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An investment in the future is being made at the University of Constance

A few weeks ago, the Max Planck Society approved the establishment of a new “International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS) for Organismal Biology” at the Excellence University of Constance. The International Research School will be established in co-operation with the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen and Radolfzell in order to investigate the complex interactions between the organism and environment as well as between organisms. The research will be carried out by international highly skilled young research teams.

A few weeks ago, the Max Planck Society approved funding for a new “International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS) for Organismal Biology” at the Excellence University of Constance. © University of Constance

"The University of Constance has set the highest priority on the specific promotion of up-and-coming scientists. This is a targeted investment into the future, into the science and research of the future," said Prof. Gerhart von Graevenitz, Rector of the University of Constance, commenting on the establishment of an International Research School together with the Max Planck Society. Prof. Gahr and Prof. Kempenaers, directors at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen, are also rather pleased about the Max Planck Society's decision: "This IMPRS links the excellence of the two research institutions and is, therefore, very attractive for international, highly-skilled students who are working in the field of organismal biology."

The new Research School offers gifted German and foreign students the possibility to prepare for their doctoral examination by offering them well-structured training and excellent research conditions. More than 55 International Max Planck Research Schools have already been established, involving more than 70 Max Planck Institutes, faculties and universities. The establishment of such research schools is the result of a joint initiative of the Association of Universities and other Higher Education Institutions in Germany (HRK) and the Max Planck Society. International Research Schools are centres of scientific excellence focusing on innovative and interdisciplinary research areas, such as molecular biology, the neurosciences, computer sciences, demographics, plasma physics and polymer research.

The new Research School will be a part of the Faculty of Biology at the University of Constance and is designed for up-and-coming scientists who are at a point in their studies between their first university degree and doctorate. The scientists will especially focus on organismal biology.

International migration of birds

Prof. Martin Wikelski, ornithologist, Head of the Department of Migration and Immuno-ecology, one of three directors at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen and director of the Ornithological Station in Radolfzell (Lake Constance), is a member of the Research School’s scientific board of directors, which also includes Prof. M. Gahr, Prof. B. Kempenaers and Prof. A. Mayer from the University of Constance. Wikelski explains the term organismal biology as follows: “Organismal biology means that we are not only looking at all of the organism’s individual parts or only under laboratory conditions. We are looking at the organism as a whole along with all its interactions with the environment. A practical example of this is the migration of birds. We want to learn how migratory birds find their way to Africa. This can be discovered best by looking at the birds’ flight under natural conditions rather than in a model. A vast number of factors affect the migration of birds, including wind conditions, temperature, light, obstacles, and a broad range of living organisms that belong to completely different species. We are seeking a completely new understanding of complexity.” The scientist also mentioned that this complexity must also be taken into account in other research areas, regardless of whether the researchers are dealing with the development of diseases, such as cancer, or with the phenomena of the immune system.

Wikelski further explained that a particular emphasis is being placed on international co-operation. “We are very interested in attracting foreign applicants to Germany in order for them to complete their doctoral theses here. We are hoping to spark their interest for later work at, or in cooperation with, German research institutions. The doctoral examination can be completed at a German university or at a university in the students’ home country.” Internationality is also a driver of completely different approaches. “We lecturers and professors are rather excited to see and experience the learning effects from this exchange,” said Wikelski. The doctoral students will meet twice a year in order to exchange information and experiences. The first call will most likely be launched in autumn 2009.

The Research School will initially be established for a period of six years and will be evaluated after four years of its establishment. Recommendations of the evaluation commission will then serve as the basis for the decision as to whether an additional six years of funding will be granted.

Further information and application documents are available at www.orn.mpg.de/IMPRS


Claudia Leitenstorfer
Head of Press and Public Relations at the University of Constance
Tel.: +49 (0)7531 88 2662
E-mail: Claudia.Leitenstorfer@uni-konstanz.de

Dr. Sabine Spehn
Max-Planck-Institut für Ornithologie | MPI for Ornithology
Presse- und Öffentlichkeitsarbeit | Public Relations
Haus 4, Eberhard-Gwinner-Strasse
82319 Seewiesen
Phone: +49 (0)8157 932 421
Mobile: +49 (0)172 865 1580
Fax:      +49 (0)8157 932 209
E-mail: sspehn@orn.mpg.de

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