Newsletter PS-Park 'n' Science, 9th edition, Dec 2013
English text version of the Park'n'Science newsletter
Table of Contents
Support of young scientists builds networks
Interdisciplinary cooperation for the future of rapid diagnostic systems:
"The Lab in a Hankie"
Premium doctoral training at the International Max Plank Research Schools
What are the results of my research worth?
Park ‘n’ Life
Collaborations and networks
Ladders to success
A doctorate with distinction and a period of intensive scientific work are no longer enough to guarantee a smooth entry into professional life, as has been the case for a while now. The transition is facilitated by further qualifications, especially those already accrued during the last phase of education. People who can present what they want confidently and know the basics of management, business, or applying for funding find themselves in good starting positions. Potsdam-Golm Science Park can help prepare graduates for their careers whether they are looking for salaried positions, independent work or plan to enter academia. The training is supported by multiple skills networks stemming from the university as well as unaffiliated research institutions. While some offer the soft skills needed for success, others are entirely focused on the financial and economic requirements of young entrepreneurs.
The institutions offering funding for complex projects are also attracted by interdisciplinary dialogue and synergies and make the distribution of funds dependent on specific constellations of traits. The cooperation agreements for such plans are often veritable masterpieces of diplomacy. The initiators of the "Handkerchief Lab", for instance, managed to successfully bring together 14 cooperative partners, no easy feat!
International collaboration presents a special challenge to contractual partners. Once the collaborations are underway, however, they often blossom, to the benefit of all collaborators. The Potsdam-Golm Science Park benefits from international networks across many projects. To give you a sense of this, the back page of this edition covers four broadly varying, fascinating examples of this area of focus.
Enjoy restful holidays, a great New Year and happy reading!
Yours faithfully, Barbara Buller
Support of young scientists builds networks
Young scientists at Potsdam's research institutions all face the same challenges. They want to orient themselves early towards their careers and gather qualifications that suit them for the job market in science and business.
Offers, Career Talks and Coachings at the Potsdam Graduate School. (Photo: K. Fritze)
The Potsdam Graduate School offers the further training options they need and connects the University of Potsdam with postgraduate programmes at non-university research institutions. This helps take advantage of synergy effects. Starting in December 2012, the Potsdam Graduate School has extended its offerings with workshops tailored to the needs of post-docs as a target group in addition to the KaP programme – Career Development for Post-Docs in the pearls Network – which is promoted by the European Social Fund and the state Brandenburg, and includes courses, career talks and coaching.
The Potsdam Graduate School's course offerings aim to improve opportunities for either a path in academic or science or a practical career in business, administration and culture. The course offerings are accompanied by continuing education programmes on entrepreneurship as a career alternative and on higher education didactics. Teaching skills are playing an increasingly important role, and not only for graduate students and post-docs. Anyone who aspires to an international career in academia benefits from higher education teaching qualifications and teaching experience. As such, the ability to teach in higher education is a growing focus in the careers of young scientists. The three Teaching Professionals programmes are designed to prepare graduate students, post-docs and international scientists, respectively, for a career as a university lecturer. The Teaching Professionals will be starting again in spring 2013 with a new round.
The programme EPE – Entrepreneurial Postgraduate Education – is also beginning another round. Following the theme of "Science Meets Market", participants meticulously draw up business ideas and business plans. The regular participants from the Science Park in Golm include employees of the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research (IAP) and Biomedical Technology (IBMT) and the Max Planck Institutes for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute), Colloid and Interface Research and Molecular Plant Physiology. In September 2012, the program was held as a compact summer school at GO:IN, the Golm Innovation Centre. The EPE programme can also be offered in English, as needed.
In close collaboration with the pearls research network and the junior scientists area of the Research Department at the University of Potsdam, the Potsdam Graduate School offers application training sessions several times a year. The bilingual workshop offers tips on designing and completing applications. At the end, they offer one-on-one advice on specific applications. The Potsdam Graduate School also organises an informational brunch on a regular basis on the subject of promoting young scientists. The events target the coordinators of the university's structured post-doc program and the non-university research institutions.
