Mainz University competes with other universities in all three funding lines of the German Excellence Initiative

Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz has submitted full proposals for a graduate school, three clusters of excellence, and its institutional strategy to promote top-level university research


Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) is participating in the second phase of the nationwide competition of universities in all three funding lines of the Excellence Initiative by the German federal and state governments. Under the motto of The Gutenberg Spirit: Moving Minds – Crossing Boundaries, JGU has submitted full proposals on time to the German Research Foundation (DFG) for one graduate school, three clusters of excellence, and its institutional strategy to promote top-level research. In addition, Mainz University is also participating in the Center for Advanced Spin Engineering Cluster of Excellence of the Kaiserslautern University of Technology. "We want to use this chance offered by the Excellence Initiative of the German federal and state governments to position Mainz University in the league of national and international institutions of top-level research by submitting proposals in all three funding lines," says Professor Dr. Georg Krausch, President of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. "We are therefore delighted that we were invited to submit full proposals for all three funding lines."

Excellence-oriented university governance

The recent development of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz has been shaped by a concentration on excellent key profile areas in research and the on-going professionalizing of JGU's overall governance structures. "Our proposals for the graduate school of excellence and the clusters of excellence in the first two funding lines represent a consistent continuation of our profile-building strategy," states JGU President Georg Krausch. "The fact that we have maintained our core research areas in the excellence competition must be seen as a confirmation of the international standing of our JGU scientists, especially in view of the strong competitors in the Excellence Initiative."

JGU's institutional strategy aims at the involvement of excellent researchers in university governance structures while professionalizing and strengthening its decentralized decision-making bodies. Thus, JGU greatly values the participation of as many of its members as possible in the present processes of change. "One of the milestones in this direction was the 2007 establishment of the Gutenberg Research College, which is committed to supporting university staff pursuing high-level research and advises the President's Office on strategic decisions concerning the further development of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. In 2011, Mainz University established the Gutenberg Teaching Council, which is to promote excellence in teaching and develop innovative teaching concepts," explains Professor Dr. Georg Krausch.

While establishing these expert committees, JGU also focuses on the consistent involvement of its members in decentralized decision-making processes and offers a variety of staff development options. In addition, JGU concentrates on the establishment of university-wide structures to support young researchers and on the opening of the institution to other areas of society. With its motto The Gutenberg Spirit – Moving Minds, Crossing Boundaries, JGU refers to the revolutionary innovation of its namesake Johannes Gutenberg as the basis of the modern knowledge society and motivates its members to jointly cross the frontiers of knowledge. "This university-wide philosophy of the active management of change is reflected in the very title of our future concept," explains the President.

The future development of JGU is heavily supported by a comprehensive structural renewal of the JGU campus and the University Medical Center financed by the State of Rhineland-Palatinate. Numerous new construction and renovation projects totalling around €600 million have already been going on since 2005; further projects are currently being planned.

Outstanding places in both national and international rankings as well as the numerous prizes and awards JGU has achieved in the last couple of years confirm the success of this approach. The quality of our research is confirmed, for example, in the 2011 Academic Ranking of World Universities, also called the Shanghai ranking, which counts JGU's Institute of Physics among the 75 strongest physics research institutes worldwide. Among German universities, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz as a whole came in between ranks 11 to 14 and was even one of the top eight institutions in the field of natural sciences and mathematics. According to the Leiden Ranking, which assesses universities in Europe and throughout the rest of the world on the basis of bibliometric indicators (e.g. publication activity and rate of citations), JGU has also established its position among the top six leading universities in Germany. In 2008, JGU was honored by the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft (Donors' Association for the Promotion of Sciences and Humanities in Germany) as one of only two German universities for its uniquely systematic approach to quality assurance in the form of its so-called "Mainz model." In 2011, JGU became the first and only German university to receive the seal of system accreditation that allows Mainz University to accredit its own study programs without the consultation of outside agencies.

With its more than 36,000 students from over 130 countries, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz is one of the ten largest universities in Germany. Together with Mainz University Medical Center with its approximately 9,000 employees, it is also the second-largest employer in the federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate. Being the only comprehensive university in Rhineland-Palatinate, JGU integrates virtually all academic disciplines, including the University Medical Center, the Mainz School of Music, and the Mainz Academy of Arts which is unique in the German higher education landscape. With 145 subjects, 119 Bachelor's, and 96 Master's programs, Mainz University offers an exceptionally wide range of courses to study.

Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz is represented by full proposals for a graduate school of excellence and three clusters of excellence in the final selection round of the Excellence Initiative of the German federal and state governments:

Graduate school to promote early career researchers

* The Graduate School of Excellence Materials Science in Mainz (MAINZ)

The Graduate School MAterials Science IN MainZ (MAINZ) is dedicated to graduate training in the field of materials research. It is based on an innovative program which provides doctoral students with excellent scientific and technical training, promotes complementary core competencies and materials research at the highest level. The scientific vision of MAINZ is the targeted production and optimization of multifunctional materials that require an interdisciplinary approach and will particularly benefit from synergies created by combining previously unrelated research fields.

In the first funding period, MAINZ has successfully established itself as a leading graduate school in the area of materials research. So far, the MAINZ Graduate School has conferred 71 doctoral degrees on students who were supervised by excellent scientists of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research, and the Kaiserslautern University of Technology. Based on the success of the first funding period, MAINZ firmly adheres to its training strategy of providing a flexible training program that is geared toward the individual needs of its doctoral candidates. To achieve this ambitious training goal, MAINZ has combined the Training through Research approach with the Training for Life program to provide comprehensive training for future leaders in science, industry, and other science-related areas.

