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The deep seafloor covers around 70% of our planet’s surface and is home to a diverse community of microorganisms, mostly bacteria. These single-cell life forms inhabit some of the most extreme places in the world, with freezing waters, permanent darkness, high pressure and little food. ERC grantee Antje Boetius studies these microbes in the abyss and their important role for the Earth’s nutrient cycles.
New insights into how the great Gothic vaults were constructed helps restorers of the future When we think about fascinating architectural work, vaulted ceilings may not necessarily be the first elements to spring to mind. However, they were key to limiting interior damage when a fire broke out beneath the roof of the Notre-Dame of Paris in April of this year. While medieval stonemasons seemed to know very well what they were doing, today their techniques are still not completely understood. The challenge of restoring Notre Dame presents an opportunity for their mystery to finally be unravelled.
This 8 March, the ERC celebrates the achievements of grantee Dr Mariana Graña, a determined researcher in a branch of physics where women are still noticeably underrepresented. She reflects on how far women have come in Theoretical Physics and what is still needed to overcome the gender-role stereotypes associated with this appealing but abstract field of science.
The increasing development of wearable technology sparks the need for new, innovative ways to interact with our shiny gadgets. Deviating from the conventional approach based on touch-sensitive devices, Prof. Jürgen Steimle aims at producing body-worn user interfaces that can be applied directly on the skin. Highly personalised, biocompatible and ultrathin, these devices will seamlessly blend with the human skin to create a technological extension of our body.
Applied theatre tells a story not for the purposes of entertainment but for social, economic, political or therapeutic reasons. Prof. Matthias Warstat, funded by the ERC, wants to know more about the growth and impact of this form of theatre across the world.
Will spacecraft follow a similar evolution to computers? While information processing in the last century was performed by large mainframe computers, today, networked smart phones dominate the market. In spacecraft engineering a similar paradigm shift is apparent: from traditional single, large, and multifunctional satellites towards groups of very small satellites that cooperate together. Professor Klaus Schilling, in his ERC project “NetSat”, addresses crucial challenges to enable small satellite formations to self-organise. This offers innovative application perspectives in areas like Earth observation, science exploration or telecommunications.
Despite holding out promise for cancer treatments, nanomedicine lacks the means to predict patient response to tumour-targeting therapy. Prof. Twan Lammers has devised imaging which differentiates between those likely to benefit and those unlikely to do so. A significant barrier for the nanopharmaceutical industry tackling cancer is that while some patients treated with nanomedicine show major improvements in survival rates and quality of life, many others do not respond well. This can result in delays in receiving appropriate treatment. A step forward would be the ability to differentiate likely responders from non-responders, prior to their selection for studies or treatment.
Funded by the ERC, Prof. Anna Wienhard studies several new geometric forms that have been discovered over the past 20 years. These structures are closely related to the generalisation of Teichmüller space, which describes how the surface of a pretzel can be endowed with the geometry of an Escher painting.
CRISPR is a widely used molecular biology tool exploiting an immune process discovered in bacteria. Dr David Bikard studies CRISPR in bacterial cells, in conjunction with different DNA repair systems, to create even newer tools. He hopes to gain insight into bacterial genetics, and develop increasingly effective medical treatments.
In the highlands of Asia, an area spanning the mountain regions between the Pamirs and the eastern Himalayas, livelihoods are shaped as much by remoteness as by connectivity. With ERC funding, Dr Martin Saxer intends to shed new light on these areas at the edge of nation-states yet in the centre of geopolitical concerns.