam. The publisher is Manfred Görtemaker.

The admissions portal for the University of Potsdam is now open. As of now, applications are invited for initial or subsequent semesters of restricted access courses – Bachelor’s or First State Examination in Law. Access the portal at: zugang/bewerbung-bachelor.html

An international team of researchers, including André Scheffel from the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology and Damien Faivre from the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces, has been investigating the chalk production mechanism in a group of marine algae. These algae have a strong influence on our climate, and their fossilized remains provide us with information on environmental conditions in the past. During the study, the researchers discovered so far an unknown cellular component which may have an important influence on the retention of environmental information in “organic chalk”. Their findings were published in the journal Nature Communications.

In February 2017 the University of Potsdam will once again be offering a part-time postgraduate study course to obtain a Master of European Governance and Administration (MEGA) degree. Applications for this French-German study course are accepted up to the 30th of September 2016.

Dr. Arun Sampathkumar is the new group leader of the “Plant Cell Biology and Microscopy” Central Infrastructure Group at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology. This group enables institute researchers to access the imaging platform and offers them instruction in the use of the equipment. Dr Sampathkumar will also be responsible for the maintenance and repair of the sensitive equipment. In addition, the group has a research interest in cell wall biology.

New fluorescent dyes: Researchers working in Biotechnology and Life Sciences at the University of Potsdam presented a rapid microorganism-detection test and a Raman spectrometer at this year’s Analytica, Munich’s leading international trade fair for laboratory technology, analysis, and biotechnology.

Dr. Ute Armbruster is the new head of the “Photosynthesis Regulation Research Group” at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology. Her group is particularly interested in discovering how and by what means photosynthesis is regulated under changing light conditions. The objective of the group is to identify and describe the mechanisms involved in this process.

The EU-funded FET OPEN programme is funding a project led by Dr Arren Bar-Even from the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology with around 5 million euro to develop new technology to increase plant productivity. Together with five partners from both research and industry, Dr Bar-Even, will use synthetic biology to test new ways of increasing productivity which focus on plant metabolism.

56.7 million euro of so-called third-party funding was donated to the University of Potsdam last year. This is the highest amount the university has raised in its 25-year history. This funding increases the university’s annual budget by almost 50 percent and has funded one thousand additional jobs.


Entrepreneurs and researchers will be meeting for the 5th time at the Hightech Transfer Day from 9:30 to 14:00 on the 11th of October at the Potsdam-Golm science park. To mark the Berlin Brandenburg Health Week, this day’s focus will be on research, development and innovative products for the health care industry. To bring the worlds of enterprise and science together, Biotech and IT firms, start-ups and research projects, clinics and business development agencies from the Potsdam region will all be present.

The Brandenburg Main State Archive

Up until the end of September, groups of 5 people and over will be able to join a “Komm ins Beet” guided tour. The tour around the greenhouses and open air spaces is free of charge, and participants will get an insight into current research at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Plant Physiology. Individual visitors can also join a public tour at 14:00 on the last Saturday of every month.
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On 7 October 2016 the University of Potsdam will be opening its lecture theatres to children in order to inspire them to find out more about the world of science. For one day, 3rd and 4th grade schoolchildren can get a taste of university life and see what it’s like to be a student. Registration is only possible through schools: For more information please contact: