550th Founder’s Day at LMU: awards granted to habilitation and doctoral candidates

24 Jun 2022

This year, the Munich University Association (Münchener Universitätsgesellschaft) is granting awards to six doctoral candidates and two habilitation candidates.

This year's award winners are:

Habilitation awards 2022

Travel behavior and decision-making processes of tourists

Prof. Bernd Huber, President of LMU Munich, and Prof. Peter Höppe, Munich University Association, with researchers.

Prof. Bernd Huber, President of LMU Munich, and Prof. Peter Höppe, Munich University Association, with researchers. | © LMU

PD Dr. Marion Karl, Faculty of Geosciences, is receiving a habilitation award from the Munich University Association (MUG) for her thesis, “The relationship between perception of space and spatial behavior: an application of behavioral geography in tourism studies.”

How do tourists make travel decisions? This is the question Marion Karl explored in her habilitation thesis. To this end, she investigated what role travel inhibitions and emotions play in the travel decision-making process. In addition, she analyzed changes in travel behavior under the influence of internal and external factors. Karl published her results in a total of 12 publications spanning a wide range of subject-matter and methodological emphases. Her work reveals that there are external travel inhibitions – such as natural hazards or terrorism – that affect tourists and are perceived differently from person to person. Furthermore, she identified internal travel inhibitions, such as health restraints or psychological personality traits, and combined theories from tourism research and psychology in order to better understand how and why these travel inhibitions influence the travel behavior and decision-making processes of tourists.

PD Dr. Marion Karl has been offered a chair at the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at the University of Surrey, which she will take up in September 2022.

Online commerce

PD. Dr. Benjamin Krämer, Faculty of Social Sciences, has been granted a habilitation award from the Munich University Association (MUG) for his thesis, “How to do things with the internet: online action theory.”

What does it actually mean, to buy and sell online? This is a highly topical question, which Benjamin Krämer explores in his thesis. Out of his investigations, the communication scientist has derived a theory of the digital society. Using case studies, he discusses the features that make online commerce distinct, such as liking, friending, commenting, signing petitions, and even recording fitness routines. He also explores the question as to whether technical systems can engage in commerce when they “recommend” music and movies, “recognize” images, or “block” access. As a work on the information society from an action theory perspective, the thesis is designed to invigorate the theoretical debate about the internet.

PD Dr. Benjamin Krämer is Assistant Professor (Akademischer Rat auf Zeit) at the Department of Media and Communication (IfKW) at LMU. He is also currently deputy professor at the University of Greifswald.

Doctoral awards 2022

Dynamics of cell migration

Dr. David Brückner, Faculty of Physics, is receiving a doctoral award from the MUG for his thesis, “Stochastic dynamics of migrating cells: a data-driven approach.”

In virtually all biological processes – from immune system responses to the development of cancer – body cells migrate through tissue. From a biophysical perspective, they face a common problem: The cells move in an environment full of boundaries; that is to say, they have to overcome physical obstacles. It is precisely these dynamics of cell migration that David Brückner investigated in his dissertation. Brückner used data-driven methods to obtain a better quantitative understanding of biological systems. He was able to show, that there are complex, non-linear regularities behind processes like the motion of enclosed cells. In his work Brückner has successfully applied the diverse theoretical insights and models to a wide range of experimental systems – from interacting cancer cells to artificial microtumours. An impressive feature of his dissertation is its exceptionally close combination of new theoretical approaches and experimental investigations.

Dr. David Brückner is currently a NOMIS Fellow and works as a postdoc at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria.

Effects of environmental toxins

Dr. med. vet. Sonja Fiedler, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, has been granted an award for her thesis, “Quantitative-stereological analysis of gill morphology of rainbow trout used in ecotoxicological research (Oncorhynchus mykiss).”

Changes in the gills of rainbow trout are considered sensitive indicators of the effects of numerous environmental toxins. As part of her dissertation, Sonja Fiedler developed an efficient method for quantifying and thereby objectively recording histomorphological changes. Due to the complicated three-dimensional architecture of gill tissue, this was either impossible or only possible with disproportionate effort with the methods commonly used in ecotoxicological research practice to date. Using a modern 3D imaging technique (light sheet fluorescence microscopy), Fiedler managed to solve this problem, such that even subtle effects of toxins can be efficiently, precisely, and swiftly detected and corresponding thresholds in bodies of water can be defined. Her method makes it possible to objectively record functionally important quantitative-morphological gill parameters and make comparisons between various studies. This avoids unnecessary repetition of experiments and is an effective means of reducing the number of fish used in ecotoxicological studies.

