Three new ERC-funded projects at LMU

3 Dec 2018

The European Research Council has awarded three of its prestigious highly endowed Consolidator Grants to researchers at LMU.

Proposals submitted under the auspices of LMU by Bahador Bahrami, Tim Liedl and Florian Töpfl have won three of the Consolidator Grants awarded by the European Research Council (ERC) in its latest funding round. Both Bahrami and Liedl had previously received one of the coveted Starting Grants funded by the same agency. Consolidator Grants are worth up to 2 million euros over a period of 5 years, and are intended to enable highly talented researchers to further build on their innovative lines of inquiry. All of the ERC’s funding decisions are based solely on the candidate’s research record and the scientific merit of the proposed project.

The three new projects :

Psychologist Dr. Bahador Bahrami studies the cognitive and neurobiological bases of decision making, with a special focus on understanding how humans make decisions together. In January 2018 Bahrami became a staff member of the Department of General and Experimental Psychology led by Professor Hermann Müller, which is part of the Faculty of Psychology and Education at LMU. In his new ERC project entitled “Improving Collective Decisions by Eliminating Overconfidence: Mental, Neural and Social Processes”, he will investigate the consequences of overweening confidence in one’s own ability on the quality of decision-making, with particular reference to situations, in which decisions are taken by a group, and develop interventions to improve the quality of collective decision making.

Bahador Bahrami is a native of Iran, and studied at Teheran University of Medical Sciences. In 2004, he moved to University College London (UCL), where he obtained his PhD. Following a stint as a postdoc at the University of Aarhus in Denmark (2008-2010), he returned to UCL as a Fellow of the British Academy. The Consolidator Grant is in fact Bahrami’s second ERC grant. Prior to his move to LMU, he had won an ERC Starting Grant (acronym NEUROCODEC), which enabled him to set up and lead a research group on “Crowd Cognition” at UCL’s Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience. He has recently been awarded a Humboldt Senior Fellowship to visit the Berlin Centre for Adaptive Rationality at Max Planck Centre for Human Development.

Physicist Tim Liedl , a professor in the Soft Condensed Matter Group at LMU, is an expert in the art of DNA origami, which exploits the interactions responsible for the stability of the DNA double helix to build nanometer-scale three-dimensional structures in arbitrary shapes and extremely large copy numbers. In his new ERC project, entitled “DNA-based functional lattices”, he plans to use this approach to synthesize nanomaterials that are designed for specific applications, such as enhancing the efficiency of organic solar cells, or responding to external stimuli such as light or alterations in temperature. Intelligent materials that react in appropriate ways to environmental change can be used as optical switches, while precisely patterned nanometer-sized structural elements can be used to manipulate light in diverse ways. This would open up new opportunities in the field of optical information processing, and would also permit the fabrication of dynamic surfaces that react to thermal radiation.

Tim Liedl studied Physics at LMU, and obtained his PhD in 2007 for work done in the group led by Friedrich C. Simmel. He went on to do a postdoc in the Dana-Faber Cancer Institute at Harvard Medical School before returning to Munich. In 2009 Tim Liedl was appointed to a Professorship in Experimental Physics at LMU. In 2013 he obtained his first ERC funding, one of the agency’s highly competitive Starting Grants.

For more information on Tim Liedl’s research: Nanophysics: Saving energy with a spot of silver Biophysics: Genes on the rack

Media researcher Dr. Florian Töpfl is interested in how the new digital technologies are now transforming political communication, political processes and indeed the very structure of political order. In recent years, his research has focused on the authoritarian regimes in the region once dominated by Soviet Russia. Thus, since 2014 he has headed an Emmy Noether Junior Research Group on “The Power of the Internet in the Post-Soviet Region” at Freie Universität Berlin. His new ERC project is devoted to the topic “Consequences of the Internet for Russia’s Informational Influence Abroad”. Here, the aim is to investigate how Russian elites are exploiting new media to influence public opinion in Eastern and Central European countries, including Germany, Belarus and Estonia.

Florian Töpfl completed his Habilitation in Communication Science at LMU in 2017, with a postdoctoral thesis supervised by Professor Michael Meyen and entitled “The Power of the Internet in Russia”. He began his studies at Passau University, where he subsequently obtained his doctorate, with a thesis on “The Role of Media in Transformational Processes: How Do Pluralistic Media Landscapes Emerge – And If Not, Why Not?” During the period from 2012 to 2014, he held a Marie Curie Fellowship in the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics and Political Science.