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Prizes for innovative teaching and student research projects

9 Jul 2021

Good Teaching Day (9. July) is the day when the winners of awards for the best student research projects and innovative teaching are announced.

Virtual excursions, a coronavirus course, and an AI-based app for aspiring pianists were among the subjects featured on "Good Teaching Day” at LMU is when the best student research projects and the most striking innovations in teaching are announced. The top prize in the first category is worth 10,000 euros, the best research projects in each of five categories win 1000 euros.

The aims of Good Teaching Day are to stimulate discussion on innovative teaching strategies and promote networking between teaching staff, irrespective of their individual areas of expertise. The events are organized by LMU’s Vice President for Teaching and Studies – Professor Oliver Jahraus – and the Committee for Teaching and Studies. The Munich University Association sponsors five prizes for research projects carried out by students as well as prize for innovative teaching.

LMU Prize for Innovative Tuition

Practical Applications of Legal Tech

Faculty of Law
Sebastian Nagl

Sebastian Nagl designed his workshop on the applications of legal tech as one component of a program of studies at LMU’s Center for Legal Informatics. The course provided students with an outline of the ongoing digitalization of the market for legal advice. It began with an introduction to programming languages (JavaScript executed by the server, and HTML, CSS and JavaScript on the client side), which was followed by a practical module – a legal-tech hackathon, in which the participating students had to construct (within a specified time) graphical mock-ups of defined legal-tech applications. The Munich Legal Tech Student Association e.V., and the academic staffs of the Chair of Digitalization and Data Security Law and the Center for Digital Public Services at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) collaborated in the venture. An expert jury selected the best two projects, and Bavaria’s Minister for Justice Georg Eisenreich invited the winning teams to a meeting at the Ministry. This innovative module is characterized by its interdisciplinary interactions between Law and Informatics, and its forward-looking approach. Its implementation is an exemplary demonstration of how students can experience and participate directly in the digitalization processes that are transforming their subjects. The award for innovations in teaching is intended to encourage its designer to convert this workshop event into a permanent component of the curriculum in legal studies.

The Corona Course: The Science of SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19

Faculty of Medicine and German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases
Dr. Christine Wild-Bode and her team

The Corona Course was organized at very short notice by Dr. Christine Wild-Bode, in collaboration with an interdisciplinary team at LMU, the LMU Medical Center and the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) in Munich, and it includes a contribution from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Only in March 2020 did it become clear that courses during the Summer Semester would have to be given exclusively online. Nevertheless, an alternative digital course intended for students engaged in caring for patients during the developing pandemic was ready by early summer. It combined topics in basic medicine with clinical, psychological, epidemiological, biological, pharmacological and virological aspects of COVID-19, and it followed Wilhelm Humboldt’s recommendation to complement course content – even of a fundamental nature – with insights from current research. Its modular design, with defined learning goals, videos, podcasts and tests to assess one’s progress is a basic feature of the course, which enables it to be taught in modified forms to different target groups at different levels (it is currently suitable for second, third, fourth and clinical semesters) and it can be readily updated and supplemented as required. In addition, the immediate relevance of the content and the correspondingly high level of motivation transformed the project into a wide-ranging, national and international collaborative effort, which can serve as a model for similar courses in other subjects.

Revolutionary Artefacts: The Material Culture of an Uprising

Faculty for the Study of Culture
Prof. Dr. Lilia Diamantopoulou-Hirner

In this graduate-level course taught by Prof. Dr. Lilia Diamantopoulou-Hirner (Modern Greek Studies), students were charged with the organization, curation and virtual presentation of an exhibition devoted to the Greek War of Independence, which detached the country from the Ottoman Empire, and led to the founding of the modern State of Greece in 1821. The class collaboratively developed the concept for an exhibition to mark the 200th anniversary of this historic event in June 2021. In the course of the project, the students undertook independent research on original documentary and pictorial sources and selected exhibits in collaboration with archivists, historians and curators of museums. Under the supervision of experienced tutors, they then organized a virtual exhibition, which was presented on diverse social media, and aroused much interest well beyond the boundaries of the University. The whole project also drew attention to Modern Greek Studies as an interdisciplinary field of research. Plans are now being made for the presentation of the most significant objects, together with information on their historical context, in the form of a video tour of the Propylaea, the monumental city gate on Munich’s Königsplatz.

