Mainz University successful in the German Excellence Initiative: Cluster of Excellence and Graduate School approved

International committee of experts votes to approve JGU Cluster of Excellence and Graduate School / EUR 50 million for top-flight research at Mainz University


Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) has been successful in the second round of the Excellence Initiative by the German federal and state governments to promote top-level research at German universities. The Joint Commission of the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the German Science Council together with the relevant state and federal ministers now gave their approval to the submitted proposals for the Cluster of Excellence on "Precision Physics, Fundamental Interactions and Structure of Matter" (PRISMA) and the Graduate School of Excellence "MAterials Science IN MainZ" (MAINZ). It is thus expected that total funding of some EUR 50 million will be made available to these two institutions over the next five years. "We are very proud of our achievement in view of the tough competition we had to face from other German universities," explains the President of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Professor Dr. Georg Krausch. "The most recent phase of development at JGU has been dominated by putting our focus on our core research sectors. Our successful proposals for the PRISMA Cluster of Excellence and the MAINZ Graduate School of Excellence represent the continued and systematic implementation of our profile formation strategy. The fact that our core research areas of particle and hadron physics and nuclear chemistry as well as materials sciences have performed so well in the German Excellence Initiative despite the stiff competition is confirmation of the international standing of our JGU scientists. I would like to take a moment to voice my express recognition of and particular thanks for their performance and hard work." One major factor that has determined the success of the PRISMA Cluster of Excellence is the involvement of the internationally renowned non-university research facilities in the region, including the Helmholtz Institute Mainz and the Society for Heavy Ion Research in Darmstadt. The MAINZ Graduate School of Excellence is a joint project involving Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research, and the University of Kaiserslautern.

A total of 64 proposals for a cluster of excellence and 63 proposals for graduate schools made it into the final round, of which 43 and 45 respectively were approved, including the Cluster of Excellence "Precision Physics, Fundamental Interactions and Structure of Matter" (PRISMA) and the Graduate School of Excellence "Materials Science in Mainz" (MAINZ). Mainz University is thus one of the 39 universities that were successful in the second round of the German Excellence Initiative.

"It was also a huge success for us to be among the 16 German universities in the so-called 'third funding line' that, with their institutional strategies, were asked to compete for the title of 'University of Excellence.' We see the fact that we were selected in itself as recognition of our strategy for overall institutional management," the President continues. "Of course we are disappointed, along with other leading German universities, that we only just failed to win the title. It seems that the excellence status of our university was under discussion up to the very last minute. Despite this slight setback, we will continue to implement the central elements of our institutional strategy and our successful profile building policy, and actively manage the process of change. Nevertheless, we have profited significantly from the Excellence Initiative and the spotlight is now on Mainz as an internationally competitive location with a high-performance research landscape and an excellent scientific infrastructure."

The approved excellence projects are at the core of the university's major research activities. That the international experts voted to approve the proposal for the Graduate School of Excellence "Materials Sciences in Mainz" (MAINZ) demonstrates that our materials scientists working enjoy a valuable international reputation. This is the second time after 2007 that the MAINZ Graduate School has been successful in the German Excellence Initiative. "The decision of the experts not only represents a mark of recognition of the excellent performance in this field of research but provides support to the young researchers at our university," states the President. The purpose of the Cluster of Excellence "Precision Physics, Fundamental Interactions and Structure of Matter" (PRISMA) is to explore the nature of the fundamental building blocks of material and determine their significance with regard to the physical laws of the universe. "PRISMA is composed of leading research groups whose global scientific reputation is well-established through publications, the awards they have won, and their good positioning in national and international rankings," explains the President. For example, the 2012 Funding Atlas of the German Research Foundation shows that Physics and Mathematics at Mainz are among the areas that attract the highest level of third-party funding in Germany.

"Our success in the Excellence Initiative confirms that we are on the right track with our focuses in science and research," claims the President. "With the additional funding, JGU has the perfect opportunity to systematically further develop these areas, and this will also have an impact on our future success in such competitions."

Excellence-oriented university management

Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz is also planning to implement other central elements of its institutional strategy, which seeks to integrate leading scientists in the management of the university while enhancing professionalism and providing support to the decentralized decision-making bodies. JGU is also emphasizing the importance of broad participation by as many of its members as possible in the change processes that have already been initiated.

