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Key research areas

Plant sciences

Research in this key area seeks to interpret genetically encoded traits of plants and determine the impact that environmental factors have on them. Its objective is to establish a body of fundamental knowledge for the purpose of optimising crops, e.g., by increasing their yield or drought resistance, and breeding new (agricultural) plants with improved properties.  The studied traits are encoded by a large number of genes. Decoding them is a highly complex process that requires an interdisciplinary approach combining genetics, cell biology, biochemistry and bioinformatics.

Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf collaborates closely with the University of Cologne, the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research (MPIPZ), Forschungszentrum Jülich, and Michigan State University in East Lansing, USA, in this field.

Key research projects:

CEPLAS – The Cluster of Excellence on Plant Sciences

IRTG 2466: Network and exchange to understand and enhance plant growth (NEXTplant)


CRC 1535 Microbial networking – from organelles to cross-kingdom communities (MibiNet)

CRC TRR 341 Plant Ecological Genetics

Membrane biology

This key research area focuses on biological membranes both inside cells and between cells and cell systems. Research in this field explores the nature of membranes, the way in which they control their dynamic processes over time and space, and the role of their individual components, such as membrane proteins and membrane protein complexes.

A unique spectrum of methods including techniques from structural biology, biochemistry and cell biology is used to study the molecular and cellular processes at play on a time scale ranging from nanoseconds up to periods of multiple days.

Key research projects:

CRC 1208: Identity and Dynamics of Membrane Systems

Molecular and clinical hepatology

Liver diseases have a high mortality rate and are usually chronic, which makes them highly socio-medical relevant. They are, in fact, the leading cause of death in individuals under the age of 40. Researchers in molecular and clinical hepatology apply fundamental scientific methods to study the mechanisms, communication structures and decision-making processes involved in liver damage and liver regeneration. This key research area also focuses on the involvement of liver conditions in systemic diseases that affect other organ systems. Its results are used to establish a body of knowledge that will inform new therapeutic strategies for liver diseases.

Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf closely collaborates with Essen University Hospital and Forschungszentrum Jülich in medical and clinical hepatology.

Key research projects:

CRC 974: Communication and System Relevance in Liver Injury and Regeneration

Cardiovascular research

Cardiovascular research was the first key research area to be established at Heinrich Heine University. Since 1968, the German Research Foundation has funded four successive collaborative research centres in this area. Current research projects focus on the connection between the responses of the heart and those of other organs shortly after a myocardial infarction. They also investigate the communication pathways that are involved in heart disease, both within the cardiovascular system and between the heart, kidneys, skeletal muscles and brain. Another major field of research into cardiovascular diseases at Heinrich Heine University deals with aortic diseases.

HHU collaborates closely with the University of Cologne, the University of Bonn, the University of Duisburg-Essen and the University of Virginia in Charlottesville (USA), in this key research area.

Key research projects:

CRC 1116: Master switches in cardiac ischemia

IRTG 1902: Intra- and interorgan communication of the cardiovascular system

TRR 259: Aortic Disease

Language – Knowledge – Cognition

This key research area focuses heavily on representation. It is based on the hypothesis of a uniform structure of representations called 'frames’ underlying the neural layer, the cognitive layer, the linguistic layer and the layer of institutional concepts. The research alliance seeks to develop a general frame theory for concepts and terms. Representations also play an important role for the research unit in spoken morphology: it studies the sounds of speech to gain significant insights into cognitive representation and the processing of complex words.

Research in this area pursues two long-term objectives: to achieve closer collaboration between the fields of general linguistics, neurolinguistics and artificial intelligence, and to establish foundations that will facilitate progress in machine translation, dialogue systems and computer-assisted language learning.

Key research projects:

CRC 991: The Structure of Representations in Language, Cognition, and Science

RU 2495: Inductive Metaphysics

RU 2373: Spoken Morphology: Phonetics and phonology of complex words

Sofja-Kovalevskaja-Price „Towards intelligent dialogue systems“ and ERC Starting Grant „Dynamic Dialogue Modeling“

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