Celebrating FAU #FAUtogether
280th anniversary in the Meistersingerhalle in Nuremberg
Excellence in academia relies on team work said FAU President Prof. Dr. Joachim Hornegger during the festivities celebrating the 280th anniversary of Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU). FAU celebrated the sense of community among all its members as one of the keys to FAU’s success on November 4 in the Meistersingerhalle in Nuremberg.
During the event that was held under the motto #FAUtogether, Professor Hornegger emphasized that it is not individuals but rather the community of researchers, students and support staff who make FAU what it is today, working together to tackle the challenges facing us at the current time and share successes and setbacks.
This year, FAU has been able to significantly bolster this community in various crucial areas, thanks in part to the High-Tech Agenda Bavaria, for example with more than 60 additional professorships, including one distinguished Bavarian professorship and one new Humboldt professorship. However, Hornegger admitted that more effort urgently needs to be exerted in attracting and keeping staff, citing the topics of permanent positions, collective bargaining agreements and a lack of skilled personnel as major challenges for the University.
Structural developments are also a joint effort where FAU is making considerable progress, with research buildings for medicine and new complexes for sciences and engineering in the pipeline. Hornegger explained that the University is currently working together with the Ministry to find solutions for the commissioned building for Education Science. He also mentioned that “where possible, we all lend a hand,” citing the FAU staff and students who worked together to install a major solar panel array on the roof of the Laser Physics building.
Other common aspects at FAU concern internal structures and a clear-cut profile: “The Department of Artificial Intelligence in Biomedical Engineering financed with funds from the High-Tech Agenda Bavaria is the AI health hub in Bavaria, and is on the road to becoming a major success story with eight HTA professorships,” reported the FAU President. Thanks to the new degree program in Artificial Intelligence, the department already has more than 1,000 students.
In Nuremberg, known as the city of human rights, FAU has now established a center focusing on human rights research. “Together with the international program in Human Rights, we are creating a close link between research and teaching.”
FAU has also established profile centers in the areas of immunomedicine, medical engineering, light-matter quantum technology, new materials and processes and solar technology.
However, the idea of #FAUtogether is not only restricted to FAU itself: The University supports the university system in Ukraine in the DIGI UNI network. “With a strong partner network of 26 institutions, including FAU, DIGI UNI has pledged to guarantee inclusive education and support students and teaching staff even in view of adversity.” In the European university alliance EELISA – European Engineering, Learning, Innovation and Science Alliance – FAU is continuing to expand its presence on the European stage.
Welcoming speech of Bavarian Minster of the Interior
Minister of the Interior Joachim Herrmann passed on anniversary wishes to FAU from the Bavarian state government: “FAU has become a world class university with an outstanding reputation stretching far beyond Bavaria and Germany.” The Bavarian state government is very proud of FAU’s award-winning research and innovation and they would like to strengthen it even further. As Herrmann stated, “We are therefore heavily investing in the construction and structural expansion of the University,” and the Free State of Bavaria has already invested just under two billion euros in this.
Students’ Representatives’ speech
Ann-Sophie Scholl and Conrad Schröder passed on congratulations on behalf of the Students’ Representatives. “Excellence should not merely be a buzzword, it should be something we create together. Something that students can experience first hand,” they said. “Students will only forge a link to their alma mater and contribute to the success of the University if they feel that they matter to the University. And that is the responsibility of everyone at FAU.”
Focus on human rights research
The rise of autocracy, environmental crises facing the planet, global migration or digital transformation: At the new FAU Research Center for Human Rights Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU CHREN), that was officially opened in September, researchers from law, social sciences and further disciplines explore transformation characterizing the 21st century, taking a human rights-oriented approach. Prof. Dr. Katrin Kinzelbach, professor of international politics of human rights at FAU, held a keynote speech in her position as the representative of the new center. Her research focuses on academic freedom as a universal human right: More than half of the world’s population, roughly four billion people, live in countries in which academic freedom has experienced a setback in the past ten years. This is indicated in the Academic Freedom Index that was initiated by Prof. Kinzelbach and is published annually by a team of international researchers. She spoke about how academic freedom has developed across the globe in the 75 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted, which means are used to influence scientists’ research agendas, and why autocrats fear free universities.
Awards and honors
Once again, FAU used its anniversary celebrations as an opportunity to shine the spotlight on its particularly creative thinkers: the FAU innovators of the year.
In the category of research: Prof. Dr. Meinard Müller
“Music and computer science are not a contradiction in terms,” says Meinard Müller. “On the contrary – we can use the one to better understand the other.” The professor for Semantic Audio Signal Processing intends to use tools from artificial intelligence to decode characteristic features and hidden patterns in complex musical works. Müller works at International Audio Laboratories Erlangen, a shared institution run jointly by FAU and the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS. In his current research, the computer scientist focuses on the many different layers of the concept of learning. He uses deep learning to analyze music data and hopes to make a contribution to digital humanities in this way. He also hopes that his findings will generate new impulses for AI in general.