Starting from an understanding of the basics gained during the first funding period, MAINZ will strengthen the application of this understanding to the targeted production of functional materials in the second funding period. This focus on application is especially documented by intensive industry cooperation, which represents a particular hallmark of MAINZ. In the second funding period, the aim is to complement the existing training areas with the application-oriented areas of processing and methods development as well as with the promotion of core corporate competencies. In this manner, MAINZ continues to live its successful concept of creating an inspirational atmosphere through a targeted combination of previously unrelated research fields, which produces creativity and innovation for new breakthroughs in the area of materials research.

Contact: Professor Dr. Mathias Kläui, Institute of PhysicsClusters of Excellence to Promote Top-Level Research

Clusters of excellence to promote top-level research

* Earth and the Anthropocene - ERA (Earth System Science)

The last 200 years have been marked by excessive urbanization and industrialization. This development has had a lasting impact on our planet's natural processes. The global population has increased sevenfold, while water and energy consumption as well as environmental pollution and species extinction have risen rapidly. Many soils have been damaged and feeding a growing population can no longer be guaranteed. This is the Anthropocene, a term coined by Mainz Nobel Laureate Paul Crutzen and now widely recognized as the most recent geological age.

In order to quantify the developments that have occurred in the Anthropocene, ERA compares natural elementary cycles and geological processes both with and without the influence of humankind. To what extent has man accelerated the natural processes and thus the functioning of the Earth system? Are there any critical turning points that lead to dramatic changes in environmental conditions? The globally unique profile of ERA allows these pressing issues to be addressed. Novel research approaches, which have not been studied by any other institution in this manner, bring to light essential aspects of the Anthropocene, e.g. the interactions between land surface and the atmosphere, biogenic aerosols or the impact of Anthropogenic agents in the oceans. ERA complements the spectrum of Earth system research by recognizing mankind as an essential component of the system and studying its environmental effects in the pre-Anthropocene before the industrial revolution. The quantification of natural processes in numerical models of the Earth system is a key long-term goal of the ERA Cluster. The modular integration of additional components of the biosphere and land surface as well as long-term processes gradually lead to a comprehensive model of the Earth system.

Contact: Professor Dr. Stephen Foley, Institute of Geosciences

* Molecularly Controlled Non-Equilibrium - MCNE (Materials Science)

Most natural and technological structures and morphologies are the result of non-equilibrium processes. One of the major challenges facing science is to discover how exactly these processes work and then to control them in order to produce materials with new properties. Non-equilibrium processes have already long been considered from the macroscopic thermodynamic perspective. MCNE takes a complementary approach that is applied at the molecular level: How can one create targeted specific (meta)stable structures and functionalities through appropriate and intelligent experiment design? A further aim is to establish whether and how minor modifications to molecules or to experimental protocols will help us to determine the properties of the resultant material. Soft materials are being used as the basis for MCNE research because they are especially suitable for primary experimentation as they tend to be "slow" on the molecular level and the time scales of their various processes can usually be systematically and individually manipulated (for example, by means of minor adjustments to molecular weight or to temperature). MCNE builds on the materials science tradition in Mainz being one of the international leading centers in the area of soft matter. The objective of the establishment of the MCNE Cluster of Excellence is to merge the various activities being conducted at Mainz in this field into a "Mainz Advanced Soft Matter Institute" (ASMI).

Contact: Professor Dr. Holger Frey, Institute of Organic Chemistry

* Precision Physics, Fundamental Interactions and Structure of Matter - PRISMA (Particle Physics, Hadron Physics, and Nuclear Chemistry)

The Cluster of Excellence PRISMA addresses the basic questions about the nature of the fundamental building blocks of matter and their importance for the physics of the universe. PRISMA consists of renowned research groups that work primarily in the areas of astroparticle, high energy and hadron physics, nuclear chemistry as well as precision physics with ultracold neutrons and ion traps. Conducting various new key experiments to study the fundamental forces and limits of the Standard Model is one of the main initiatives of the Cluster. PRISMA is divided into four research fields and four structural measures.

Research Field A – Fundamental Interactions is concerned with the indirect search for new physics. The most important structural measures are the construction of a superconducting energy-recovering accelerator (MESA) and the expansion of the existing TRIGA reactor to a user facility designed for the world's most powerful source of ultracold neutrons. Participation in international large-scale projects such as the ATLAS experiment, the IceCube Neutrino Telescope, and the XENON Project to search for dark matter is the foundation for Research Field B – The Origin of Mass, which deals with the search for the Higgs boson, WIMPs, and other particles in Standard Model extensions. Research Field C – The Structure of Matter is concerned with studying the complex internal structure of hadrons, which will be particularly promoted through the establishment of a research center on the analysis of hadron structure. The methods of theoretical physics are at the core of Research Field D. The planned Mainz Center for Theoretical Physics (MITP) is to assume the role of an international theoretical center in Germany for the long term. The PRISMA Detector Laboratory is another structural target for joint innovative detector construction and development of the entire Cluster.

Contact: Professor Matthias Neubert, Institute of Physics, Professor Dr. Hartmut Wittig, Institute of Nuclear Physics