New postgraduate course between Freiburg and Strasbourg.

Integrating theological research into studies is the core of the new “Licentiate Program in Catholic Theology,” which will start in the 2021/2022 winter semester at the University of Freiburg and the Université de Strasbourg.

“The study program makes it possible to experience the global perspective of thought in a very concrete way through professorships, course content, and internationally diverse students,” says Prof. Dr. Mirjam Schambeck, Franciscan and Dean of Studies at the Faculty of Theology at the University of Freiburg. Through the connections especially of the Université de Strasbourg to African universities, the study program is internationally oriented and opens up the possibility for students to get to know and deepen theology on a global scale.

“The canonical licentiate is a distinctive feature of Catholic theology and enables students to engage more deeply in theological research after completing their studies,” says Prof. Dr. Philippe Vallin, director for the “Diplôme Supérieur de Théologie Catholique (DSTC)” at the Université de Strasbourg. The degree qualifies students to teach in a seminary or equivalent training institution and also serves as preparation for a doctorate.

Students are taught specific theological knowledge and skills, with particular attention to individual emphasis in their own research performance. They can choose between the specializations Biblical Studies, Church History, Systematic Theology, Ethics and Practical Theology.

Students begin their cross-border postgraduate studies at their respective home universities and choose between two mobility options: Either they transfer to the partner university from the third semester onwards, or they spend exclusively the third semester (for students of the University of Freiburg) or the second semester (for students of the Université de Strasbourg) at the partner institution.

The languages of instruction are German, French, and English. Admission requirements for the postgraduate program include a completed theological university degree. Applications on the German side for the 2021/22 winter semester can be submitted until September 15, 2021.

More information on the websites of the University of Freiburg and the University of Strasbourg.

The goal of the four focus areas of Eucor – The European Campus is for its member universities to cooperate more closely in these areas in order to draw on shared strengths and pool expertise. One of its four areas is ‘Sustainability’.

As a title for a Eucor Focus Area, ‘Sustainability’ is ambitious. With a wide-ranging scope, it aims to encourage interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary cooperation on sustainable development between Eucor universities. “The Eucor Focus Area’s concept of sustainability is based on the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” says Sofia Ganter. Ms Ganter is the contact for the Eucor Focus Area and works in the strategy department at the University of Freiburg where it is coordinated. “It’s about more than shared research activities into ecological aspects. The objectives of the 2030 Agenda target ecological, social and economic issues.”

As well as the traditional areas of activity of universities – research, teaching and transfer – Sofia Ganter has also studied the areas of infrastructure, governance and civic engagement for their potential for cross-border cooperation. “Sustainability differs from the other Eucor Focus Areas, in particular with regard to engagement. We have broad student movements that are dealing with this future-oriented topic, so it gives rise to the question of networking and how we can incorporate them in existing and future formats.”

The basis for establishing the focus areas in the Eucor strategy plan for 2019-2023 was an analysis of potential and locations. This clearly showed that sustainability is a key theme at all five Eucor member universities, with numerous research cooperation projects already that make up the ‘Upper Rhine Cluster for Sustainability Research’. These look for instance at regional energy supplies (RES-TMO), sustainable mobility (SuMo-Rhine) or biocidal depositions in ground water (NAVEBGO).

Since the end of 2020 Sofia Ganter has worked on the Eucor Focus Area. In the first phase she focused on analysis; now the real networking begins. The focus area has already been introduced to a wider public at the Freiburg Science Market, as a way of fulfilling the ‘transfer’ responsibilities. For ‘teaching’, Sofia Ganter and colleagues from other Eucor universities are planning to pilot a sustainability certificate which students can achieve while taking a degree if they tackle issues in relation to sustainable development that are not part of their actual studies. “In order to initiate more research cooperations, we’re planning an Exploratory Workshop in November to bring together interested researchers from all member universities. We’ve seen that the extensive regional and urban research at Eucor universities isn’t sufficiently joined up yet, and so we’ve chosen the working title ‘Transformative Cities’ for our workshop,” she explains. Other ideas include a Science Slam on the theme, and forming a Sustainability Forum to act as a committee or work group drawing from various Eucor universities and helping to shape their approach to sustainability.