The Master in Biology Entry Program

Faculty of Biology
Dr. Daniela Meilinger and Dr. Dagmar Hann

With the Master in Biology Entry Program, Dr. Daniela Meilinger and Dr. Dagmar Hann have developed a course which gives students with different levels of prior knowledge an attractive and effective introduction to the various Master’s degree courses in Biology. The program recapitulates the phases of a typical Master‘s or doctoral thesis, from the introduction to the new research group to the publication of the results of the finished project. The students first become acquainted with their future colleagues and teachers in the course of a welcoming event. They then familiarize themselves with the backgrounds to their individual research projects by reading the relevant literature, and are introduced to the methodologies used in modern biology. Finally, they learn to formulate hypotheses and test them experimentally in the laboratory. The results are discussed in groups, statistically analyzed, transformed into publishable figures and presented in the form of a research article. The essential knowledge required is conveyed in three courses, which are designed to bring all the students up to the same level, thus providing them with all the skills they need for the successful completion of a Master’s course in a biological subject. The course also encompasses very distinct areas of modern biology, and makes use of a variety of methods and digital media (e.g. Animix, H5P, Scribbles and Moodle). The jury expressed the hope that this highly innovative project can be extended to other Natural Science Faculties.

Virtual Geological Field Trips

Faculty of Geosciences
PD Dr. Sara Carena

Field trips are an indispensable component of education in the Earth Sciences. But it is not always possible for all students to participate in these excursions, owing to practical restrictions on group sizes, or because the costs or the demands on physical fitness are too high. Privatdozentin Dr. Sara Carena has developed virtual courses that avoid these problems, and break down the classical distinctions between lectures and field trips. Her ‘virtual geological field trips’ transport students to an area in the southeast of Spain, which is of particular geological interest. These online excursions make use of 360° panoramas and three-dimensional models to illustrate and explain the origins of rock types and natural formations that provide insights into the Earth’s history. The material covered is very well organized and presented, which allows students to work through it at their own pace, while interactions between students, and with the lecturer, take place in groups sessions on Zoom. According to the jury, Dr. Carena‘s approach can serve as a model for all other disciplines in which field trips play an important role. In addition, the format offers other advantages in relation to sustainability, climate change and inclusion, and has made it possible to compensate for the effects of restrictions imposed on travel during the coronavirus pandemic. The jury is therefore confident that this highly innovative concept will set an example for many other courses in the future.

LMU Prizes for Student Research

Bachelor Phase/Undergraduate Level

Potentials of Financial Market-Based Industrial Clustering

Faculty of Economics
Moritz Fenske and Maximilian Schattauer

In the study carried out by Moritz Fenske and Tobias Maximilian Schattauer, the authors construct a novel, dynamic system for the classification of industries and the diverse sectors of the modern economy. Owing to recent advances in technology, the existing classification system, which statically assigns firms to a particular sector, does not always make meaningful distinctions. The clustering methods developed by Fenske and Schattauer offer a valuable extension of the current system, which will be of great interest to antitrust authorities and legislators, as well as portfolio managers of pension funds. The innovative and excellent study is also an unusual example of interdisciplinary research, insofar as it enriches the economist's perspective by including insights and methods drawn from the fields of informatics and physics.

