Excellent research: Prizes for outstanding doctoral theses at Saarland University

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At the award ceremony, the winners will present their work. The keynote speech will be given by Professor Frank Mücklich, Professor of Functional Materials and Managing Director of the University Society, on the topic of “Circular Economy – Science or Business?”.
You can follow the event in a livestream on Thursday from 6 p.m. at this link.
Register by e-mail to gradus(at)uni-saarland.de.

If, in the future, computers are to understand what people want without many words, they will also have to grasp hand signals and finger gestures. People also speak with their hands. They point to things or in directions, give a thumbs-up in approval, or emphasize what is important to them with a wealth of gestures. If computer and robot systems interpret all this correctly, users will no longer need a controller to interact with them in the future – everything would run more naturally.

er’s doctoral thesis with computer science professor Christian Theobalt at the university and the Max Planck Institute for Computer Science has helped bring this closer: she has used new software to teach the computer to capture the movements of the hand and fingers at lightning speed – using only a single, simple webcam – even when the hand is partially covered, moving freely or gesturing with two hands. What sounds so simple is actually highly complex: developing algorithms based on neural networks to recognize hand gestures belongs to the top class. The software company Google also counts Franziska Müller as one of the world’s most promising young scientists and awarded her a “Google PhD Fellowship,” while Deutsche Telekom presented her with the “Women’s Mint Award. The Saarland University Society is now following up with the Eduard Martin Award.

Saarbrücken’s computer science department is home to many young researchers who are involved in cutting-edge research at an early stage. Ralf Jung is one of them: In his doctoral thesis under Professor Derek Dreyer at the University and the Max Planck Institute for Software Systems, he made a significant contribution to the security of the “Rust” programming language: Small start-ups as well as the largest technology corporations from Microsoft to Google use Rust for the development of operating systems, web browsers and other security-critical applications. In his doctoral thesis, Jung is the first in the world to provide formal proof of Rust’s security. “We were able to verify the so-called type safety and thus show how Rust automatically and reliably prevents entire classes of programming errors,” says Ralf Jung. In addition, the computer scientist developed a tool called “Miri”: the tool for security tests of programs written in Rust has already established itself in industry. He has received several internationally renowned prizes for his doctoral thesis – and now also one of this year’s Eduard Martin Prizes.

In her doctoral thesis with Professor Patricia Oster-Stierle, Hannah Steurer examined the view of French authors on the city of Berlin from the Romantic period to the present day. The literary scholar examines how the witnesses of her time, who were shaped by the all-encompassing influence of the city of Paris, perceived the city on the Spree over the course of two centuries. Hannah Steurer went in search of traces in texts from more than 200 years – including novels, novellas, correspondence, and travelogues. She selected around 30 of them for her dissertation. How do the authors, who lived there for a while or stayed while traveling, perceive the city? “In the early 19th century, Berlin is a city without history for them, which they describe as a ‘desert’ – and not just because of the sandy journey through the Mark Brandenburg,” explains Hannah Steurer. Berlin, with its comparatively few salons, was no match for Paris – although it was visibly gaining in size and splendor thanks to the Prussian kings. But the discovery of Berlin in French literature got underway. A significant stage was the Weimar Republic: “In this period, Berlin is a laboratory of the avant-garde, a kind of new Paris. Berlin invents itself, from the French perspective it becomes the city of the future,” says Steurer. Nazi dictatorship, world war, ruins of decline and finally partition led to the rupture also from a French perspective. “After the fall of the Wall, the picture changes. Berlin becomes a city of unlimited possibilities, becomes a laboratory again, and now appears as the very embodiment of history,” says Steurer. This paradigm shift in the French discourse on Berlin is illuminated by the post-fiction researcher in her work: she shows how an image of the city is formed, transformed and constantly re-created in the texts – and receives the Eduard Martin Prize for this.


Video conferencing and online lectures without frozen facial expressions, fast connectivity for rural businesses, streaming HD movies or playing online games without jerking: Lightning-fast Internet with nimble uploads and downloads of large amounts of data is becoming increasingly important in our everyday lives. Christopher Uhl conducted research in this field of high-speed electronics as part of his doctoral thesis with Professor Michael Möller: His goal was to develop and optimize microchip electrical circuitry. Together with researchers from the ETH in Zurich and Micram Microelectronic GmbH in Bochum, Uhl developed a microchip within the framework of EU-funded research projects that can transmit a lot of data within data centers at the speed of an arrow. “This application is very topical, especially in view of the increasing demand for faster Internet connections. The specific goal was to bundle several slow data channels onto a single line at the highest possible speed, i.e., at a high data rate,” explains the engineering scientist. Not only did he achieve this goal, he even beat the prevailing speed record. In addition, Uhl also contributed to the theory of general circuit concepts needed to bring the microchips thus developed into practice. “The focus here was primarily on understanding analytically the effects and problems that had previously only been observed experimentally, so that we could use them to further improve the microchips,” explains Christopher Uhl, who is now being awarded the Eduard Martin Prize for this excellent achievement.