Sofia Ganter is looking forward to the upcoming work, “I don’t just want to write concepts and do research, even if it is exciting. I want to do something. There are so many highly-motivated people dealing with this subject in the Eucor region and we can learn a lot from each other and create added value.”

More about Eucor’s Focus areas

Pedro Lopes will soon be graduating in life sciences at Strasbourg. Every day, for his internship at a cellular biology laboratory he travels to Freiburg im Breisgau. We met him and chatted about his mobility in the framework of Eucor – The European Campus.

Mr Lopes, why are you doing your internship in Freiburg?
Lopes: I wanted to gain international experience during my studies. Of course, being in France is already an international experience for me, because I originally come from Brazil. But I wanted to gain a bit more international experience and also have the opportunity of working in English. I think this is indispensable in the scientific world. At my faculty, the ‘Faculté des sciences de la vie’ in Strasbourg, Joern Pütz organizes an annual lecture in English with a professor from the University of Freiburg, Winfried Römer. This brought me into contact with him, and now I’m doing my internship in his laboratory. I chose Freiburg because of its proximity to Strasbourg. I live in Strasbourg and commute every day, which is very practical for me. I can benefit from what the city of Freiburg has to offer, do things with my friends here, but I can also go home, stay in my apartment and feel at home.

Did the corona pandemic affect your decision about mobility?
The coronavirus was a major reason for me wanting to do an internship. I didn’t want to do another semester of remote learning, but really have a practical experience. I also wanted to write a Bachelor thesis. That’s not normal in France, but it is in Germany. So I am combining my international experience with my first real scientific work.

What exactly are you working on in the laboratory?
I’m working in a cellular biology laboratory where we study various types of cells. We have one common theme, that is the Gb3 molecule. I’m looking at a very rare genetic disease, Fabry’s disease. In this disease, this molecule that we’re studying concentrates in the body and in the cells. This leads to pathologies and dysfunctions in the body. So I’m studying the accumulation of this molecule in the cells and how it changes the cell composition, cell structure and other aspects.

Bottom line – how do you rate mobility with Eucor?
Eucor mobility – it’s a one hour journey and the culture changes completely, people change, language changes, even the atmosphere in the laboratory is very different between France and Germany. It’s great here, it’s great there: I don’t think one is better than the other. A lot of people want to go far away, but I think sometimes it’s interesting to learn about what’s nearby too. That’s my way of discovering the region. Staying home and doing an internship in another country – it’s only possible here.

Eucor – The European Campus has several key areas in which its partners work more intensively together. One of these is its focus on Personalised Health – Precision Medicine. Christophe Schneble is the project manager for Personalised Health at the University of Basel and primary contact for the Eucor focus area.

Mr Schneble, what does ‘Personalised Health’ mean?
Schneble: Personalised medicine embraces diagnostic, preventive and therapeutic measures that are optimally tailored to an individual to have the best possible effect and least possible side-effects for each individual patient. However the focus isn’t just on patients but also on healthy people and thus also on the aspect of prevention. ‘Health data’ play an important part in personalised medicine and ranges from data obtained by standard examination methods (e.g. blood pressure, lab results, ECG, X-rays), through information on state of health, to sensor data and data from the environment (e.g. air and water quality, passive smoking, exposure to noxious influences).

What is the advantage of working cross-border in this field?
The challenges we face today demand increased cooperation. The Covid pandemic clearly showed that if we want to act quickly, if we want to exploit capacities and optimize resources, then cooperation between countries is extremely important in medicine. And this will be ever more so the case, if we consider demographics and the associated growing need for care. The pandemic also showed that international cooperation in research can respond quickly and effectively. We have a unique ecosystem in health care in the Upper Rhine region: Life Sciences are very strong at all of the Eucor universities, we have three university hospitals and many research cooperations such as the Upper Rhine Immunology group, which are often initiated ‘bottom-up’, that is, by the researchers. In addition, Eucor’s Seed Money offers a powerful tool for actively promoting such cross-border cooperations.