Automated Killing: Military Robots and Responsibility

Faculty of Philosophy, Theory of Science and Religious Studies
Felicia H. A. Kuckertz

Who – or rather, what agency – bears the moral and legal responsibility in cases in which, owing to a technical error, a military robot or autonomous weapon system accidentally and illegitimately kills someone? This urgent issue is the subject of Felicia Kuckertz' Bachelor’s thesis, in which she discusses the problem from the perspective of moral philosophy. In doing so, she extends a number of existing philosophical approaches – for example, in relation to individuals – e.g. parents – who take on responsibilities for other persons or things – e.g. children – who are not equipped to do so. In the case at hand, the study shows that, while the issue of responsibility as such cannot be dismissed as irrelevant from the standpoint of moral philosophy, responsibility is effectively diffused among several different authorities.

Rubin’s Construction and Urn Models


Faculty of Mathematics, Informatics and Statistics
Lukas Beise

In his thesis, Lukas Beise constructs a mathematical model which allows the well-known social, economic and political phenomenon encapsulated by the phrase “the rich get richer (and the poor get poorer)” to be analyzed in a strictly formal context. The literature on economics and political science includes many attempts to analyze this centuries-old phenomenon – the disproportionate accumulation of wealth by individuals or institutions that are already well off. The basic mechanisms that underlie this class of phenomena can be explored using the abstract tools of mathematics. Assets are represented by spheres, and one sphere notionally represents the minimal asset that an individual can possess. These spheres are then randomly distributed between urns, with each urn standing for a person or an institution. The mathematical analysis of such an 'urn model' is a challenging task. In his thesis, Lukas Beise has extended known models and analytical methods, making them more versatile and informative, and has investigated their properties both analytically and in simulations. The study is mathematically excellent and highly original, with clear connections to sociological and political issues, and it opens up a range of further applications.

Lithium Imidazolate Covalent Organic Frameworks as Solid-State Electrolytes for Lithium-Ion Batteries

Faculty of Chemistry and Pharmacy
Vivian Meier

In her outstanding Bachelor’s thesis, Vivian Meier has made an important contribution to current research work on battery technology. The project focuses on the further development of lithium-ion-based batteries with regard to their capacity, stability and safety. Most of the rechargeable batteries that are now on the market make use of liquid electrolytes consisting of a lithium salt dissolved in an organic carbonate solution. The inflammable nature of these electrolytes raises significant concerns, and this has motivated the search for safer alternatives. Ionic covalent organic frameworks (COFs) offer one such alternative. As porous crystalline networks that can host metal ions, COFs enable lithium ions to form a solid-state electrolyte. In her project, the author has successfully established and improved methods for the synthesis of a number of potential lithium-conducting COFs.

Effects of Climate Change and Deforestation on Precipitation Recycling in the Amazon Basin – an Earth Model Analysis

Faculty of Geosciences
Gergana Petrova Gyuleva

The Amazonian rainforest is imminently endangered as a result of deforestation and climate change, and the impact of these factors on the distribution of rainfall in the Amazon Basin is of global relevance. This is because the rainforest not only serves as a hugely important carbon reservoir, it is also the home of indigenous peoples and is a major biodiversity zone. Using data based on the latest Earth System Models (ESMs), Gergana Gyuleva has explored the effects of several socio-economic developmental trajectories, characterized by different intensities of land use and climate change. In her project, she analyzed these simulations with the aid of appropriate statistical procedures, showing an excellent grasp of the relevant subject areas – which range from the dynamics of the atmosphere to ecosystem functions and their dynamics. Scientifically speaking, the study is of the highest quality, not only in terms of the approach employed and its integration into a broader context, but also with regard to its scope, analytical depth and the significance of its exciting results.

Master's Phase/Graduate Level

Radiomics and Artificial Intelligence for Molecular and Prognostic Characterization of Malignant Neoplasms of the Head and Neck

Faculty of Medicine
Stefan Haider

In his MSc. thesis, Stefan Haider has demonstrated that, by combining modern imaging methods with machine-learning algorithms, it is possible to successfully predict the outcome of molecular diagnostic procedures. By linking these two methodological approaches, he has significantly enhanced the efficacy of detection and diagnosis of malignant disorders in the region of the ear, nose and throat. The sheer number of publications and research reports at international conferences that has emerged from his work is just as impressive as his highly individual contributions to research collaborations with colleagues at leading American universities.