"We reached a milestone along our planned route with the establishment of the Gutenberg Research College as an advisory and support structure that focuses exclusively on the promotion of excellence. In 2011, we put in place the Gutenberg Teaching Council, a body designed to support excellence in teaching and the development of innovative teaching concepts," the President continues.

In addition to forming these expert bodies, JGU is focusing on the consistent integration of its members in the decentralized decision-making processes and is offering various opportunities for personal vocational development. These measures are being complemented by university-wide structures designed to support young researchers and a systematic opening-up of the university to society in general. The epithet used by JGU to encapsulate the rationale behind its strategy submitted to the Excellence Initiative refers to the revolutionary innovations of its namesake that have formed the basis of today's knowledge-based society, while it is also intended to encourage its members to work together to cross boundaries. "The university-wide culture of actively designing change is reflected in our maxim: 'Moving Minds - Crossing Boundaries'," the President says. The future development of JGU will also be promoted by means of a comprehensive construction program funded by the German federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate designed to renew the Mainz University campus and the Mainz University Medical Center. Since 2005, some EUR 600 million have been spent on numerous new buildings and renovation projects.

Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU), with its approximately 37,000 students from more than 130 nations, is one of the ten largest universities in Germany. Together with the Mainz University Medical Center it counts approximately 9,000 employees, making it the second largest employer in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate. As the only comprehensive university in Rhineland-Palatinate, it houses almost all academic disciplines, including the University Medical Center and two artistic schools, under one roof – a unique situation in the German national university environment. With its 145 subjects, 119 Bachelor's, and 96 Master's degree programs, it offers an extraordinarily broad range of courses.

JGU's proposals relating to the following projects were successful in the Excellence Initiative by the German federal and state governments:


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

(link to website)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 leading 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. The scientific projects at PRISMA, a joint project involving Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, the Helmholtz Institute Mainz (HIM), and the Helmholtz Center GSI in Darmstadt, are divided into four research fields and four structural measures.

The Fundamental Interactions research field is concerned with the indirect search for new physics. Its most important complementary structural measures are the construction of a superconducting energy-recovering accelerator (MESA) and the expansion of the existing TRIGA reactor to a user facility that is to become 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 essential rationale behind 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 for the analysis of hadron structure. The methods of theoretical physics are at the core of Research Field D. The core structural strategy is the formation of the Mainz Center for Theoretical Physics (MITP), which is to assume the role of an international theoretical center in Germany over the long term. The PRISMA Detector Laboratory is another structural target for joint innovative detector construction and development of the entire cluster.

Coordinator: Professor Dr. Matthias Neubert, Institute of Physics; Professor Dr. Hartmut Wittig, Institute of Nuclear Physics
Cooperation partners: Helmholtz Institute Mainz; Society for Heavy Ion Research, Darmstadt; Helmholtz Center Berlin for Materials and Energy


Graduate School of Excellence "Materials Science in Mainz" (MAINZ)

(link to website)The Graduate School MAterials Science IN MainZ (MAINZ) is a joint project involving Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, the University of Kaiserslautern, and the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in Mainz. It is dedicated to graduate training in the field of materials research and employs an innovative program which provides doctoral candidates with excellent scientific and technical training, promotes complementary core competencies as well as high-level materials research. The scientific vision of MAINZ is the targeted production, optimization, and utilization 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. To date, the MAINZ Graduate School has conferred 91 doctoral degrees on students who were supervised by leading scientists at the three partner institutions. Based on the success of the first funding period, MAINZ has retained its training strategy of providing a flexible training program that is geared toward the individual needs of its doctoral candidates. To achieve such ambitious training objectives, MAINZ combines a ‘Training through Research’ approach with a ‘Training for Life’ program to provide comprehensive training for future leaders in science, industry, and other science-related areas.

On the basis of the fundamental insights gained during the first funding period, MAINZ has decided to focus on strengthening the application of findings and the targeted production and utilization of functional materials. This focus on application is documented through its extensive cooperation with industry, which has become the special trademark of MAINZ. In the second funding period, the existing training areas will thus be further expanded, with a focus being placed on the development of application-oriented areas of processing and methods development as well as with the promotion of core corporate competencies. MAINZ thus continues to live its successful concept of creating an inspirational work atmosphere by linking previously unconnected research fields, designed to generate creativity and innovation that will lead to pioneering discoveries in materials research.

Coordinator: Professor Dr. Mathias Kläui, Institute of Physics
Cooperation partners: University of Kaiserslautern; Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research, Mainz