The Einstein Center of Catalysis: ‘BIG-NSE 2.0’ and graduate education on a higher level of interdisciplinarity

The Einstein Centre for Catalysis (EC2) is linked with its objectives to the Cluster of Excellence “Unifying Concepts in Catalysis” (UniCat) follow-up initiative “Unifying Systems in Catalysis” (UniSysCat) within the new Excellence Strategy by the German federal and state governments (“Exzellenzstrategie des Bundes und der Länder”). Thereby UniCat’s successful  graduate school  BIG-NSE (Berlin International Graduate School of Natural Sciences and Engineering) will be continued and further developed under the umbrella of the EC², funded by the Einstein Foundation Berlin, throughout the entire funding period of UniSysCat. The EC² is dedicated to strengthening modern catalysis research by bundling the rich expertise in the Berlin region and generating novel synergies.

The Concept

Schematic representation of graduate education by the EC²

The concept of the Einstein Centre for Catalysis, although linked to the program of UniSysCat, is not restricted to the traditional research fields in catalysis, but aims to inspire, initiate, and promote (i.e., catalyze) novel collaborations between research networks and institutions in Berlin on cutting-edge projects in chemistry and the molecular life sciences that may, in turn, open new directions for future catalysis research. In this way, the concept of the EC2 complements the efforts of UniSysCat toward the continuous and sustainable development of internationally competitive catalysis research in Berlin. The success of the concept relies upon the excellence of the researchers involved, who must be prepared to master and develop interdisciplinary research projects, overcoming the frontiers of classical disciplines in catalysis. This challenge imposes high demands on the qualification particularly of young researchers and thus defines the concept of ‘BIG-NSE 2.0’ and graduate education in general, which is financed and directed by the EC2.

The EC2 regards it as its most prominent task to establish and ‘catalyze’ a higher level of interdisciplinarity by opening perspectives toward ideas, topics, and methods of research areas beyond catalysis. Consequently, the EC2 will  

  • preferentially encourage and fund PhD research projects that are at the interface between the UniSysCat research program and that of other research networks (see below)
  • initiate and organize measures and activities to bring together young scientists from different consortia in the Berlin region.
Consortia and institutions Disciplines and interfaces to UniSysCat
CRC1078: Protonation dynamics in protein function Biophysics, protein function
CRC TR63: Chemical processes in liquid multiphase systems Homogeneous catalysis
CRC1109: Understanding of metal oxide/water systems at the molecular scale (and follow-up initiatives) Inorganic chemistry, physical chemistry
CRC740: From molecules to modules (and follow-up initiatives) Biophysics, protein complexes
MATH+ (Initiative for a Cluster of Excellence), ECMath/MATHEON, Berlin Mathematical School (BMS)Mathematics, numerical methods, simulations
NeuroCure (Initiative for a Cluster of Excellence), Einstein Center for Neurosciences (ECN) Optogenetics
IMPRS Functional Interfaces in Physics and Chemistry (FHI) Catalysis, physical chemistry of surfaces
Berlin International Graduate School in Model and Simulation based Research (BiMoS) (TU Berlin) Numerical methods, simulations
School of Analytical Sciences (SALSA) (HU Berlin) Analytical methods

Joint interdisciplinary PhD research projects in EC²

Each year a project-based call for future PhD students will be launched. Projects, jointly proposed by two research group leaders of UniSysCat  and a partner network, will be approved by the Executive Board of the EC² if they relate to cutting-edge topics that promise to contribute to the advancement of research in UniSysCat and the partner network. For example, PhD projects dedicated to methodological developments for analyzing atomic-scale structures and dynamics may generate strong synergies with the graduate schools of the CRC1078 or the FHI. Joint projects of UniSysCat and NeuroCure may contribute to the transfer of knowledge to applications by combining fundamental research on light-gated enzymes with optogenetic applications.