Current application guidelines, details on all courses and programmes and subject-specific contact details can be found on the website of the Potsdam Graduate School:
www.pogs.uni-potsdam.de. You can reach the PoGS team centrally under email@example.com
Interdisciplinary cooperation for the future of rapid diagnostic systems: "The Lab in a Hankie"
For almost three years, Potsdam researchers have been working on the diagnostics system of tomorrow. The "Lab in a Hankie" project aims to develop a rapid diagnostic system that can immediately identify clinically relevant pathogens. Without any further lab equipment!
Prof. Frank F. Beer opened the third seminar (Photo: Christoph Heidrich)
On 7 November 2012, the third status seminar of the project "Lab in a Hankie – Impulse Centre for Integrated Bioanalysis" took place in Golm. The project aims at shrinking a complete diagnostic system to the molecular level, so that it can be incorporated into items of daily use, especially hygienic wipes or hankies. This might enable, for example, to immediately distinguish a harmless sniffle from a viral case of the flu. This rapid diagnosic system at the "point of need" also holds great potential for places such as hospitals that need to maintain high hygienic standards.
Initiated by the Potsdam branch of the Fraunhofer Institute for Bio-medical Engineering IBMT and the University of Potsdam, which is in-volved in the project with three institutes, the project also in-cludes the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP and the Max Planck Institute for Colloids and Interfaces, all of whom are collaborating on the campus of Golm. There, almost 20 working groups are involved in the "Lab in a Hankie". A total of 14 institutions are working on the project, including the Charité university hospital, the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research in Braunschweig, and sev-eral regional companies.
The researchers aim at developing molecular recognition structures that can identify and bind specific pathogens just as antibodies do. These new recognition structures will be embedded in a flexible car-rier backbone made from a specially developed aqueus gel (called "hydrogel"). If the pathogen binds to these assembled structures, the structures will respond with an easy-to-recognise indicator such as a change in colour.
However, the recognition structures identified in the project are significantly smaller and thus more flexible to use than antibodies. They will be used as modular building blocks and coupled in a tar-geted fashion to the innovative hydrogels which are also developed in the project. This will make it possible to create "super antibodies" that simultaneously recognise multiple areas (epitopes) of a patho-gen, thereby decisively improving the specificity of the respective diagnostic tests.
The hydrogels themselves consist of entirely novel chemical struc-tures (polymers). If a pathogen binds to a “Lab in a Hankie”, the hy-drogel collapses like a sponge that has been wrung out. This collapse will lead to a visible colour change in the gel by triggering a built-in chemical or physical "switch".
"The project requires us to put ourselves in the shoes of practition-ers of other disciplines and ask ourselves what information a polymer chemist might need, for example, to efficiently incorporate recogni-tion structures developed by molecular biologists. Then the theoreti-cal physicist explains to us how the surfaces must be structured for the pathogens to be detectable at all. The varying size scales of the scientific disciplines involved are also very important. Chemists usually require substances measured in milligrams for their work, but certain substances in biological systems are often only produced at the microgram scale. That is a difference of a factor of 1000. Herein lies one great challenge of the project." says Prof. Frank F. Bier from Fraunhofer IBMT, the spokesperson of the project.
The project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) until 2014 as part of the ministry's programme ”Spitzenforschung und Innovation in den neuen Ländern”. By then, we will have the first demonstrators of the “diagnostics of tomorrow”.
Dr. Armin Renner-Kottenkamp
Premium doctoral training at the International Max Plank Research Schools
Since 2000, the International Max Planck Research Schools (IMPRS) have become a permanent part of our efforts to promote Ph.D. students. Talented German and foreign junior scientists are offered the opportunity to earn a doctorate under excellent research conditions.
