Research Program

The guiding theme of this interdisciplinary Research Training Group (RTG) are processes in and on biomembranes, spanning different time and length scales. Research in the RTG focusses on the interplay of lipids and proteins as the major components of biomembranes. In particular, the RTG addresses the mechanisms underlying the localization of lipids and proteins in membranes, and the relationships be- tween the specific membrane composition and dynamics, protein-lipid interaction, and force transmission across membranes with regard to the manifold membrane functions in cells. Accordingly, the research programme encompasses structural and functional studies of biomolecules on the atomistic (protein and membrane structures), mesoscopic (e.g. membrane-receptor interactions, diffusion), and macroscopic scale (membrane internalization, cell growth, tissues). Thereby, the RTG is expected to yield insight into the structural and functional determinants of membrane-bound and membrane-assisted biological pro- cesses – such as recognition processes at membranes, or directed growth mechanisms – and to contribute significantly to improving current models of plasma membranes.

The RTG addresses the following central questions:
1. How do lipids interact in membranes and how do proteins affect lipid ordering?
2. How do specific membrane domains influence the localization of proteins and thereby signaling?
3. What are the lipid-dependent mechanisms behind cell volume regulation, cell growth, and cell adhesion?

This research focus on dynamic processes at biomembranes integrates core expertises from biology, experimental and theoretical physics. Experimental methods (e.g. X-ray, neutron scattering, single molecule detection and confocal imaging), in silico methods (molecular dynamics, Monte Carlo), as well as semi-analytical tools will be used to address processes occurring at the membrane interface. The interdisciplinarity is mirrored in the RTG-specific qualification programme. The research focus is deeply anchored in the existing Integrated Life Sciences (ILS) degree programme, a study course at the interface between biology, mathematics, and physics. The RTG will complement the ILS study programme by a doctoral programme that introduces the researchers into different modern techniques in specialized theoretical courses and intensive lab trainings, amended by a research stay abroad. Excellent students may join the RTG at all stages of their studies, with mini-research projects during their Bachelor, as fast-track doctoral students with a Bachelor degree, as doctoral and postdoctoral researchers. This interwoven study and research programme together with a supervisory board will train truely interdisciplinary researchers in life sciences and at the same time foster early scientific independence of junior researchers.