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Research profile

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As a fully comprehensive university offering a wide range of disciplines, the University of Freiburg regards the task of pooling research interests across the boundaries of several disciplines to forge new links in research and teaching to be part of its institutional identity. Research at the University of Freiburg is also strengthened by regional partnerships with non-university research institutions such as Max Planck Institutes and Fraunhofer Institutes, which participate actively in several collaborative projects.

By means of a university-wide strategic process, the University of Freiburg has continually sharpened its profile as a research-intensive university with interdisciplinary profile fields and emerging fields as well as outstanding individual research.

The two key factors for identifying profile fields are proven success in attracting third-party funding in national and international competitions (particularly research collaborations with structural significance like Clusters of Excellence and Collaborative Research Centres) and university research institutions and infrastructures that enhance Freiburg’s international visibility and set it apart from other research centres.

Profile Fields

The University of Freiburg has identified these strong, university-wide profile fields:

Biological Signalling Research

Biological signalling research addresses the basic communication processes of life and health. It explores how cells react to diverse conditions and cues and communicate to direct development to a functioning organism – whether human, animal or plant. By integrating signalling research with synthetic biology, cutting-edge technologies, and metabolism research, Freiburg scientists are redefining this field and opening up new approaches to global challenges in biomedicine and plant sciences.

Key programs and collaborative projects


Participating faculties and research centers


Speaker of the Profile Field

  • Prof. Dr. Wilfried Weber (Faculty of Biology)
  • Prof. Dr. Carola Hunte (Faculty of Medicine)
  • Prof. Dr. Edward J. Pearce (Faculty of Biology)

Functional and Bioinspired Materials

Since the beginning of mankind, the development and use of natural, nature-inspired and artificial materials as well as the construction of complex systems based on innovative materials have been among the key technologies and have determined human progress. Even today, new functional materials and systems continue to drive the development of technology and contribute to solving key societal problems.

Key programs and collaborative projects


Participating faculties and research centers


Speaker of the Profile Field

  • Prof. Dr. Anna Fischer (Faculty of Chemistry and Pharmacy)
  • Prof. Dr. Jürgen Rühe (Faculty of Engineering)
  • Prof. Dr. Stefan Hiermaier (Faculty of Engineering)

Neuroscience and Neurotechnology

The profile area treats a wide range of scientific issues, including theoretical and experimental fundamental research on the functioning of the brain from the cellular to the systemic level, the development of neurotechnical systems that can communicate with the brain, and the study of methods for their clinical application. The long-term goal is to develop innovative therapies for patients with neural dysfunctions like Parkinson’s disease and depression or following a stroke.

Key programs and collaborative projects


Participating faculties and research centers


Speaker of the Profile Field

  • Prof. Dr. Thomas Stieglitz (Faculty of Engineering)
  • Prof. Dr. Ilka Diester (Faculty of Biology)
  • Prof. Dr. Tonio Ball (Faculty of Medicine)

Medical Epigenetics, Immunology and Cancer Research

In this profile area, disease-associated genes (e.g., in kidney, skin, blood, or immune diseases) are often the starting point for understanding molecular physiology by elucidating gene functions. This is complemented by study of the epigenetic control of cell development and identity. Interdisciplinary centres like the Comprehensive Cancer Center Freiburg (CCCF) or the Center for Chronic Immunodeficiency (CCI) provide the infrastructure for translating research findings into patient treatment.

Key programs and collaborative projects


Participating faculties and research centers


Speaker of the Profile Field

  • Prof. Dr. Stephan Ehl (Faculty of Medicine)
  • Prof. Dr. Manfred Jung (Faculty of Chemistry and Pharmacy)
  • Prof. Dr. Robert Zeiser (Faculty of Medicine)

Civil Security Research

Civil security has advanced to become a key topic of societal discussion. The debate focuses on the opportunities, risks, and ambivalence of modern security technologies; uncertainties in view of global economic, social, and political upheaval, as also expressed in new forms of transnational terrorist and criminal threats; and the scope, state, and perception of public security in daily life. A cross-cutting topic of all areas is the opportunities and risks of the digital revolution.

Key programs and collaborative projects


Participating faculties and research centers


Speaker of the Profile Field

  • Prof. Dr. Hans-Helmut Gander (Faculty of Humanities)
  • Prof. Dr. Jens-Peter Schneider (Faculty of Law)
  • Prof. Dr. Bernd Becker (Faculty of Engineering)

Data Analysis and Artificial Intelligence

The University of Freiburg is among the strongest centres in Europe for research on data analysis and artificial intelligence. It is distinguished by its outstanding work on machine learning (especially deep learning), robotics, computer vision, symbolic AI, and stochastic methods, thus covering all important thematic areas of future intelligent systems – from perception to robotic control.