Via the IMPRS, the Max Planck Society offers a comprehensive education during a student's graduate work. The IMPRS schools are organised by each respective institute and thus are run differently depending on the requirements of the speciality and the local options available. The Research Schools are all marked by their tight collaboration with the universities at which the students are enrolled for their undergraduate studies as well as with other research institutions. All of the programmes have an international outlook, with roughly half of the students coming from abroad. Thus the working language of courses and daily research is English. The centre point of the three-year doctorate is the student's dissertation, typically on an interdisciplinary subject. In preparing their theses, the doctoral students are advised by scientists from the collaborating institutions. IMPRS currently comprises some 61 schools, of which 26 focus on chemistry/physics/technology, 23 on biology or medicine, and 12 on the humanities and social sciences. The Max Planck Institutes in Golm host four IMPRS schools with various emphases.
Two of them are hosted by the MPI of Gravitational Physics. The "IMPRS on Gravitational Wave Astronomy" is training a new generation of researchers in this ambitious field. The doctoral teaching encompasses the full spectrum of the field, starting with classical interferometry on Earth and in space, covering advanced and nonclassical concepts, and going right through to source modelling and data analysis. (http://imprs-gw.aei.mpg.de)
The IMPRS for Geometric Analysis, Gravitation and String Theory promotes research projects that are broadly related to Einstein's Theory of General Relativity. Such projects may be purely mathematical, explore the physics of black holes, deal with gravitational waves and cosmological applications of Einstein's theory or lie at the cutting edge of efforts to harmonise it with quantum mechanics via superstring and M-theory.
The MPI of Colloids and Interfaces is in charge of the IMPRS on "Multiscale Biosystems." This addresses the fundamental levels of biosystems. General objective is to understand, in a quantitative manner, how the processes on supramolecular and mesoscopic scales between a few nanometers and many micrometers arise from the structure and dynamics of the molecular building blocks. o achieve this goal, our interdisciplinary research combines bottom-up with top-down approaches, which are pursued by several groups from theoretical and experimental biophysics, from physical and colloid chemistry as well as from biochemistry and molecular biology. IMPRS doctoral students work on exceptional research projects, accompanied and advised by scientists from four of the institutions involved in the IMPRS programme. Alongside their research work, doctoral students are provided with a comprehensive educational program that covers all of the IMPRS' themes and imparts additional soft skills. (imprs.mpikg.mpg.de)
The IMPRS 'Primary Metabolism and Plant Growth', a cooperation of the MPI of Molecular Plant Physiology and the University of Potsdam, was founded in 2007. Plant growth, seen from a physiological point of view as resource acquisition and its conversion into biomass, is the main focus of the IMPRS. Our research follows a systems-oriented approach, combining experimental, bioinformatics and modelling approaches. Seminars and courses support the doctoral students in acquiring scientific expertise and transferable skills. The 'Plants and People' Conference is one of the highlights of our IMPRS. A team of students invites high-calibre speakers and organizes the whole event. The next 'Plants and People' is coming up on June 18th & 19th, 2013 – mark the date!
What are the results of my research worth?
The "technology scouting" service at the University of Potsdam provides individual answers to this question. Potsdam Transfer, the university's central scientific unit for start-ups, innovation, knowledge and technology transfer offers scientists the opportunity to check the relevance of their research results on the market.
Prof. Dr. Dieter Wagner, Director of the Centre, has identified two alternatives following positive screening of research results: "Identified potential for application can be exploited either through transfer of technology or knowledge or by means of a start-up." The university has established interlinked services for both options.
The transfer service offered by Potsdam Transfer is the university's intermediary between small and medium-sized companies in the region and between research groups in the Potsdam research community. The focus here is on straightforward mediation and initiation of research contracts. The transfer service is also responsible for clarifying patent issues and other legal bases and for searching for individual funding options. In addition, the university's non-profit subsidiary, UP Transfer GmbH, offers professional project management for smooth processing and administration of research and development projects.
Dr Martina Schad and Dr Jim Kallarackal decided to found their own company called OakLabs GmbH. Potsdam Transfer, the university's start-up service, was able to help them during the set-up phase. While tailored coaching helped the founders expand their own skills, the EXIST start-up grant provided them with the ideal start-up preparation. This grant was established by the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi) especially for technology and knowledge-based business start-ups. Potsdam Transfer also helps in the allocation of office and laboratory space for a start-up. GO:INcubator GmbH was set up at the instigation of the university society to meet the needs of start-ups following the set-up phase. This company offers extended consulting and service offers and brokers office and laboratory space especially for scientific start-ups, for example in the GO:IN Innovation Centre in the Potsdam-Golm Science Park.