Dr. Sonja Fiedler is a research assistant at the Institute of Veterinary Pathology in the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at LMU.

On the ethics of volunteering

Dr. Laura Gozzer, Faculty for the Study of Culture, is receiving a doctoral award from the MUG for her thesis, “Doing justice to oneself and others: relational ethics when volunteering as a mentor.”

In her dissertation, Laura Gozzer lays out a cultural analysis of volunteering praxis. She investigates not only how mentors from Munich enter into individual relationships with refugees or the children of mentally ill parents, but she also places this social engagement in the context of contemporary society. She illuminates the key ethical questions of democracy and social cohesion that are posed by the volunteers, thus rendering doubt and dilemmas visible as an expression of social power relations. This opens up insights into the new self-conception of an urban middle class that no longer defends its own privileges as self-earned, but is also apt to question them. And last but not least, the thesis furnishes an analytical vocabulary for research into ethical self-formations, which is also applicable to other fields such as research into familial roles or ethical self-formation through one’s profession.

Dr. Laura Gozzer is a research assistant at LMU’s Institute for European Ethnology and Cultural Analysis.

Evolution of Lyme disease pathogens

Dr. Robert Rollins, Faculty of Biology, is receiving an award for his thesis, “Evolution and adaptation of tick-borne pathogens across Eurasia.”

In his dissertation, Robert Rollins investigates Borrelia bacteria, which cause the infectious Lyme disease and are transmitted by ticks. Using genetic and bioinformatic analyses, he studied the evolution and adaptation of the pathogens in various hosts and ticks in Europe and Asia. In his thesis, Rollins shows how the pathogens adapt to a constantly changing environment, which also has consequences for human health. His results can help us arrive at a better understanding of how intraspecific variation contributes to this adaptation and which mechanisms lead to pathogenesis in humans.

Robert Rollins is a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Avian Research “Vogelwarte Helgoland” (IfV) in Wilhelmshaven.

Influences on Chinese law

Dr. Matthias Veicht, Faculty of Law, has been granted an award for his thesis, “Reception and civil law codification in China since 1900 – a comparative legal analysis with a particular emphasis on liability for defects under sales law in Germany, mainland China, and Taiwan.”

The shaping influences of German law on Chinese civil law have been the object of intensive research for some time now, especially on the part of Chinese academics. However, there have been few studies investigating from the perspective of the German legal framework the question as to how the adoption of German law in China transpired in specific detail. Matthias Veicht, jurist and sinologist, narrows this gap with his thesis exploring the example of liability for defects under sales law. Using comparative legal and historical analysis, the dissertation opens up the possibility of understanding the processuality of the reception of foreign law and of tracking it over time in its various details and detours. In addition, it creates access to an understanding of the Chinese legal system, which is largely unfamiliar in Germany, and to the backgrounds to the reception process in terms of the prevailing legal culture.

Dr. Matthias Veicht is currently undertaking preparatory judicial service (Juristischer Vorbereitungsdienst) at the Higher Regional Court in Munich.

Animal Feed and microbiome

Dr. med. vet. Jasmin Wenderlein, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, is receiving a doctoral award for her thesis, “The influence of the degree of starch degradation of commercial experimental animal feed on the gastrointestinal microbiome of laboratory mice.”

Although mice are among the most commonly used experimental animals, knowledge about the microbiome – the totality of microorganisms – in their gastrointestinal tract is still very sketchy. In her dissertation, Jasmin Wenderlein has shown that different processing methods of commercial laboratory mice feed lead to a change in the nutrient composition and the degree of starch degradation of the feed. These changes affect the digestibility of the feedstuff and the development of the microbiome in the gastrointestinal tract of the mouse, as the veterinary scientist demonstrates by means of genetic analyses. Various formulations of a feedstuff can therefore have effects on the results and replicability of animal experiments.

Dr. Jasmin Wenderlein is a research assistant at the Chair of Bacteriology and Mycology in the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at LMU.

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