In the category of alumni: AMPERIAL Window Technologies
A film that reflects the heat of the sun’s rays, but lets daylight pass through – that is what AMPERIAL Window Technologies has developed. “The sun greatly heats up rooms through windows and glass facades, and cooling them back down requires a lot of energy,” explains managing director Matthias Trost. “Our film can reduce the temperature reached in buildings on a warm day by up to seven degrees Celsius, and electricity consumption by up to 26 percent.” Trost studied International Business Studies at FAU, worked for a short period at a bank and then discovered the lively start-up scene in the Nuremberg start-up center ZOLLHOF. Here he met Niall Killilea, Katja Wadlinger and Dr. Olaf Weiner. They soon came up with the idea of developing retrofittable heat protection for buildings. The transparent film consists of an innovative nanotechnological material, based on research conducted by the FAU research group “Solution Processed Semiconductors” at Energie Campus Nuremberg.
In the category of students: Bernadette Rauscher
What is right-wing violence, and how can we encourage adolescents to think hard about the issue? “Normal day to day school life does not offer enough scope,” says Bernadette Rauscher. The student of the Master’s degree program in “Theater – Research – Transfer” at FAU decided to take an artistic and creative approach to the topic. Together with high school students from Weißenburg, she produced the audio feature “Warum hört das nicht auf zu brennen? Oder: Vom Gestern im Heute. Auf den Spuren des NSU”. (“Why does it not stop burning? Or: About the yesterday in today. On the trail of the NSU”). The feature deals with the murders committed by the Nazi underground organization NSU as of September 9, 2000. The group worked on the project for over 6 months. “We conducted interviews, visited the crime scenes in Nuremberg, organized workshops,” Bernadette Rauscher explains. “And we always tried to reflect on our findings, and how they made us feel.” The feature was broadcast for the first time in “Radio Z” in Nuremberg on the 22nd anniversary of the attack on Enver Şimşek, the first of the ten murder victims of the NSU.
The FAU Awards
As in previous years, FAU President Hornegger invited a selected circle of guests before the Dies academicus to a small award-giving ceremony:
This year the title of Honorary Senator, the University’s highest honor, was awarded to Walter Bockshecker, Prof. Dr. Benno M. Nigg and Prof. Dr. Margit Osterloh.
Walter Bockshecker was a member of the board of the Nürnberger Versicherungsgruppe from 2004 until 2022 and from 2015 to 2023 he was a member of the University Council at FAU. With great personal dedication, he supported the establishment of the first endowed chair for insurance marketing in Germany at FAU and the establishment of the Chair of Insurance Economics and Risk Management in 2009. Bockshelder also initiated the establishment of the Nordbayerischen Instituts für Versicherungswissenschaft und -wirtschaft – Forum V (North Bavarian Institute of Insurance Science and Practice – Forum V) and the Nuremberg start-up center ZOLLHOF, founded in 2017 on the FAU’s initiative.
Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Margit Osterloh researched and taught until 2009 as a professor of business administration at the University of Zürich, before teaching management sciences at the University of Warwick once she retired. Prof. Osterloh was appointed to the University Council of FAU in 2015. There she focused particularly on topics relating to equal opportunities, bridging the gap between her gender research and practical realities. Another focus of her work concerned assessing new degree programs and specializations.
Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. mult. Benno M. Nigg, Chair of Biomechanics at the University of Calgary, Canada, established the Human Performance Laboratory there, which is considered to be the best equipped biomechanics laboratory in the world. The outstanding researcher contributed his international perspective to the University Council at FAU from 2015, and took a leading role in deciding on the strategic direction and positioning of FAU. He focused predominantly on attracting outstanding researchers to FAU and on creating innovative organizational structures.
In recognition of her extraordinary services, the University awards Evi Kurz the title of honorary citizen. She is a graduate of FAU and has close ties to her alma mater, particularly when it comes to the FAU alumnus Ludwig Erhard. She is one of the founders of the Ludwig-Erhard-Initiativekreis Fürth and one of the initiators of the “Ludwig Erhard ifo Center for Social Market Economy and Institutional Economics” that opened in 2022 in cooperation with the Stiftung Ludwig-Erhard-Haus and FAU.
Appointment as FAU Ambassador
Prof. Dr. Fatima El-Tayeb, professor of ethnicity, race and migration as well as for women, gender and sexual studies at the University of Yale was appointed FAU Ambassador. With the support of Prof. El-Tayeb, FAU hopes to further consolidate its key research priority of cultural values, religions and human rights.
Renate Wittern Sterzel Prize
The Renate Wittern Sterzel Prize is awarded by the University in recognition of ideas and projects for promoting equality of opportunity for both women and men and for promoting diversity at the University. This year, it was awarded to the team responsible for organizing DIPHER-22 and the working group AG Gender Medicine from the student association for medical students.
The DIPHER conference (Diversity in Physics for the Diversity of Physics in Erlangen), that was held for the first time in 2022 at FAU with over 100 participants, combines subject-specific presentations with a forum for sharing experiences concerning gender and diversity. The aim of the conference is to raise awareness, dedication and acceptance of equality and diversity at the Department of Physics and the Max Planck Institute in Erlangen to a new level. The organizers intend putting at least some of the prize money towards organizing a DIPHER conference in 2024 on the topic of “People of Color in Science”.