Technology or knowledge transfer or founding? The consulting in a team creates clarity.
Research and production must be more closely interlinked - this was also the conclusion of the first Golm Transfer Day in September 2012. Location management of the science park, Potsdam Transfer, IHK Potsdam and BioTOP Berlin Brandenburg organised this forum for presenting the latest application-based R&D topics. Interested companies and other research establishments were able to identify points of contact for working together in future. Participants from the science park provided insights into their research activities from the life sciences and presented examples of successful R&D collaborations and spin-off companies. One conclusion of the transfer day was that the research results obtained should also create a direct route into the application, that production should take place where the research is being carried out. Small and medium-sized companies are already present at the Golm 22 site, and the majority of these companies were founded directly out of the research institutes on site. Friedrich Winskowski, Site Manager of the Potsdam-Golm Science Park, made the following plea for a policy of continued support and expansion of the necessary preconditions: "To make this centre of excellence fit for the future, we need new areas for research-based production and a new technology centre both for the long-term establishment of our start-ups and also to provide space for other new start-ups."
A. Frey, A. Lauterbach
Potsdam professor leads global organisation of geologists
Prof. Roland Oberhänsli has been elected President of the International Union of Geological Sciences IUGS.
Prof. Roland Oberhänsli (Photo: Fritze)
Prof. Roland Oberhänsli, mineralogist at the Institute for Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Potsdam, was elected president of the International Union of Geological Sciences during the 34th International Geological Congress in Brisbane, Australia.
IUGS represents more than one million earth scientists from approximately 120 countries. Beyond its involvement with special topics on standards in geosciences, IUGS provides financial start-up to support international collaboration in projects on paramount scientific questions. It also supports task groups focusing on geo-ethics, geo-forensics, geo-medicine and geo-risks. IUGS promotes education in the sectors of energy and resources, environment and risks, water as well as climate and surface changes or history of geosciences and public knowledge transfer.
Prizewinners at Fraunhofer IAP
Three scientists at Fraunhofer IAP have been distinguished for their work.
Dr Daniel Zehm received two awards. At the Berlin "Polydays 2012", he was awarded with the Georg Manecke Prize for the best work by new talent. Then, Dr Zehm had the honour of accepting the Promotional Prize for Basic Research in Detergents and Cleaning Agents for his doctoral dissertation from the chair of the GDCh expert group "Detergent Chemistry".
Dr Anna Miasnikova received the Promotional Prize from SEPAWA e.V. in the category of "Outstanding Doctoral Thesis".
The Korean Information Display Society (KIDS) silver award (sponsored by Samsung Display Co., Ltd.) was given to Dr Christian Ippen, Dr Tonino Greco and Dr Armin Wedel from Fraunhofer IAP for their scientific publication on the light emission of colloidal quantum dots made of indium phosphide.
Research prizes and fellowships
Two guest scientists and one new group of rising researchers contribute to the diversity of the research landscape.
From left: Prof. Dr. S. Merchant (Photo: MPI-MP), Dr. K. Kaufmann (Photo: private), Dr. A. Scheffel (Photo: MPI-MP)
From Los Angeles to Golm. A Research Award from the Humboldt Foundation brought Professor Sabeeha Merchant from California to Potsdam. With €60,000 grant money, she spent a sabbatical at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology (MPI-MP). The top-level researcher, recently elected as a member of the US National Academy of Sciences, wanted to pursue projects in cooperation with research groups of the MPI-MP. Her host at the MPI-MP was Professor Ralph Bock, whose department focuses on plant cell organelles like plastids and mitochondria. For more than 20 years, Merchant's lab has been studying how living creatures can survive a deficiency of essential metals such as zinc, copper, iron and manganese. She worked together with the researchers at the MPI-MP until the end of September last year to look for changes in gene copies, the protein composition of cells and the metabolism.