(Immuno-)Thrombosis in COVID-19

Faculty of Medicine
Alexander Leunig

In his research project on immunothrombosis in Covid-19, medical student Alexander Leunig made an early and highly significant contribution to the understanding of this novel viral disease. The study employed a number of innovative methodologies, such as the analysis of multidimensional data derived from flow cytometry – in which individual cells suspended in a fluid can be exposed to an electrical potential and/or a laser beam – and computer-based analysis of datasets obtained by single-cell RNA sequencing. Moreover, he independently established these techniques, or developed them further, and his work has led to a number of publications in leading journals. In the meantime, he has applied these methods to novel research questions related to COVID-19, and this work too is expected to result in further publications of international interest.

Pictorial Narratives of the Velvet Revolution: Czech Documentary Photography as a Protagonist in the Culture of Memory

Faculty of History and the Arts
Camilla Lopez

In her Master’s thesis, Camilla Lopez studied documentary photographs taken during a highly significant period in the history of Czechoslovakia. The term ‘Velvet Revolution’ refers to the period of transition between the socialist era and the re-establishment of democracy in late 1989, and is derived from the fact that change took place within a matter of weeks and was largely non-violent in character. As Lopez shows, the individual images and photographic portfolios of the time have a markedly narrative quality that in part explains why they have become an integral part of the country’s collective memory. Since history as a discipline has always tended to concentrate on the study of texts, the focus on imagery makes this study methodologically innovative.

Atmosphere and Impressions in Ethnological Documentaries: Conveying Embodied Knowledge and Sensory Perceptions with the Aid of Audiovisual Techniques

Faculty for the Study of Cultures
Helena Daçil Margot Held

The study carried out by Helena Held provides an ethnographic and multisensory analysis of sheep-farming and wool production on the Shetland Islands, based on a documentary film entitled “Shetland’s Common Thread”, which she produced together with two of her fellow students. The film describes the cultural aspects of the local economy, and depicts a complex relationship between individuals and their environment – in which the ever-changing weather conditions are experienced as a vital aspect of an active, living landscape. The question posed in Helena Held’s thesis is how sensory perceptions, other than those of an audiovisual nature, can be communicated to the viewer. This line of approach, together with her particular perspective on a traditional craft, transforms her study into an innovative, original and exemplary form of 'public science'.

EyePiano: An Assistive System for Piano Players Leveraging Gaze Input

Faculty of Mathematics, Informatics and Statistics
Johannes Sylupp

In his Master’s thesis, Johannes Sylupp explored potential applications of intelligent assistive systems in the specific context of musical education. In an iterative and human-centered process, he developed AI-based algorithms that can detect individual weaknesses in the playing of budding pianists – and provide appropriate feedback – by analyzing their eye movements. By integrating this capacity into his existing EyePiano system, which uses the same tracking approach to turn the pages of digital scores, Sylupp demonstrates the potential that lies in constructive collaboration between teacher, student and intelligent assistive systems.

The Influence of the Activation Function on Reservoir Computers

Faculty of Physics
Joschka Herteux

In the realm of complex statistical procedures, reservoir computing has become an important tool for the analysis of non-linear time series. However, the influence of the activation function and its symmetry properties on the predictability of the trajectories of non-linear systems has remained unknown up to now. In this context, Joschka Herteux has succeeded in deriving a new power law, which has already been the subject of a publication. In addition, he has provided an analytical proof that directly links the appearance of mirror attractors in standard predictions to the intrinsic symmetries of the reservoir equations. This finding has also been published in a leading journal. The discovery of the multifunctional character of reservoir computing opens up new opportunities for its application to neurobiological problems, as well as certain technical aspects of spaceflight and energy research. The implications to the project will form the subject of a doctoral thesis in cooperation with University College Cork (UCC).

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