Document Actions

You are here: Home Newsroom People Combining Academic Careers with …

Combining Academic Careers with Having Children

Five Freiburg researchers receive Brigitte-Schlieben-Lange fellowships

Freiburg, Mar 10, 2017

Combining Academic Careers with Having Children

Sandra Straßburg, Sarah Teige-Mocigemba, Elisabeth Zima, Cornelia Klose and Maria Asplund (from left) are receiving research support from the Brigitte-Schlieben-Lange Program. Photo: Ingeborg Lehmann

The Ministry of Science, Research and Art (MWK) of the state of Baden-Württemberg and the University of Freiburg are supporting five outstanding female researchers. The Brigitte-Schlieben-Lange Program provides funding for female researchers who have one child or more and work towards professorships in fields as diverse as German language and literature and surgery. The program promotes academic qualification initiatives by providing one to two years of employment during the postdoctoral phase. During this time, the researchers can obtain the qualifications they still need for full professorships and prepare applications for follow-up research funding. The program in this way supports combining an academic career with having children. As a rule, the MWK funds half a position while the university finances a further 25 percent.

Dr. Maria Asplund, Biomedical Microtechnology: Functional electronic materials for enhancing neural microelectrodes
An electrical engineer and expert on electroactive polymer coatings, Maria Asplund is a research assistant at the Chair for Biomedical Microtechnology of the Department of Microsystems Engineering (IMTEK) and leads the junior scientists' group at the Cluster of Excellence BrainLinks-BrainTools. Together with her seven-member team at IMTEK, Asplund is working on developing materials that are particularly well suited for use within the human body. In her lab, polymerization reactions and electrolytic deposition produce coatings that are thinner than a micrometer and not harmful to the body, yet are highly conductive and simultaneously able to transport particles. Asplund has used her techniques to make electrodes for long-term use within the brain and for what is known as a lab-on-a-chip system for controlled release of medication. Here, to regulate dosage, a coating of the polymer PEDOT is used as a container which opens when negative voltage is applied and closes again with positive voltage. In addition to an emphasis on research and development, Asplund's lab also specializes in analytic processes for measuring the technical performance and body compatibility of various materials. Among these processes is, for example, the culturing of nerve cells to simulate an organic environment.

Dr. Cornelia Klose, Biology: How intracellular protein dynamics regulate the activity of the plant photoreceptors phytochrome A and B
The environmental factor light has vital significance for plants. Plants have photoreceptors with which they can measure the spectral composition, intensity, direction and duration of light in their vicinity. A family of photoreceptor proteins such as these are phytochromes. They regulate a number of physiological processes in higher plants, such as seed germination, seedling development, flowering and the avoidance of shade. Phytochromes can absorb light and act as molecular switches. While red light activates phytochromes, far red light inactivates them. These properties enable plants, for example, to determine the proportion of red in their light environment and respond to the shadowing by competitors. Plants of the same species can grow under very different conditions. With respect to their physiological activity, the individual phytochromes have specialized for differing light conditions. Biologist Cornelia Klose is investigating how specific mechanisms in plant cells regulate the physiological activity of the phytochromes without altering their photochemical properties. The aim is to understand how plants are able to influence the efficacy of their phytochromes in order to adapt their development flexibly to changes in their environmental conditions.

Dr. Sandra Straßburg, Experimental Surgery: Regenerative approaches in plastic surgery
After certain types of tumors have been surgically removed, for example in the case of breast cancer, the result is distortion of fatty tissue as well as a lack of lymphatic vessels and lymph nodes. A secondary lymphedema can then develop which places considerable strain on the patient and limits their quality of life. The edema is a swelling caused by the collection of lymphatic fluid. Clinical approaches to correcting malformed fatty tissue and treating secondary lymphedema are currently associated with undesirable side effects, safety risks and low probabilities of success. To address this, Sandra Straßburg's project within the area of tissue replacement research is investigating a new and promising possibility for treatment. With the aid of the body's own cells and stem cells, she wants to culture a network of lymph capillaries surrounded by fatty tissue in a biomaterial suited for this process. Her long-term goal is to develop a tissue replacement that corrects the deformities in the fatty tissue while at the same time prevents the formation of secondary lymphedema.

Dr. Sarah Teige-Mocigemba, Psychology: Is negative stronger than positive? Process components of valence-asymmetry effects: A diffusion model analysis
Valance is one of the central dimensions by which people characterize their external environment and their internal states. They like or dislike others, they approach a situation or avoid it, they feel good or bad. Many studies from different fields in psychology show that positive and negative information exert an asymmetrical influence on human experience and behavior with negative information having a stronger influence than positive information (e.g., losses loom larger than gains). In her planned research, Sarah Teige-Mocigemba is investigating how more sophisticated methods of data analysis, so-called diffusion model analyses, can contribute to identifying the cognitive processes underlying such valance-asymmetry effects. This approach of mathematical modeling of cognitive processes could also provide key insights into actual research questions in disciplines of applied psychology – for example, which processes form the basis of biased attention to negative information, and how do these processes contribute to the development and maintenance of psychological disorders?

Dr. Elisabeth Zima, German Linguistics: Pilot study on multimodal coordination in joint storytelling during face-to-face interaction
The focal point of Elisabeth Zima's planned research is the question of how people recount to each other in conversation a shared, joint experience – such as a visit to the movies – using verbal as well as non-verbal resources, such as gaze, gestures and postures. The project is being promoted as a one-year pilot study to prepare for further research to be funded by a third party. The research is based on an analysis of video and eye tracking data and combines traditional conversation analysis with cognitive approaches. On the one hand, Zima will investigate the role of gaze and gestures in negotiating and coordinating the right to speak. On the other hand, she will work out the verbal and non-verbal strategies that conversing partners use to establish knowledge that at first is shared only by two of the interlocutors – for example, what happened in a film – and then successively becomes available for all partners taking part in the conversation. With its focus on the interplay of verbal, non-verbal and bodily communication, the project is situated within interactional and multimodal linguistics. These branches of the field are prominently represented in Freiburg while also coming increasingly to the fore internationally.

MWK press release: (in German)


Dr. Maria Asplund
Department of Microsystems Engineering (IMTEK)
Tel.: 0761/203-67375

Dr. Cornelia Klose
Institute of Biology II
Tel.: 0761/203-2627

Dr. Sandra Straßburg
Clinic for Plastic and Hand Surgery
Tel.: 0761/270-63670

Assistant Professor Dr. Sarah Teige-Mocigemba
Institute of Psychology
Tel.: 0761/203-2418

Dr. Elisabeth Zima
Department of German
Tel.: 0761/203-97864