In 2021, the student association for medical students founded the working group AG Gender Medicine and designed the compulsory elective subject “Gender medicine – routes towards gender-sensitive medicine.” With this teaching unit led by students, the working group hopes to raise awareness for the topic of gender in medicine, teaching the basics of current research and discussing gender-sensitive recommendations for action, as well as providing food for thought. They intend to use the prize money to make the teaching unit even better.
Prizes from the Hans-Wilhelm and Helga Schüßler Foundation and the DAAD
International students at FAU who have made a lasting impression whilst studying in Germany thanks to their outstanding academic achievements and commitment to social or intercultural projects are awarded the Hans-Wilhelm and Helga Schüßler prize and the prize from the German Academic Exchange Service (the DAAD prize).
The prize from the Hans-Wilhelm and Helga Schüßler Foundation was awarded to Ádila Brindel. She completed her Master’s degree in Cultural Geography at FAU in 2021 with an excellent result and has been working on a doctoral degree in digital and political geography since 2022. However, she is not only an exceptional student, she also provides advice and mentoring to her fellow international students during her day to day life at university. In 2020, she set up the International Reading Circle in Feminist Studies, which is run each semester.
The DAAD prize was awarded to the Pakistani student Aisha Abdul Quddus. She has been studying Advanced Materials and Processes at FAU since 2020. In her year, she was the only one of 690 applicants selected for the MAP scholarship. She is a highly motivated language student. Aisha Abdul Quddus helps other international students settle in to Erlangen and Nuremberg, acts as a buddy and organizes various events.
This year, the habilitation prizes donated by the University Association were awarded to the following researchers for their habilitations:
Faculty of Humanities, Social Sciences, and Theology
Dr. Linda Becker
PD Dr. Moritz Florin
Faculty of Business, Economics, and Law
PD Dr. Christian Rückert
Faculty of Medicine – Carl Thiersch Prize
PD Dr. Jay Patankar
Faculty of Sciences – Emmy Noether Prize
PD Dr. Lisa Bäumer
Faculty of Engineering – Wolfgang Finkelnburg Prize
Prof. Dr. Jakob Albert
Teaching prize for outstanding teaching at FAU
Since 2016, FAU has awarded the University teaching award in recognition of excellent achievements in teaching every year.
Faculty of Humanities, Social Sciences, and Theology
Faculty of Business, Economics, and Law
Prof. Dr. Tobias Maiberger and Dr. David Schindler
Faculty of Medicine
Dr. Bettina Engel
Faculty of Sciences
Faculty of Engineering
Prof. Dr. Katharina Herkendell
Distinguished service medals
This year, FAU has awarded three distinguished service medals in recognition of extraordinary services rendered to the University: to Prof. Dr. Peter Dabrock, Prof. Dr. Petra Bendel and Prof. Dr. Rudolf Freiburg.
Prof. Dr. Peter Dabrock has been a professor of Systematic Theology II (Ethics) at the School of Theology at FAU since 2010 and was the chair of the German Ethics Council from 2016 to 2020. Prof. Drabock lives and breathes interdisciplinarity: In 2017, he was the first theologist to be elected as an ordinary member of the German National Academy of Science and Engineering (acatech) and was appointed to its Executive Board in 2022. He is a secondary member of the Department of Artificial Intelligence in Biomedical Engineering (AIBE) at FAU. Prof. Dabrock is an important point of contact for the national media. With his well-founded contributions tailored to media channels, he makes a significant contribution to the discussion in society on the ethical questions of our times.
Prof. Dr. Petra Bendel has been involved in the Institute of Political Science at FAU since 1997, and was the head of the Center for Area Studies until 2021. She is a founding member and deputy chair of FAU’s Center for Human Rights Erlangen-Nürnberg. She also initiated FAU’s United Nations Simulation “FAUMUN” and has supervised it for many years now. Prof. Bendel is a highly esteemed advisor in matters relating to academia and politics. As a member (2016-2022) and chair (2019-2022) of the Expert Council of German Foundations on Integration and Migration, she has advised policy-makers on migration and integration, two major topics for the future. Through her work, Petra Bendel has made a contribution towards shaping the opinion of all committees responsible for integration and migration policies and the general public. She is much in demand for media appearances and has made a vital contribution to public discussions. She clearly illustrates how academia can have an impact on society.
Prof. Dr. Rudolf Freiburg was Chair of English Studies at FAU from 1995 until 2022 and was responsible for organizing and coordinating the Erlangen University Days in Amberg and Ansbach for many years. It is largely thanks to him that these annual events have raised the public awareness and appreciation of FAU. With different topics each year, an interdisciplinary approach, and academic documentation of the various events, Prof. Freiburg created a highlight in the events calendar for both cities. Every year without fail, the traditional Erlangen University Days offer a highly topical and widely varied program showcasing the scientific expertise of FAU.
Detailed information on the event and award winners: www.dies.fau.de
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