Young scientists in Hamburg receive EU funding

The European Research Council (ERC) awards prestigious project grants to three young researchers at the MPSD

December 15, 2014

Prestigious support for young scientists in Hamburg: Melanie Schnell, Sebastian Loth and Francesca Calegari - currently working at the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) - successfully applied for EU resources. As the ERC announced, all three will receive funding through ERC Starting Grants, to start their individual project work.

With the annually awarded and highly coveted Starting Grants, the European Research Council recognizes and fosters young scientists at the beginning of their independent career. They need to have already proven their excellence in conducting research, and their activities shall promise to open novel prospects. The financial support enables them to build up their own research group and/or to expand their fields of research. For a period of five years, the scientists may pursue a specific project at a research institution of their choice. Per project, the ERC allocates a budget of up to € 1.5 million, in some circumstances up to € 2 million.

Since October 2010, Melanie Schnell is heading one of the independent research groups of the Max Planck Society. At the same time, she is a lecturer at the Leibniz Universität Hannover, and a project leader within the Cluster of Excellence “The Hamburg Centre for Ultrafast Imaging”. Together with her team of junior researchers, she devotes her work at the MPSD to study the “Structure and Dynamics of Cold and Controlled Molecules”. Supported by the ERC Starting Grant with € 1.499 million, she will start her project “ASTROROT”. It aims at combining broadband microwave spectroscopy and observation data from next generation telescope arrays, to investigate chemical processes in the universe. One of the main goals is to discover new classes of molecules in space which contribute to a better understanding of astrochemical reactions.

Sebastian Loth started his Max Planck Research Group “Dynamics of Nanoelectronic Systems” in November 2011 at the MPSD and the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research.  Together with his team, he analyzes extremely small-sized magnetic nanostructures which are constructed atom by atom in the Hamburg lab. Within his ERC supported project “dasQ” worth € 1.988 million, fast dynamics of correlated electrons in novel materials, so-called quantum materials, will be resolved at an atomic level. Sebastian Loth plans to identify ways to utilize the quantum-mechanical effects which only occur in this type of materials for technological developments. For this purpose, the project team will apply a combination of ultrafast pump probe spectroscopy at THz wavelength, and scanning tunneling microscopy (STM).

At the moment, Francesca Calegari works as a guest scientist at the MPSD in the group of Professor Andrea Cavalleri. She has a permanent position as a researcher at the Institute for Photonics and Nanotechnologies of the National Research Council (IFN – CNR) in Milan. With help of the € 1.497 million ERC funding, she will start her project “STARLIGHT” there, and build up her own research group during the next year. The aim of the STARLIGHT project is to understand the role of the electron dynamics in the UV light induced photo-chemical processes of biomolecules, potentially leading to e.g. DNA damage. These investigations shall be carried out in a hitherto unprecedented temporal resolution in the range of few-femtoseconds to attoseconds.

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