You’ve been the primary contact for the Eucor focus area since May. What are your first projects?
I’m currently working intensively on a project called ‘Clinnova’, which originally is a Luxembourg initiative. This is about creating a European Health Data Cloud. Major international players such as Google are also launching various initiatives in the field of health data. However in Europe we have different ethical and legal standards than in the USA. So we need a European solution that focuses on good ethical standards for data processing. Besides research data, the project in question is concerned with patient data that is fed from the hospital into research. The researchers analyze the data, using artificial intelligence among other things, and then deliver their findings rapidly back to the clinic and the patient. The idea is that this will make medicines, therapies or living aids that are ideally adapted to the patient rapidly available to the hospitals. Backed by the Grand Est region and Baden-Württemberg, the project involves both German and French Eucor universities, and Basel is due to join in shortly.

About Christophe Olivier Schneble:
Christophe Olivier Schneble took a doctorate on the legal and ethical challenges in relation to the use of Big Data. Before taking his PhD he worked for many years as a software developer in the health sector and was the CEO of the Department of Earth Sciences at the ETH Zurich, where he was also a member of the Strategy Commission. Since 1 May 2021 he has been the project manager for Personalised Health at the University of Basel and oversees this Eucor focus area. As a native speaker of both French and German he is passionate about cooperation in the Upper Rhine region.

More about Eucor’s Focus areas

Once again, researchers and instructors from the five Eucor universities are eligible to apply for funding – an example from the “Teaching” category.

The Freiburg-based ancient historian Prof. Dr. Sitta von Reden heads up the educational project “Connecting – Editing – Programming – Learning (CEPL): sowing the seeds for joint teaching and research in digital papyrology, philology and ancient history in the European Campus.” Students from Freiburg, Strasbourg and Basel were introduced to reading, editing and digital publishing of Greek papyri from ancient Egypt in the form of digital teaching, which was still innovative at the time of the project. Eucor – The European Campus supported the project with seed money in the funding line “Teaching.” Sarah Nieber spoke with Ms. von Reden about her project.

Ms. von Reden, why did you set up this project on a cross-border basis?
Sitta von Reden: We have our own papyrus collection in Freiburg. No one knew where it actually was for a long time after it was removed during the University Library’s remodeling. When it was found well-packed in a side room of the nuclear bunker under KG II, it quickly became clear that this collection, albeit small, still had a lot of potential for research and teaching. There is an excellent research landscape for papyrology and the history of ancient Egypt here in the Upper Rhine region. So I quickly contacted my colleague at the Université de Strasbourg, Prof. Paul Heilporn. He is a specialist in papyrology and head of the Institute for Papyrology there. He looked at the Freiburg collection with great interest. It quickly became clear that we should initiate a cross-border teaching project with it. We wanted to integrate Basel’s expertise in the field of digitization of historical manuscripts and were very pleased to have Prof. Sabine Hübner from the University of Basel participate. Together we applied for seed money from Eucor – The European Campus.

How did you distribute the funding?
Through the funding we were able to hire a scientific coordinator, Dr. François Gerardin from Yale University. He developed the hybrid teaching format with many experts from all over the world. One-third of the semester involved classroom teaching (even before the pandemic) and project work while two-thirds took place as webinars. In this way, we were able to fill the different semester times at the Eucor universities with different teaching content in the most optimum way. The students wrote the papers relevant to the exams on site in each case. All participants edited one of the papyrological fragments scientifically and then submitted it to a journal for digital publication.

How will you continue after the Seed Money funding ends?
In retrospect, I can only evaluate the seminar as follows: little effort in the application process, a lot of fun at work and a lot of success! We would definitely like to repeat and further develop the project. From Freiburg’s point of view, we have gained solid knowledge about our papyrus collection, from which all introductory historical seminar students can now benefit in tutorials. And last but not least, we gained a lot of experience with digital teaching even before the pandemic. Especially in very small disciplines, collaboration across universities is an important perspective.

Teachers and researchers from member universities of Eucor – The European Campus can apply for Seed Money until September 30, 2021. The requirement is that at least two universities from two countries are involved in a project. The aim is to provide initial funding for new projects that further advance the development of Eucor – The European Campus and scientific networking. Corresponding applications can be submitted for the funding line “Teaching” as well as for the funding line “Research and Innovation”. A total of 300,000 euros is available. The maximum funding amount for a project is 60,000 euros, and the maximum duration is 24 months.
Seed Money funding application

Together with her deputy Thomas Hirth, the Basel university President will head the trinational university grouping for three years.

