Press release 31/22 - 21.04.2022

Brückenschlag von Physik und Chemie zur Biologie

Strategische Neuberufungen unterstützen den Aufbau der Lebenswissenschaften

With currently three new appointments to the Faculty of Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Technology, the University of Augsburg is reinforcing the expansion of the life sciences and thus, in particular, the cooperation between the Institute of Physics and the Faculty of Medicine.

“Basic physics and chemistry, which have been operating successfully for years at the University of Augsburg, are now being applied to questions from biology, to expand the profile to include the life sciences. This means that fundamental biological, biochemical and biophysical issues can be further researched and clarified,” says Prof. Dr. Malte Peter, Vice President for Innovation, Transfer and Alliances, describing the current process. This further development of physics, but also of computer science and medicine, creates high synergies in the natural and technical sciences which support the development of what are known as the "life sciences". In addition to the further development of the chemistry disciplines, the focus here is on strengthening biology. The appointments made in recent months also take this process into account.

"We are pleased to expand the border area between physics and biology with these appointments and to further expand and strengthen existing cooperation with the Faculty of Medicine in this promising field of research," explains the Dean of the Faculty of Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Technology, Prof. Dr. Manfred Albert.

Prof. Dr. Fabian Pauly, Executive Director of the Institute of Physics, adds: "With Prof. Dr. Christoph Weber, we have already been able to fill the second chair in theoretical physics. The appointments of the two scientists, Prof. Dr. Nadine Schwierz and Prof. Dr. Janina Bahnemann, are also strategically groundbreaking for us, as this is where the bridge between physics and biology in research and teaching is sustainably completed.”

Prof. Dr. Christoph A. Weber – Chair of Theoretical Physics II - Statistical Physics

In his research at the interface between physics and biology, Prof. Dr. Christoph A. Weber deals with physical principles that underlie living systems. A central concern of Weber's research work is to compare the results of the theoretical models developed with experimental observations. To this end, the group works with a large number of researchers from chemistry, biology and experimental biophysics, among others, worldwide. The results sought relate to fundamental questions about the origin of life, the realisation of biological functions in living cells, including possible links to disease, and the goal of realising simple "life" based on a few molecular components.

© University of Augsburg

Christoph Weber studied physics at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich from 2003 to 2008 and completed his doctorate on modelling the collective motion of driven particles, which is also an important topic in the life sciences. He then conducted research at the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems (MPI-PKS) in Dresden. This was followed by a two-year postdoctoral period at Harvard University in Cambridge, USA. From 2018 he headed the "Mesoscopic Physics of Life" working group at the MPI-PKS and the Center for Systems Biology Dresden, and was awarded the ERC Starting Grant of the European Union in 2020. He accepted the appointment to the Chair of Theoretical Physics II – Statistical Physics at the University of Augsburg on 1 September 2021. Christoph Weber succeeds to the professorship of the now emeritus Prof. Dr. Ulrich Eckern.

Prof. Dr. Nadine Schwierz - Biology with a focus on Theoretical Bioanalytics

The research in Prof. Dr. Nadine Schwierz’s group deals with the description of biological systems with the aid of computer simulations. Her work aims to decipher vital processes such as the folding and function of biomolecules or the influence of metal ions by simulating the movement of all atoms using high-performance computers. A particularly exciting example is the structure and function of ribonucleic acid and the highly topical question of how mRNA can be transported in the body.

Nadine Schwierz was awarded an Emmy Noether group by the German Research Foundation in 2016 and headed a group at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysics in Frankfurt. Her research focussed on the interaction of metal ions and ribonucleic acid. She studied physics at the University of Konstanz and received her doctorate in 2011 from the Technical University of Munich. She then pursued postdoctoral research at the University of California, Berkeley (USA).

Prof. Dr. Nadine Schwierz © University of Augsburg

Prof. Dr. Janina Bahnemann - Biology with a focus on chip-based sensory and analytical methods

At the Institute for Physics at the University of Augsburg, Prof. Dr. Janina Bahnemann has been working on cell culture and microsystems technology and the development of "lab on a chip-based" biosensors since 1 April. Her working group uses modern, high-resolution 3D printers to develop microfluidic systems that are used in cell culture technology. In addition, the working group is involved in the development of new analytical methods for the online monitoring of biological processes and for use in the field of point-of-care diagnostics.

© Selv Portrait

Janina Bahnemann was a deputy professor at Bielefeld University last year and has been a junior research group leader for the areas of cell culture and microsystems technology at the Institute of Technical Chemistry at Leibniz University Hannover since 2017. She studied Life Science - Cells and Molecules at the Leibniz University in Hanover and completed her doctorate at the Technical University of Hamburg-Harburg. As a postdoctoral researcher, she conducted research at the renowned California Institute of Technology (USA). In 2017, Janina Bahnemann was awarded the Emmy Noether Fellowship by the German Research Foundation.

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Theoretical Physics II
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