On the trail of flower formation. Biologist Dr Kerstin Kaufmann from the University & Research Centre in Wageningen, the Netherlands, will now be spending five years researching in Potsdam thanks to the renowned Sofja Kovalevskaja Prize 2012 from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. The award, worth up to €1.65 million, enables young scientists to assemble their own research groups at German host institutions. As a guest of the molecular biologist Professor Bernd Müller-Röber at the University of Potsdam's Institute of Biochemistry and Biology, Dr Kaufmann will be studying key regulators of flower formation.
Emmy-Noether Junior Research Group at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology. Dr André Scheffel will be leading the new research group which deals with “Algal Biomineralization”.. The focus of the group will be to investigate the biology of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) biogenesis and morphogenesis in unicellular algae termed coccolithophores.The topic was chosen by the group's leader, Scheffel. The micrometre-sized plates, called coccoliths, consist of calcite crystals with unusual shapes. "If we can understand how these algae build calcite crystals in almost every imaginable shape, we can imitate that in the lab," says Scheffel.
The German Research Foundation's Emmy Noether Programme funds outstanding young scientists on their paths towards academic independence. During the funding period, typically five years, the recipient has the opportunity to lead a research group, an important step on the road to becoming a professor.
Brandenburg Prize for young scientists 2012h
The post-doc prize in the category of natural and engineering sciences goes to Daniel Kopetzki.
Dr Daniel Kopetzki (Photo: H. Werner)
The award was given for Dr Kopetzki's dissertation, which he completed in 2011 at the Max Planck Institute for Colloid and Interface Research under the supervision of Professor Markus Antonietti. The chemist studied how hydrothermal chemistry can be used to produce raw materials for the chemical industry out of renewable resources. He developed a method to produce the key basic chemical gamma-valerolacton without using previously required rare precious metals like ruthenium.
New results on the Indian summer monsoon
Dr Nishant Malik receives the Carl Ramsauer Prize 2012 from the Physikalische Gesellschaft zu Berlin (the Berlin Physics Society, BPS).
Dr Nishant Malik (Photo: K. Fritze)
Potsdam was home to one of the four exceptional dissertations in physics which were awarded with the BPS' Carl Ramsauer Prize as part of a special colloquium at the University of Potsdam. Dr Nishant Malik was given the award for his dissertation "Extremes in events and dynamics: a non-linear data analysis perspective on the past and present dynamics of the Indian summer monsoon".
Awards for the best
Awards and graduation festivities on the Day of the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences at the University of Potsdam.
The achievements of over 200 graduates were celebrated with speeches and prizes awarded to those at the top of their class. The Michelson Prize for the best doctorate, named for the physicist and Nobel prizewinner from Potsdam, went to two scientists who completed their theses with the distinction "summa cum laude": Dr Eva-Theresa Pyl and Dr Andreas Schulze.
Eva-Theresa Pyl wrote her thesis on molecular plant physiology, while Andreas Schulze's dealt with astrophysics. The prize is worth a total of €1,500 and was offered with the support of UP Transfer GmbH to the University of Potsdam.
Friedrich Jakobs was awarded the Jacob Jacobi Prize from the Leibniz-Kolleg Potsdam for the best undergraduate degree in 2011.
UP Transfer GmbH's Leopold von Buch Bachelor Prize was offered jointly to Sonja Burgemeister and Wilhelm Braun.
Energy by the roll for Brazil
Fraunhofer IAP is installing a pilot plant in Brazil for flexible organic solar cells.
(Photo: Bernard Schmidt)
Beyond simply light, electricity in Brazil offers access to modern communication networks. In the future, organic photovoltaics will supply electricity in areas with poor infrastructure. The Brazilian company Flexsolar in Joinville, Santa Catarina, Brazil, and the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP in Postdam-Golm, Germany, are developing flexible organic solar cells to realise that vision. Fraunhofer IAP is installing a pilot plant in Brazil and developing technologies and methods. Flexsolar will promote product development and marketing in South America. The two companies signed the contract in Joinville on 3 October 2012, which included an order volume worth 4.8 million euros.
