High-End Science: New Collaborative Research Centre for the University of Bayreuth
University of Bayreuth, Press release No. 146/2018, 26 November 2018
Today the University of Bayreuth has one more reason to celebrate: The German Research Foundation (DFG) is to install a new Collaborative Research Centre (CRC) at the University of Bayreuth. The CRC will research the effects of microplastic, including its migration and formation, and develop new approaches to solving this immense environmental problem. Over the next four years, the DFG will fund the CRC with more than 10 million euros.
“More proof of the great scientific quality of research conducted at the University of Bayreuth”, University President Prof. Dr. Stefan Leible commented today after the announcement by the DFG. “It is very much who we are, that we conduct both challenging basic science and application-related research, not least to develop current concerns and issues in society and to contribute to solutions”, Leible said with a nod towards microplastic research, which has meanwhile become a flagship of the University of Bayreuth.
CRC 1357: MICROPLASTICS – Understanding the mechanisms and processes of biological effects, transport and formation: From model to complex systems as a basis for new solutions
Microplastics (MP), the associated risks to ecosystems and ultimately to human health are of public concern. So far, the young field of MP research has mainly been limited to the development of suitable monitoring methods, the quantitative assessment of the environmental contamination, the identification of relevant entry paths into the environment, effect studies on organisms as well as first mitigation approaches.
“All these approaches lacked a fundamental understanding of the physical, chemical and biological processes to which MP is subjected to in the environment”, says Professor Christian Laforsch, Chair of Animal Ecology and Speaker of the new CRC. „The scientific complexity of the MP issue requires an interdisciplinary approach bridging the traditional boundaries of disciplines, if we are to reach an equally complex understanding – i.e. a typically Bayreuth way of doing things.“
Dr. Martin Löder and Dipl.-Biol. Isabella Schrank hard at work studying microplastics in the Bayreuth laboratory for FTIR-Spectroscopy. Foto: Christian Wißler.
31 scientists from three focus areas at the University of Bayreuth (Ecology and Environmental Sciences, Polymer and Colloid Science, and Molecular Biosciences) will subsequently work in 16 interdisciplinary teams in this CRC. They want to gain a fundamental understanding of the processes and mechanisms that cause biological effects of MP in limnic and terrestrial ecosystems, that influence migration of the MP particles within and between environmental compartments, and cause the formation of MP from macroscopic plastics – each depending on the physical and chemical properties of the plastics.
“These findings will provide a scientifically sound basis for the evaluation of the environmental risks of MP originating from existing commodity plastics“, says Laforsch. Building on this, new environmentally friendly plastics in the spirit of sustainable polymer chemistry are to be developed and verified using model systems. These new plastics will – among others – feature faster degradation processes, and contribute to the avoidance of or a reduction in MP. Based on the comprehensive findings, plastics are also to be specifically modified in the longer term in such a way that, due to their new properties, they no longer have adverse effects on organisms and the environment.
What is a CRC?
According to the DFG, Collaborative Research Centres are “long-term” research institutes of universities, installed for a period of up to twelve years, in which scientists work together within the framework of an interdisciplinary research programme. CRCs enable the development of research projects conceived to be innovative, ambitious, comprehensive and long-term by means of the coordination and concentration of people and resources from participating universities. In this way they serve the creation of institutional priority areas and structures.” The DFG places the following demands on an CRC: “High scientific quality and originality at an internationally competitive level; a complex, long-term research programme; coherent interlinking of projects; researchers with very good track records; appropriate staffing, funding and infrastructure; convincing contributions to development of priority areas and structural development at the applicant universities; support of early career researchers and equality for women and men in research; professional management.”(http://www.dfg.de/foerderung/programme/koordinierte_programme/sfb/)
Prof. Dr. Christian Laforsch
Sprecher SFB 1357 und Inhaber des Lehrstuhls für Tierökologie I
Tel.: +49 (0) 921 / 55- 2650
University of Bayreuth
Universitätsstr. 30 / ZUV
Phone: +49 (0)921 / 55-5356