Along with the FWF Wittgenstein Award, the FWF START Awards are among Austria’s most prestigious and highly endowed scientific awards. The FWF START Awards give excellent, up-and-coming researchers the opportunity to pursue their research with long-term planning horizons and financial security. The six winning projects come from all disciplines and will receive funding of up to €1.2 million each.
FWF START Awards 2021
In Laura Donnay’s project she has become the first researcher to describe a number of properties of black holes. These properties are symmetries occurring near the event horizon. She intends to answer the question of why black holes are so disordered from the point of view of quantum mechanics (i.e. they contain so much information), but very simple and orderly from the point of view of relativity theory. Black holes are at the center of the search for a link between relativity theory and quantum physics, because both theories are necessary to describe the extreme conditions prevailing in black holes.
The aim of Julian Leonard’s OptimAL project is to develop a new quantum computer that can be used to solve difficult problems in materials research faster than before. The physicist wants to create this computer based on neutral atoms serving as quantum bits that interact with light. This is the special nature of his approach, because previously it was only possible to produce reliable communication between quantum bits from neutral atoms within the immediate vicinity. With the help of light, even distant quantum bits should be able to communicate with each other. The platform is designed to deal specifically with optimization problems that are particularly difficult to solve and for which quantum computers have long been considered a potential tool in finding a solution.
In his project, Yash Lodha addresses elements of group theory, a central area of mathematics. He studies mathematical symmetries, employing both geometrical and algebraic approaches. They are important for the resulting common language that encompasses both geometric facts and arithmetic rules. This field has a long history, but it was not until the 20th century that researchers understood that group theory could also be used to gain a better understanding of geometrical questions. Group theory is a central research field within mathematics today, and one that has many applications, for example in computer science, cryptography or in physics.
Chemotherapy is still not very targeted when it is used in the fight against cancer. That means that it is not yet possible to control the movement of molecules in a cellular environment. In his project situated at the interface between chemistry and biology, Hannes Mikula wants to develop strategies to deliver active substances directly into tumor cells. Molecular cascade targeting is intended to prevent the substances from also landing in healthy cells and destroying them. In this research, Mikula is engaging in pioneering work, as the field is still very young. The newly developed chemical tools have recently been used for the first time on humans as part of a clinical trial in the USA.
Water fleas are a particularly apt subject for research into the interactions between evolutionary and ecological change. In his project, biologist Markus Möst studies how global changes affect aquatic ecosystems. In addition to climate change, overfishing and pollution of habitats are also problems. Möst focuses on two factors, eutrophication and heat waves, both of which have a major impact on lakes. His findings are expected to improve the management of lakes and ecosystems and help preserve their functions. The project encompasses twelve lakes in Austria, Italy, Switzerland and Germany.
What is the value that society attributes to vaccinations? This is the basic question that underlies the research work of Katharina T. Paul. The political scientist analyses which criteria decision-makers in politics and business, researchers and the public at large apply in making decisions about vaccinations. How do different stakeholders value vaccinations, and how do these assessments reflect their attitudes towards governance? Based on interviews, ethnographic observation and the analysis of social media data, the project aims at a comprehensive analysis of values that, due to the corona pandemic, are at the center of public debates.