The photovoltaic elements required need to be light, affordable and in many cases flexible so they can attached to rucksacks, for example. Elements with larger surface areas are also needed in order to charge laptop batteries, for instance. To manufacture the photovoltaic elements, the partners are employing a roll-to-roll production process. This is an affordable method that keeps the products within the financial means of South American customers. "Some of the other advantages of this are the comparatively low investment costs for distribution infrastructure and especially the fact that solar power can also enable stable Internet connections. This improves opportunities tangibly for the local economy as well as the educational options for children and young people," says Prof. Hans-Jörg Bullinger from the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. "With the roll-to-roll process, the layers needed are printed one after another onto a flexible carrying layer, which runs continuously over rollers like a never-ending assembly line. In a final step, the layers on the strip are given an airtight seal to protect them, especially from oxygen," says Dr Armin Wedel from Fraunhofer IAP.
The idea for the project arose when the Brazilian Bernard Schmidt visited Fraunhofer IAP's stand at the LOPE-C 2012 trade fair (Large-area, Organic and Printed Electronics Convention) in Munich, July 2012. Now the first product prototypes are already being produced at the newly opened Application Centre for Innovative Polymer Technologies at Fraunhofer IAP. At the centre, the institute has new pilot equipment for manufacturing flexible organic components.
Mobile medical care in South Africa
For the occasion of the German-South African Year of Science 2012/2013, a common initiative of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the South African Department of Science and Technology (DST), the already strong relationships between the two countries in science and research will be extended still further.
Mobile Lab MobiMed (Photo: Copyright Fraunhofer IBMT)
The Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering is involved in the field of IT-based medical care and biomedical technology as part of the "MobiMed" project. There is currently a mobile diagnostic laboratory – in the form of a lorry – at Caledon Hospital in the Western Cape. The lorry combines the benefits of proximity to patients with the accuracy of a highly specialised laboratory. The laboratory vehicle can diagnose diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV right on location. Such a solution has demanding requirements: pronounced ergonomics despite a lack of space, low energy and water consumption and independent operation that can be monitored and controlled remotely.
After years of committed involvement in South Africa, the Fraunhofer IBMT initiated the project with its South African partner, Stellenbosch University. Some of the project's highlights are a workshop on mobile clinics and such technologies in the rural health sector, held in South Africa in November 2012, followed by a "MobiMed" young scientists' innovation workshop to be held in Germany in February 2013. Both events will include participants from local institutes in both countries. An independent project, set up to develop innovations in medicine and organised by the School for Design Thinking at the Hasso Plattner Institute in Potsdam and South Africa, serves as common element for both activities. The event in Stellenbosch includes a visit to the lorry. The lorry is associated with local medical care, based on the experiences of people involved. It is a starting point from which to begin tackling improvements in health care in rural areas.
The Fraunhofer IBMT has found important partners in the School for Design Thinking at the Hasso Plattner Institute in Potsdam as well as the "pearls" research network, who both helped make the "MobiMed" initiative a reality and successfully build up new contacts and collaborations. The "MobiMed" workshop receives the financial support of the BMBF as part of the current German-South African Year of Science.
Exploring new worlds together!
German-Colombian Forum on Technology Transfer and Innovation
The German delegation in Bogotá (Photo: private)
To strengthen and improve existing and new cooperations between Germany and Columbia, the first Forum on Science, Innovation and Technology Transfer was conducted in Bogotá. The workshop was held from September 23th to 26th, under the auspices of the Focus Area Plant Genomics and Systems Biology of the University of Potsdam and the Universidad de los Andes (University of the Andes).
In addition to the so-called "ABC" nations (Argentina, Brazil and Chile), Colombia with its current economic growth and an enormous potential for development and innovation, represents a highly attractive partner country for German scientists and research institutions.
