START Excellence Grants: EUR 1.2 million each for aspiring top researchers from Graz, Innsbruck, Salzburg and Vienna
In addition to the Wittgenstein Award, the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) also conferred this year’s START Excellence Awards. From a field of 99 applicants, the jury chose six researchers in a very competitive selection process.
The total amount of funding requested was approx. EUR 116 million, of which roughly 53% came from the “Natural Sciences and Engineering”, 25% from “Biology and Medicine”, and 22% from the “Humanities and Social Sciences”. The six winning projects, three of which are headed by women, come from all disciplines and will receive funding of up to EUR 1.2 million each. Aimed at up-and-coming excellent researchers, the START Programme enables them to pursue their research with long-term planning horizons and with financial security.
The new START Award winners at a glance
Ludwig Boltzmann Gesellschaft Innsbruck, Institute for Neo-Latin Studies
“A Life in Ancient Greek: The Secret Diary of K.B. Hase”
William Barton, a specialist for Greek and Latin, is using artificial intelligence to help decipher the diary of Hellenist Karl Benedikt Hase, which is composed in Ancient Greek and was believed to have been lost. By doing so, the START Award winner hopes to gain new insights into the Greek language, the history of Greek literary studies, and the intellectual culture of the 19th century.
Since 2017 William Barton has worked as a postdoc at the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Neo-Latin Studies in Innsbruck. The native of Great Britain studied at University College London and the University of Calgary. He received his PhD from Kings College London in 2015. His main research focus is Ancient Greek literature since the Renaissance.
University of Salzburg, Department of Biosciences and Medical Biology
“Functional Studies on Extra-Lysosomal Legumain”
If the protein legumain is found outside its usual place in the human cell, there is a good chance that the affected person suffers from cancer or Alzheimer’s. Molecular biologist Elfriede Dall of the University of Salzburg is investigating the functions of the protein in its unfamiliar environment. Detailed study of these functions is intended to provide a basis for the development of relevant drugs. Elfriede Dall received her doctoral degree in molecular biology from the University of Salzburg in 2013. Since 2014, she has been a senior scientist at the University of Salzburg. Dall’s previous FWF project, which has been ongoing since 2018, is also devoted to legumain research.
Vienna University of Technology, Institute of Discrete Mathematics and Geometry
“Determinacy and Woodin Limits of Woodin Cardinals”
Mathematician Sandra Müller of Vienna University of Technology is analysing various forms of infinity stemming from set theory. She is trying to more closely link the theory of large cardinal numbers and the determinacy axiom—two theoretical approaches which at first sight do not have much in common. In her START project, she is attempting to expand the theoretical basis upon which mathematics is built. Sandra Müller received her doctoral degree in mathematics from the University of Münster in 2016. Until 2021, she was a postdoc, assistant professor, and L’Oréal Austria Fellow at the University of Vienna. Since 2021, the researcher from Germany has been working at Vienna University of Technology as part of the Elise Richter career programme.
Graz University of Technology, Institute of Experimental Physics
“Extreme-Ultraviolet Meta-Optics for Attosecond Microscopy”
Ultrashort pulses can be generated with light from the extreme ultraviolet spectrum, thus enabling precise measurements on the atomic time scale. However, there are no suitable lenses for this light spectrum. Physicist Marcus Ossiander wants to remedy this situation by employing new nano-optics, which are used, for example, in virtual reality glasses. Marcus Ossiander received his doctoral degree in ultrafast physics from Munich and, for the last two-and-a-half years, has been conducting research at the University of Harvard, where he is working on meta-optics. His work combines new technological approaches such as meta-optics with very fundamental questions—a “nice balance”, as the researcher says. He will carry out his START project at Graz University of Technology.
Vienna University of Technology, Institute of Chemical, Environmental and Bioscience Engineering
“Formate-Based Acetogenic Bioproduction of Fuels and Chemical”
Biotechnologist Stefan Pflügl of Vienna University of Technology is studying how fossil resources can be replaced in the chemical industry by sustainable alternatives. He draws for this on bacterial metabolic processes from the early days of Earth’s history. After completing his dissertation at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna and research stays at the University of Kent and Munich University of Technology, he is currently researching at Vienna University of Technology, where he is working on sustainable biological processes. He uses bacteria to create base products for chemical processes from residual materials.
University of Vienna, Konrad Lorenz Research Centre
“Acceleration for Food”
Humans are encroaching on many species in nature. Behavioural scientist Petra Sumasgutner is using global datasets on short-eared owls and common ravens to study how human-related disturbances affect the way they search for food and the consequences thereof. This also involves the use of machine learning.
Since 2020, Petra Sumasgutner has been a postdoc in the Department of Cognitive and Behavioural Biology at the Konrad Lorenz Research Centre in Grünau im Almtal. She received her doctoral degree in zoology from the University of Vienna in 2014. In subsequent years, Sumasgutner conducted research on the basis of grants at the Universities of Turku and Cape Town and participated in cooperative projects with the University of Montpellier, the University of Lund, the University of Glasgow, and the University of Ulaanbaatar.
Get to know Austria’s new START Award winners
You can find interviews with all the START Award winners at https://scilog.fwf.ac.at/en
The Austrian Science Fund (FWF)
The Austrian Science Fund (FWF) is Austria’s leading organisation for funding all fields of basic and arts-based research. On the basis of rigorous peer review by international experts, the FWF supports excellent researchers and their groundbreaking ideas. The insights they gain make Austria a more attractive research location and create the broad knowledge base needed to face future challenges.
Dep. Head of Communications, Spokesman
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