A promising new dual strategy in the fight against cancer is being opened up by an active ingredient being researched by pharmacist Charlotte Dahlem in Professor Alexandra K. Kiemer’s team: the natural substance “Thioholgamide A”, or ThioA for short, prevents the tumor from growing and at the same time induces the body’s own defenses to attack the tumor cells. The phagocytes, also known as macrophages, are the human body’s mobile task force against enemies such as bacteria, viruses or even tumor cells: They hunt down such adversaries and finish them off. In tumors, however, there are defectors in this special unit. The so-called M2 type can be “hired” by cancer cells: if they send certain messenger substances, M2 macrophages support the growth of the tumor and sabotage the immune defense. If there are many M2 defectors in the microenvironment around the tumor, the prognosis of a cancer patient is sometimes worse. ThioA targets the M2 defectors in this microenvironment: the natural compound reverts the tumor-promoting M2 macrophages and turns them back into “good” macrophages that fight tumor cells and rally the body’s own defenses instead of dampening them. “In addition, ThioA acts on cell metabolism and inhibits tumor growth,” explains Charlotte Dahlem, who was the first to succeed in demonstrating this dual effect of ThioA. For her work, she has already received the Hans and Ruth Giessen Foundation Prize and now also the Eduard Martin Prize of the University Society.

This year, the University Society is honoring a total of 15 outstanding doctoral theses from all faculties. As a symbol of honor, the prize winners will receive an owl statuette and prize money of 500 euros at a hybrid award ceremony on October 14, starting at 6 pm.

Professor Frank Mücklich, Professor of Functional Materials and Managing Director of Saarland University Society, will give the keynote speech on the topic “Circular Economy – Science or Economy?”.

An overview of all award winners and their award-winning work:

Faculty of Empirical Human Sciences and Economics

Dr. Christian Theres – Doctoral supervisor: Prof. Dr. Stefan Strohmeier
“Antecedents and Consequences of Digital Human Resource Management – An Exploratory Meta-analytic Structural Equation Modeling (E-MASEM) Approach to a Multifaceted Phenomenon”

Dr. Sarah Schäfer – Doctoral Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Tanja Michael
“Perspectives on Self-Reported Resilience – Cross-sectional, Longitudinal, and Meta-Analytical Considerations.”

Faculty of Medicine

Dr. Maximilian Menger – Doctoral supervisor: Prof. Dr. Matthias Glanemann.
“The effects of erythropoiesis-stimulating agents on revascularization of transplanted islets of Langerhans”

Dr. Praneeth Chitirala – PhD supervisor: Prof. Dr. Jens Rettig
“Maturation, acidification and fusion of cytotoxic granules in primary CD8+
T lymphocytes”

Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science

Dr. Franziska Müller – PhD supervisor: Prof. Dr. Christian Theobalt
“Real-time 3D Hand Reconstruction in Challenging Scenes from a Single Color or Depth Camera”

Dr. Ralf Jung – PhD supervisor: Prof. Dr. Derek Dreyer
“Understanding and Evolving the Rust Programming Language”

Dr. Simon Schmidt – PhD supervisor: Prof. Dr. Moritz Weber
“Quantum automorphism groups of finite graphs”

Faculty of Science and Technology

Dr. Charlotte Dahlem – Doctoral supervisor: Prof. Dr. Alexandra Kiemer
“In vitro and in vivo characterization of therapeutic approaches for solid tumors: natural compounds and novel targets”

Dr. Kathrin Kattler – PhD supervisor: Prof. Dr. Jörn Walter
“Epigenetic characterization of human hepatocyte subpopulations in context of complex metabolic diseases and during in vitro differentiation of hepatocyte-like cells”

Dr. Christian Schütz – PhD supervisor: Prof. Dr. Rolf Hartmann
“Novel Quorum Sensing Inhibitors targeting PqsR”

Dr. Christopher Uhl – PhD supervisor: Prof. Dr. Michael Möller
“Optimization of current switches driven with clock signals in broadband high-speed circuits in bipolar technology”

Faculty of Philosophy

Dr. Hannah Steurer – Doctoral supervisor: Prof. Dr. Patricia Oster-Stierle
“Tableaux de Berlin. The French Discourse on Berlin since Romanticism”

Dr. Marie Louise Brunner – Doctoral supervisor: Prof. Dr. Stefan Diemer.
“Understanding Intercultural Communication. Negotiating Meaning and Identities in English as a Lingua Franca Skype Conversations.”

Faculty of Law

Dr. Ben Gerrit Köhler – Doctoral supervisor: Prof. Dr. Helmut Rüßmann
“The Benefit and Profit Issue in the CISG – At the Same Time a Contribution to the Admissibility and Limits of the Independent Further Development of the Convention”

Dr. Andreas Sesing – Doctoral Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Georg Borges
“The author’s distribution right in the transmission of digital content”.

The Dr. Eduard Martin Prize for the best doctoral theses has been awarded since 1963, and since 1976 the prize has borne the name of the honorary senator and long-time president of the Friends of the University, Dr. Eduard Martin. The prize winners receive a cash prize and a colorful owl: It is donated by Arno Müller, a graduate of Saar University.

The University Society organizes the award ceremony in cooperation with the Graduate Program of Saarland University (GradUS).

The Saarland University Society aims to bring scientists, employees and students of Saar University into intensive contact with former students (alumni) and sponsors. It primarily supports students and young academics in their projects and promotes academic life in the Saarland. For example, it supports young scientists in their participation in international conferences or competitions.

More: https://www.unigesellschaft-saarland.de

The graduate program GradUS aims to network doctoral students at Saar University and offers a diverse further qualification and support program for their interdisciplinary qualification.
More: http://www.uni-saarland.de/gradus

Answering questions from the media

Prof. Dr. Frank Mücklich, Managing Director of Saarland University Society
Tel.: 0681 302-70500; e-mail: unigesellschaft(at)uni-saarland.de

Dr. Theo Jäger (GradUS):
Tel: 0681 302-58073; gradus(at)uni-saarland.de

Press photos for download

You will find more press photos of the award ceremony in the auditorium here after the event.
The press photos may be used free of charge in connection with this press release and reporting on Saarland University, provided the photographer is credited.


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