Key programs and collaborative projects


Participating faculties and research centers


Speaker of the Profile Field

  • Prof. Dr. Wolfram Burgard (Faculty of Engineering)
  • Prof. Dr. Harald Binder (Faculty of Medicine)
  • Prof. Dr. Frank Hutter (Faculty of Engineering)

Environment and Sustainability

The profile area tackles issues discussed in socio-political debates under the heading ‘grand societal challenges’. The core tasks are to develop knowledge-based solutions for a societal transformation towards sustainability, to elucidate the contextual conditions for their implementation, and to provide constructive criticism to accompany processes of societal transformation. This requires a multi- and interdisciplinary approach.

Key programs and collaborative projects


Participating faculties and research centers


Speaker of the Profile Field

  • Prof. Dr. Daniela Kleinschmit (Faculty of Environment and Natural Resources)
  • Prof. Dr. Michael Pregernig (Faculty of Environment and Natural Resources)
  • Prof. Dr. Oliver Ambacher (Faculty of Engineering)

Cultures of the Present and the Past - history, diversity, interdependence

The profile area arises from strengths in individual and joint research in image/object studies, history, literature, linguistics, social sciences, and philosophy. More than 80 researchers focus in larger and smaller groups on fundamental cultural and political practices, semantics, and media relevant in the present and since antiquity. They treat themes like ‘leisure’, ‘heroisation’, ‘cultural contact and cultural transfer’, ‘identity’, ‘fictionality and facuality’, ‘lists’, and ‘travel’; they edit and annotate Nietzsche’s works and evidence of ancient comedy.

Key programs and collaborative projects


Participating faculties and research centers


Speaker of the Profile Field

  • Prof. Dr. Ralf von den Hoff (Faculty of Humanities)
  • Prof. Dr. Monika Fludernik (Faculty of Philology)
  • Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Cheauré (Faculty of Philology)


In addition to the university-wide profile fields, the faculties of the University of Freiburg have defined their research focus areas in order to highlight their strengths more clearly and to increase their visibility on a national and international level.

 

Emerging Fields

In addition, the University of Freiburg has singled out three areas with clear potential for development into university-wide profile fields:

Complexity of Nature and future Ecosystems

The manifold functions of resilient ecosystems ensure our quality of life. They regulate our climate, water and nutrient cycles, sequester carbon, provide habitats for plants and animals and space for recreation, and supply us with biological products. Grasping, maintaining and developing sustainable ecosystems under rapid global change requires innovative, interdisciplinary approaches. This field thus focuses on resilience, adaptability and the role of biodiversity for ecosystem functioning.

Participating faculties and research centers


Speaker of the Emerging Field

  • Prof. Dr. Michael Scherer-Lorenzen (Faculty of Biology)
  • Prof. Dr. Friederike Lang (Faculty of Environment and Natural Resources)
  • Prof. Dr. Barbara Koch (Faculty of Environment and Natural Resources)

Comparative Area Studies

The University of Freiburg has a strong tradition of international interests and outlooks. Research foci on Asia and Africa produce and provide interdisciplinary, detailed and context-sensitive regional knowledge. Bringing these existing strengths together in a comparative framework allows us to identify and theorize the spatial and regional articulations of global change, taking into account the particularities and trajectories of individual territories and areas.

More information on Comparative Area Studies

Participating faculties and research centers


Speaker of the Emerging Field

  • Prof. Dr. Andreas Mehler (Faculty of Humanities)
  • Prof. Dr. Johanna Pink (Faculty of Humanities)
  • Prof. Dr. Tim Freytag (Faculty of Environment and Natural Resources)

Metabolism Research

Metabolism research studies the integration of metabolism and its central organelle, the mitochondrion, with specific cellular functions and signal propagation processes. In clinical and fundamental research, Freiburg scientists are investigating how metabolism contributes to both normal cell and body function and the pathogenesis of diverse diseases and developing innovative strategies for the targeted therapeutic manipulation of metabolism.

Participating faculties and research centers


Speaker of the Emerging Field

  • Prof. Dr. Olaf Groß (Faculty of Medicine)
  • Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle (Faculty of Chemistry and Pharmacy)
  • Prof. Dr. Ute Spiekerkötter (Faculty of Medicine)

Faculty of Biology