Prof. Wilfried Wurth (DESY/UHH) during his talk at the mini symposium at MIT on September 6th, 2018. Photograph: Sampson Wilcox / MIT

Researchers from DESY, Universität Hamburg (UHH) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have laid the basis for a joint „Trans-Atlantic Grand Challenges Research Network“. The aim of the network is to tackle grand scientific challenges in joint research projects, for example in the fields of structural biology, medicine, nanotechnology, or quantum electronics. On September 6th, 2018, the participating Hamburg and MIT researchers presented potential joint research topics at a mini symposium at MIT. The event was organized by PIER.

The intended collaboration will focus on the PIER research and competence fields Infection and Structural Biology, Photon Science, Nanoscience, Particle and Astroparticle Physics, Accelerator Research and Theoretical Physics. The network is based on existing contacts of Hamburg and MIT researchers that will be further expanded in the future. The medium term goal is to build up joint structured research (training) programs in research fields carrying a particularly high future potential for both sides. In order to realize these programs, the partners will jointly apply for external funding in suitable formats.

“We recognize that international collaborations are an increasingly important way to leverage differences in research expertise, research cultures, and facilities”, said Marc Baldo, Director of the Research Laboratory of Electronics at MIT. “We look forward to expanding our collaboration with the proposed Grand Challenges Research Network.” Franz Kärtner, Chairman of the PIER Executive Board underlined: “The network allows it to combine the strengths of the participating institutions. Both sides will benefit from the first-class training opportunities for students and junior researchers and the excellent research infrastructures in Hamburg and at MIT.”

The two-year-long initial phase of the network will be financially supported by the Hamburg Ministry for Science, Research, and Gender Equalities. During this time period, the PIER Office will coordinate activities in two areas: A kick-off workshop in Hamburg will be organized in January 2019. It will be open to all Hamburg and MIT researchers from the PIER research and competence fields who are interested in joint research activities with colleagues from the respective partner institution(s) overseas. The aim of the workshop is to define a pool of possible joint research projects of high common interest where joint applications for external funding will be most promising. For each of the project ideas, a team of Principal Investigators (PIs) will be established that will be responsible for identifying a suitable funding format and for drafting a research proposal. Following the workshop, DESY and UHH PIs can apply for seed funding to support them in the application process.

In a second field of activities, DESY and UHH will invite highly qualified MIT undergraduate students for internships in research groups in Hamburg. The idea behind this is that MIT students are potentially the first-class scientists of tomorrow. By offering them internships on the Bahrenfeld campus, the Hamburg research institutions sensitize them to research opportunities in Hamburg at a very early stage of their careers thus forming strong connections with long-term effects in the future.