To explore opportunities for new cooperations, a German delegation of 13 representatives from universities, research centres and the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology visited Bogotá to exchange information on several topics of common interest. Among these an emphasis was placed to the field of innovation management and technology transfer, but also the respective science policy in both countries was presented. Other areas relevant for interaction between Europe and Latin America have also been included in the discussion, e.g. biodiversity research and infectious diseases. The meeting which was kindly supported by the Federal Ministry of Science and Education, contributed to an intensive exchange of information and experience among the participants.
In addition to the workshop at the Universidad de los Andes and a visit at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia in Bogotá the German delegation had the opportunity to visit the "Technova" in Medellin, Colombia’s largest trade fair for innovation and technology transfer. This excursion was also very fruitful with many occasions, for future interaction e.g. with the Universidad de Antiochia.
One declared aim of the visit was to identify tangible possibilities for collaboration and sustainable knowledge transfer. In this context, one major milestone was the signature of a "Memorandum of Understanding" between the Leibniz Institute for Vegetable and Ornamental Crops in Grossbeeren and the Universidad de los Andes. Both partners agreed to establish additional steps to intensify their collaboration. Furthermore, the following measures are currently being planned by the participants: a bilateral workshop on bioeconomics which will take place next summer in Potsdam.
A further continuation of this success story was a first reciprocal visit of a Columbian scientist. Professor Lucía Atehortúa, a biotechnologist from the University of Antioquia, visited the botanical garden at the University of Potsdam. Caused by this visit an agreement about a staff exchange programme of both botanical gardens in Potsdam and Medellin will be organized.
At the end the delegation visit in Colombia was very successful, and new emerging ideas for more intensive cooperation will now be substantiated in further discussions between all participants.
Dr Susanne Hollmann, University of Potsdam
The chemical fingerprint of wine
The application of innovative analytical methods in combination with multivariate statistical procedures enables for the first time the classification of wines by attributes like grape variety, origin, vintage, and quality on the basis of a wine’s metabolic composition – its chemical fingerprint.
Wine has been made from grapes for thousands of years. The whole chemical composition of a wine reflects the history of the vinification because each step in this process leaves behind its trace. Still most of the wine authentication procedures rely on subjective human assessments.
So what determines the quality of a wine? Are there objective criteria for the evaluation of wines? Scientists of the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology in cooperation with colleagues from the Universidad Técnica Federico Santa Maria, Valparaíso in Chile asked these questions and used modern analytical methods to find answers. They tried to find metabolic profiles that contain the information necessary to classify wines by their grape type, vineyard of origin and even year and quality. The starting point of the analyses was to determine whether or not the unrestricted metabolic profiles of wine contain sufficient information to allow the distinction of wines from different grape cultivars. The scientists analysed 400 wine samples covering four different grape varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère, Merlot and Shiraz. But not only that; the scientists also analysed wines that were produced in different years (2004, 2005 and 2006), that came from different Chilean vineyards, and that were of three different qualities. They used for their studies ultra-high resolution analytical procedures paired with innovative, statistical methods. The combination of the two techniques enabled the identification of typical metabolite patterns and characteristic ingredients, including unknown substances. For each wine variety, up to 6,400 different metabolites were detected. The researchers were astonished how few identical substances were found in the tested wines. Only 9% of all substances could be found in all varieties. 60% of the substances were detected in several, but not in all wine varieties. About 30% of the measured metabolites proved to be characteristic biomarkers for each of the wine varieties.
"We were really amazed that more than half of the metabolites which we found had never been chemically characterised in greater detail up to now. It is possible that part of the positive effects attributed to red wine go back to these unknown substances," says Prof. Peña-Cortés from the Valparaiso University.
Using statistical procedures, the data obtained were analysed and typical distribution patterns of the metabolites were identified for each category. As expected, the largest differences were found between the grape varieties, although typical distribution patterns of substances could also be found for the origin and the year. However, it is only possible to clearly distinguish the wines according to their quality if wines from one vineyard are compared with each other. No quality criteria could be found to universally distinguish the best wines from the lower qualities.
The inventor of the biochip turns 70
On August 17, 2012, Professor Frieder W. Scheller celebrated his 70th birthday.