At a meeting of the heads of the member universities of Eucor – The European Campus on 9 June 2021, Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Andrea Schenker-Wicki, President of the University of Basel, was elected to the role of President of Eucor. Prof. Dr. Thomas Hirth, Vice-President for Innovation and International Affairs at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), was elected deputy. The statutory period in office is three years.

Andrea Schenker-Wicki has been deputy President of Eucor – The European Campus since May 2016 and took on the acting presidency temporarily following the departure of Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Hans-Jochen Schiewer in October 2020. Her goal for her period in office is to strengthen the group with practical projects: “The universities in the Upper Rhine region have massive potential which we want to make more use of within the group, especially for our priority area Personalised Health, in which we want to establish a dynamic internationally networked research and innovation cluster together.”

Following her degrees at the ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich, and a doctorate at the University of Freiburg (Switzerland), Schenker-Wicki qualified as a lecturer at the University of St. Gallen in 1996. At the University of Zurich she held a full professorship in Business Administration from 2001 to 2015 and was Vice-President for Law and Economics from 2012 to 2014. Since August 2015 she has been the President of the University of Basel.

Thomas Hirth has been a member of the boards of Eucor – The European Campus since 2016. He wants to focus on cross-border funding for innovation and transfer: “The key to making the Eucor alliance even more innovative, sustainable and competitive in the framework of the trinational metropolitan area Upper Rhine region (TMO) lies in the cooperation of science, industry and society.”

Hirth studied and gained his doctorate in Chemistry at the former University of Karlsruhe (now KIT). In 2007 he became the head of the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology (IGB) in Stuttgart. He held a professorship at the University of Stuttgart from 2008 to 2016 and from 2012 to 2015 was Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Energy-, Process- and Bio-Engineering. In January 2016 Hirth took up the post of Vice-President for Innovation and International Affairs at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.

For Daniel Miller, it all started with his love for pure mathematics and in particular linear algebra. Turning his attention to quantum information theory was a logical consequence since, unlike other fields of theoretical physics, this one is heavy on linear algebra rather than calculus or other mathematical subdisciplines.

Miller started his journey into quantum information theory early on and even co-authored five scientific papers all while completing degrees in physics and mathematics at the Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf. Little did he know back then that this road would lead him straight into one of the most exciting places to do industrial quantum information research with tangible results that go far beyond the research lab. Now at IBM Research, Miller is helping shape the future of computing with quantum computers as one of its fundamental building blocks.

In his publications as an undergraduate student, Miller explored devices such as quantum repeaters which could help build a future quantum internet by compensating for the loss of photons over long distances in quantum networks. He also looked into the important issue of quantum error correction, a pre-requisite for the long-term goal of building a useful universal quantum computer. Miller’s research on quantum error correction has already been used in the first demonstration of a complete quantum error correction code. And he even ventured into the field of quantum cryptography, which deals with the use of quanta of light, photons, to secure communications.

After obtaining his two master’s degrees, Miller was looking for inspiring PhD projects. And he quickly found a good fit for his interests and skills in the Quantum Technology group at the IBM Research Europe lab in Rüschlikon near Zurich. His position is part of the QUSTEC program, which connects young quantum scientists at the universities of Basel, Freiburg, Strasbourg, as well as the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, the Walther Meissner Institute near Munich, and IBM Research.

“IBM Research is highly renowned in the quantum computing community. With my background in quantum information theory, IBM Research in Zürich is the best place in Europe for me to do my PhD. I hope to broaden my expertise to quantum chemistry and hole spin qubits in silicon quantum dots”, Miller says.

Entering now the field of quantum chemistry, Miller is thrilled to contribute towards the solutions of some of the biggest challenges for quantum algorithms. “There are two holy grails in quantum chemistry that could be reached with quantum computers. The first is developing a catalyst for ammonia synthesis by simulating the active center of the nitrogenase enzyme, which solves this problem in plants. The second holy grail is room-temperature superconductivity.”

In addition to his new adventure with quantum chemistry, Miller is using his PhD as an opportunity to explore new routes on the hardware side of quantum computing. His focus lies on hole spin qubits in silicon quantum dots within the national center of competence SPIN funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. “The most advanced quantum computing platforms today are superconducting qubits and trapped ions. Spin qubits are less mature but have potential advantages and thus may be able to catch up and maybe even take over eventually”, Miller says. He notes, however, that this is a long-term vision that won’t be reached within the limited time frame of his own PhD project.

Starting his PhD in the middle of the pandemic has of course posed challenges. “Due to the lockdown, I am lacking the daily exchanges with my more experienced colleagues. I have seen my productivity drop significantly following the permanent home office mandate”, says Miller. However, he does not give up: “I try to limit the damage by using this time in isolation to continue working on a research paper based on the topic of my Master’s thesis. And in this spring semester I am trying to complete all online courses that are a pre-requisite for obtaining my doctoral degree. That will spare me the commute to the University of Basel when they switch back to on-campus courses.”

When he’s not busy with tough mathematical riddles, Miller spends time cultivating his passion for music, which for him means everything from singing to playing the piano or the ukulele. Miller is happy that his PhD project brought him to Switzerland: “I really enjoy what this country has to offer in terms of natural beauty, the vast outdoors and the peacefulness of the Alps.”

Leonid Leiva Ariosa / IBM

On March 17, 2021, Prof. Alexandre Kostka, cultural historian at the Université de Strasbourg, has been appointed honorary professor by the Senate of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). In an interview, Kostka speaks of interconnections between Karlsruhe and Strasbourg in terms of urban planning and the profile which he will give to his honorary professorship.

Prof. Kostka, how did the cooperation with the KIT come about?
Kostka: This honorary professorship continues my joint work with the KIT Institute for the History of Art and Architecture which has begun in 2017. In the curriculum, we offer joint seminars and excursions for students from Karlsruhe and Strasbourg, mainly within the Erasmus Mundus Master’s program “Euroculture” at the Université de Strasbourg. In addition, I had been a DAAD visiting professor at the KIT in winter semester 2019/2020. The successful cooperation has now resulted in the honorary professorship, a special award and assignment which, incidentally, does not exist in this form in France.

What will now be your actual focus at the KIT?
Kostka: In each semester, I will organise a seminar there on topics which primarily concern the common “artistic and technical heritage” of the Upper Rhine region. I will focus on the 19th through the 21st centuries. I am planning to start with the architect Fritz Beblo (1872-1947), who had such a decisive influence on the cityscape of Strasbourg that many people mistakenly refer to him as “City architect”. At that time, there was no architectural training in Strasbourg itself, but such existed in Karlsruhe. Beblo was one of many architects who were trained in Karlsruhe and then went to Strasbourg. The Neustadt was still a construction site at that time. Yet, from 1890 on, the city experienced a real building boom that was largely influenced by a mode of urban planning stemming from Karlsruhe. Beblo was the head of the structural engineering office then. My KIT students will work together conceiving an exhibition on Fritz Beblo, which will be on display at the Bibliothèque nationale et universitaire de Strasbourg in the autumn of 2022.

So you are looking at the Franco-German connection through the lens of cultural history?
Kostka: Yes. I do not merely regard this professorship as an honour, but also as an opportunity for the following years to delve into the special, divided, Franco-German heritage more deeply that connects both banks of the Rhine. There is still a lot to do for a better understanding and, consequently, a better handling of the countries’ divided heritage.

Scholars from the historical sciences and Slavic studies discuss current projects, research trends and backgrounds of current political and social developments together with students in the “Eucor Research Seminar in Russian and East European History”. The three-part series of events will also take place in the current semester from 4 to 19 May 2021.

“In the field of Eastern European history, there are many overlaps between Basel and Freiburg. The researchers and also the doctoral students are in constant exchange despite the border,” says Dr Boris Belge from the University of Basel. “The joint colloquia will now also serve to promote exchange at student level.”

“We are also deliberately setting up topics with very current references.” adds Dr Michel Abeßer from the University of Freiburg. “To understand today’s tensions, for example in Ukraine, Belarus or Nagorno-Karabakh, we have to look at the roots of the conflicts.”

The colloquium is organised by the chairs of Modern and Eastern European History and Slavic Philology at the University of Freiburg and the chairs of Eastern European History and Slavic Studies at the University of Basel.

Programme and registration