Prof. F. Bier (right), Fraunhofer IBMT, offers birthday wishes to Prof. Frieder W. Scheller (left) (Photo: Christoph Heidrich)
Frieder Scheller, considered one of the founders of bio-sensor technology, laid the scientific framework for important products such as glucose bio-sensors, immunosensors, and biochips, and has received a number of prizes for his work. He and his team launched the first commercial biosensor for measuring glucose on the European market in 1982.
He has made a decisive contribution to putting Potsdam on the map for bio-sensor technology and bioanalytics, as a professor of biochemistry and biology at the University of Potsdam (1993 – 2007), Vice President of the University of Potsdam (2004 – 2007), member of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences (since 1993), and President of the German Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (2001 – 2003).
Park ‘n’ Life
Farewell to stress and muscle tension
At the Max Planck Institutes in Golm, yoga and the "Break Express" bring a healthy balance to work.
In motion with the Break Express (photo: private)
Most desk workers know exactly what would make their sore backs feel better. For many, however, fitting in time for exercise in the evening presents an insurmountable obstacle. For such people there is now the "Break Express", a fixture of athletics at the University of Potsdam for more than three years now. Since autumn 2010, the administrators of the MPI for Colloid and Interface Research couldn't miss out on this opportunity either. To rescue them from acute lack of exercise and the resulting discomforts, the Break Express now visits the Science Park of Potsdam-Golm once a week. Only 15 minutes of exercise once or twice per week can make a difference and counter neck tension or prevent back pain. Students of the sport sciences come to the workplace to run the group so that the staff need not change clothes or locations. Under qualified leadership, colleagues do exercises together to strengthen, mobilise, relax and improve common posture issues. The programme is available all year round to anyone interested. It costs €10 for each course (ten units). You can find course times and further information under www.hochschulsport-potsdam.de.
To "store strength for the day" and "free up energies", visit the yoga courses on Wednesday mornings at the MPI for Molecular Plant Physiology. Katrin Piepenburg, who works there as a biological/technical assistant, began to get more involved in her hobby in 2010. Since 2012, she has been a certified yoga instructor in the Yoga Vidya Teachers Association. She would like to share her experiences of yoga's benefits with others, and now teaches hatha yoga at the Institute every Wednesday morning.
From her experience: Yoga benefits the entire body and mind. Yoga uses conscious breathing combined with body exercises to reduce stress and relieve pain, strengthen the immune system, improve concentration and raise self-confidence. The course is currently full, with 13 participants from the three Max Planck Institutes. The group is diverse, as yoga is suitable for people of all ages and physiques. An additional course is planned, which may be offered in the evenings starting in January. You can find more information on the Wednesday and evening courses by contacting Katrin Piepenburg at firstname.lastname@example.org.
J. Hoyer, K. Piepenburg
International cuisine at the Science Park
Alida Babel (Photo: private)
Coconut flakes, coconut milk, mint and cardamom broaden the culinary horizons on campus far beyond salt and pepper, keeping lunch time flavourful and interesting. This is not some exclusive Michelin-star restaurant, but in fact the Fraunhofer canteen, which Alida Babel has been running skilfully and creatively for the last few years. With her open-minded way of approaching people, she has created a friendly environment where guests can relax and enjoy their lunch breaks. Now she has decided it is time to move on – she will be sorely missed. Alida, all of your regulars in Golm thank you for your hard work, and wish you all the best and much success at your new job.
7th Glycan Forum in Berlin
The seventh Glycan forum, entitled "From Basic Science to Global Markets", will be taking place on 20 – 22 March 2013. The conference will be led by top international researchers from the field of glycosciences. Peter Fratzl, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam is in charge of the forum.
17th Leibniz-Kolleg Potsdam
The 17th Leibniz-Kolleg will be taking place on 2 – 3 May in Potsdam. The theme is "Dark Energy".
The main lecture on 2 May will be given by Brian Schmidt and has the working title "Dark energy and the accelerating universe". Schmidt won the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics.