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"I want to motivate young researchers"
On the occasion of this year’s Dies academicus, the University of Bern conferred the title of Honorary Senator upon Dr Celia Zwillenberg. In an interview with "uniaktuell", she tells us why her support of young researchers is so close to her heart.
Honey bee teenagers speed up the ageing process of their elders
Honey bee (Apis mellifera) colonies are complex societies, in which work is not distributed by a central power. How tasks are allocated among workers is still poorly understood. A research team from the Swiss Bee Research Center at Agroscope and the Institute of Bee Health at the University of Bern (both Switzerland), discovered that young adults influence this process by promoting older individuals to perform duties outside the hive, which shortens their life expectancy.
Einstein Lectures 2016: Video Podcasts
The audience was enthralled by Martin Hairer’s lectures on how infinities can be tamed and the mathematics of randomness. His exciting Einstein Lectures are now available as video podcast.
Evaluation of scientific rigor in animal research
In the course of the “reproducibility crisis” in biomedical research, scientific rigor in animal reserach, and thus the ethical justification of animal experiments, has also been questioned. Commissioned by the Swiss Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO), researchers from the University of Bern have assessed scientific rigor in animal experimentation in Switzerland. Their findings indicate widespread deficiencies in experimental conduct.
Intensification of Land Use Leads to the Same Species Everywhere
Intensive use of grasslands by humans reduces species diversity and makes the landscape more monotonous, so that the same species end up everywhere. Nature is then no longer able to provide us with many essential ‘services’, which range from soil formation for food production to pest control. Led by the Technical University of Munich and the University of Bern, 300 scientists studied the consequences of land-use intensification for biodiversity at the landscape level and for the first time could do this for a wide range of species groups.
Climate data as evidence
How is the influence of humans on the climate proven, and which ethical and legal consequences does this entail? Top-class speakers will address these questions at this year’s Hans Sigrist Symposium organised by the Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research and the Hans Sigrist Foundation to be held on 2 December at the University of Bern.
"Our research is relevant for society"
The Interdisciplinary Centre for Gender Research (IZFG) is celebrating its anniversary: For the last 15 years, gender research has been carried out across different faculties at the University of Bern, incorporating issues such as human rights, care, social precarity and postcolonialism. With this, the co-leaders Patricia Purtschert and Michèle Amacker are aiming to attract political attention.
United We Stand? Revisiting Community in North America
What does «community» mean in contemporary North America? With just a couple of days to go before the US-American presidential elections, an international conference organized by the Swiss Association for North American Studies (SANAS) underlined the pertinence of this question.
Cultural Dimensions of Sustainability
Sustainability is a central concept in today’s public as well as academic debates, but these are often exclusively related to the fields of ecology and economy. Instead, a workshop by the Department of English starts from the hypothesis that the implementation of sustainable ways of life will only be possible if cultural and interior dimensions of sustainability, i.e. the role literature, the visual arts and film plays in sustainable development, are taken into account. Internationally renowned theoreticians of culture have been invited to Bern whose 30-minute presentations will be followed by 30-minute discussions. The workshop starts on Thursday, November 10, 4pm at UniS (A301) and will be continued on Friday, November 11 (UniS A-119) and Saturday, November 12 (UniS A 301).
Reframing the Trade and Environment Linkage for Sustainable Development
Nations are developing renewable energy strategies to shift their domestic energy production from fossil fuels to more sustainable energy sources. In her NCCR Trade Regulation Brown Bag Seminar, Texas A&M University School of Law Professor Elizabeth Trujillo will examine how international trade agreements may both challenge and create opportunities for facilitating these local renewable energy strategies. The 30-minute presentation which is followed by a 30-minute Q&A session will take place on Tuesday, October 25 at 12:30 at the Anna Nussbaum Auditorium, World Trade Institute, Hallerstrasse 6.
Critique, Power, Affirmation
On Monday, October 24th, Rosi Braidotti, the Italian philosopher and pioneer in women’s studies, will hold a public lecture at University of Bern. She combines social and political theory, cultural politics, gender, feminist theory and ethnicity studies to thoroughly challenge binary thinking about what it means to inhabit a globalized world. The presentation is part of the Walter Benjamin Kolleg’s Distinguished Lectures Series «Ethics and/of Contingency» and will take place at 18:30 in room 201 of the main building of the University of Bern.
Bern-made laser altimeter taking off to Mercury
University of Bern’s Laser Altimeter BELA has been successfully tested during the last weeks and the last components will be delivered to ESA on 5 October. The first laser altimeter for inter-planetary flight to be built in Europe is part of the ESA BepiColombo mission to Mercury. Starting in 2024, it will provide data about the planet’s surface.
«It was the most exciting mission»
On Friday 30 September 2016 the European spacecraft Rosetta crashed into the comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Aboard the Rosetta spacecraft was the instrument ROSINA, which was developed by Physics Professor Kathrin Altwegg and her team at the University of Bern.
The first genomic history of Australia’s peopling
Australia has one of the longest histories of continuous human occupation outside Africa. But who exactly were the first people to settle there? Such a question has obvious political implications and has been hotly debated for decades. The first comprehensive genomic study of Aboriginal Australians reveals that they are indeed the direct descendants of Australia’s earliest settlers and diverged from their Papuan neighbours about 37’000 years ago (y.a.). The study also uncovers several other major findings on early human populations. The research is published today in Nature and is the result of a close collaboration between international research teams and representatives of Aboriginal Australian communities. It includes six researchers from the SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics – among whom, lead author Anna-Sapfo Malaspinas and group leader Laurent Excoffier, both from the University of Bern.
Humans and other Primates
The scientific view on human and animal behavior has changed over the past years. Not only humans, but other primates are now being depicted as political, cultural, even moral beings as well. In his guest lecture «Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?», the behavioral scientist Frans de Waal will focus on this topic. The event is part of the Collegium generale's new lecture series «Humans and other Primates» and will take place on Wednesday, September 28th at 18:15 in the Auditorium maximum (Room 110) in the main building of the University of Bern.
Secrets of honey-making by bees unveiled
From never seen before X-ray images of honey bee combs, a research team from Agroscope and the Institute of Bee Health at the University of Bern (both Switzerland) could study how honey is produced. The team used computer tomography to measure sugar concentration in the wax cells, without disturbing the sensitive mechanisms of the colony. They found that bees use several techniques to ripen honey.
Rochester-Bern Guest Lecture with David Gosset
On Thursday, September 22nd David Gosset, founder of the Euro-China-Forum and Rochester-Bern Professor, will give a guest lecture on «Navigating Global Disorder» in the auditorium of the main building. How will Brexit affect Europe and the world’s future? Furthermore, he will talk about the world’s mega-trends – demographic, technological, and geopolitical factors of change – but also about the redefinition of power.
Before the lecture there will be an info session on the Rochester-Bern Executive MBA starting at 17:15. Registration is open until September 18th via the event website.
Cross-border fight against parasites
The MeBoP (Middle Eastern Biology of Parasitism) Summer School took place for the first time from 25th July to 7th August at the University of Bern. A special feature of the course was that the 17 participants were students, researchers and doctors from countries that are particularly affected by diseases caused by parasites. «uniaktuell» spoke with Isabel Roditi, who played a decisive role in enabling the summer school to be held at the Institute of Cell Biology.
International conference KUNSTHALLEN
In contrast to collecting museums the model of the Kunsthalle is characterized by freedom and novelty. Due to its dynamic concept, this institutional format contributes to the formation of contemporary art in essential ways. The conference assembles international guests from diverse institutions and professional fields who will discuss the historical development, political implications as well as the societal positioning of the Kunsthalle. The institution’s role as curatorial field of experimentation, artistic material, and as a platform for transatlantic exchange will be examined as well. On September 2 and 3 at 9 a.m. in the main building and UniS. The Conference will be held in English.
Genetic code: Stop does not always mean stop
The genetic code is believed to be strongly conserved through evolution – from the earliest bacteria until today. But researchers from the Institute of Cell Biology of the University of Bern have now found two ciliate species where nature probably can be seen experimenting with the meaning of a codon, the building blocks of genetic communication.
Greater biodiversity in grasslands leads to higher levels of ecosystem services
The more it swarms, crawls and flies the better for humans, who benefit from the varied services provided for free by nature. This is the finding of a study by more than 60 researchers from a number of universities, including the Institute of Plant Sciences at the University of Bern and the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre, in Germany. The results underline the necessity of maintaining species-rich ecosystems for the good of humanity.
Synthetic Biology: Engineering a Chemical Switch into a Light-driven Proton Pump
Synthetic biology is an emerging and rapidly evolving engineering discipline. Within the NCCR Molecular Systems Engineering, Bernese scientists have engineered a chemically switchable version of the light-driven proton pump proteorhodopsin – an essential tool for efficiently powering molecular factories and synthetic cells.
Atmospheric chemistry on paper
Normally computers speed up calculations. But with his new pen-and-paper formula Kevin Heng of the University of Bern gets his results thousands of times faster than using conventional computer codes. The astrophysicist calculates the abundances of molecules (known as atmospheric chemistry) in exoplanetary atmospheres. Ultimately, deciphering the abundances of molecules allows us to interpret if features in a spectrum are due to physics, geology or biology.
A toxic quick-change artist
Molecular biologists at the University of Bern have discovered a mechanism which enables a deadly toxin to penetrate and destroy human cells. Their findings can serve a rational framework for the design and development of new anti-toxin drugs.
Award-winning ghost researcher
Yesterday Zoë Lehmann Imfeld was awarded the Marie Heim-Vögtlin Prize from the Swiss National Science Foundation for her thesis on the figure of the ghost in Victorian literature. In an interview with "unikatuell" she tells us from where her interest in ghosts comes, and why she is now a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Space and Habitability CSH, where exoplanets and the possibilities of extraterrestrial life are explored from different perspectives.
CaSSIS sends first image of Mars
The Mars Camera CaSSIS on the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter captured its first images of the Red Planet this week. The pictures are a part of the mission’s preparations for arriving at its destination in October.
Weak bees make strong colonies
Colonies of the Eastern honey bee, the original host of parasitic Varroa destructor mites, survive infestations that are fatal to Western honey bees. A research team from Agroscope and the Institute of Bee Health at the University of Bern discovered that a large proportion of infested Eastern honey bee larvae die, prompting their elimination from the colony, together with that of their parasites. Counter-intuitively, weak individuals contribute to society survival by preventing the parasite to spread.
The gardener’s favourite ornaments deciphered
Garden petunias are amongst the most popular ornamental plants. For the first time, it has been possible to decipher the whole genome sequence of the wild ancestors of the garden petunia. The comprehensive study was published in the renowned specialist magazine Nature Plants last week. Cris Kuhlemeier from the Institute of Plant Sciences, who coordinated the study with over 50 participating researchers, explains why these research results are so important now.
Consensus in the Fight Against Colorectal Cancer
In colorectal cancer, the presence of invasive tumor cells at the advancing edge of the tumor can provide valuable information on prognosis. Initiated by the Colorectal Cancer Research Group at the Institute of Pathology, University of Bern, a consensus conference was held to determine how this phenomenon should best be put into practice. Together with colleagues from eleven countries, an internationally standardized scoring method was established.
The Einstein forgery
There is currently a forged letter going round on the internet. In the alleged historical writing of 1907, the University of Bern rejects Albert Einstein’s habilitation. The university archivist Niklaus Bütikofer explains which errors the forger had made and tells the true story by means of the original documents.
When consumers sabotage brands
When consumers deliberately attack a brand with the objective of causing harm to it, this is known as «consumer brand sabotage». Marketing researchers of the University of Bern have examined this phenomenon in more detail, identified backgrounds and motives of brand sabotage and present initial countermeasures.
“What particularly fascinates me is the potential application of my research”
Cancan Huang, Chinese Postdoc at the Department for Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Bern, has been honored with “The Chinese Government Award for Outstanding Self-financed Students Abroad“. “uniaktuell“ has spoken to this young researcher about the challenges abroad and has asked her what is so fascinating about molecular electronics.
Facilitating Students’ Intercultural Learning Through Study Abroad
During a high-level kick-off event for Project MILSA (Mentoring Intercultural Learning Through Study Abroad) held at the University of Bern on April 14 and 15, 2016, experts from around the globe shared valuable insights on intercultural learning and study abroad aimed at the development of a mentoring program for outgoing students.
Newly created Swiss Polar Institute to launch a major Antarctic expedition
The Swiss Polar Institute with participation of the University of Bern will study the Earth’s poles and extreme environments. Its first project is ambitious: an international scientific expedition, comprising 55 researchers from 30 countries working on 22 research projects, will circumnavigate Antarctica.
Planet 9 takes shape
Astrophysicists at the University of Bern have modelled the evolution of the putative planet in the outer solar system. They estimate that the object has a present-day radius equal to 3.7 Earth radii and a temperature of minus 226 degrees Celsius.
3000 drawings for CHEOPS space mission on the Web
Children in Switzerland and all over Europe made thousands of imaginative drawings of stars, planets, rockets, satellites, and aliens. 3000 entries to the drawing campaign organised by the University of Bern will fly into space with CHEOPS, a space telescope being built in collaboration between the European Space Agency (ESA) and Switzerland. You can now have a look at the drawings on an interactive map of Europe on the Web.
Predators drive social complexity
Variation in social organization and behavior of of highly social animals like cichlids is primarily explained by predation risk and related ecological factors. This stresses the significance of predation for social evolution.
Paracetamol is not more effective than placebo against osteoarthritis pain
Paracetamol did not show any clinically relevant efficacy in the most comprehensive analysis of pain relievers among patients with knee and hip osteoarthritis to date. In contrast, the medicine diclofenac is more effective than many newer pain relievers on the market. This is the result of a large-scale meta-analysis by Bernese researchers.
An eminent visitor from Mongolia
The Mongolian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lundeg Purevsuren, visited the Institute for the Science of Religions at the University of Bern accompanied by the Mongolian ambassador. He was interested in the Mongolian studies course and a unique collection.
New virus transmission route discovered in pigs
Japanese Encephalitis (JE) virus causes serious inflammation of the brain in people and fertility problems in pigs. Mosquitoes were previously the only known transmission route. However, the virus can also be spread from pig to pig by direct contact, and this could enable it to circulate in pigs during the mosquito-free winter season.
Aggressive cichlids: attack is the best form of defence
Researchers from Bern, England and Australia have observed the "Princess of Lake Tanganyika" cichlid in territorial conflicts and made an astonishing discovery; the conflicts distract the animals from their surrounding environments to such an extent that they notice lurking dangers only very late – yet the fish have a strategy which saves their lives: instead of trying to escape from predators, they defend themselves.
Two New Vice-Rectors Elected
The Executive Council of the Canton of Bern has elected two new Vice-Rectors to serve in the Executive Board of the University of Bern. Daniel Candinas is taking over the Vice-Rectorate Research from Christian Leumann, who for his part will become the University of Bern Rector in early August. Achim Conzelmann, who is taking over the Vice-Rectorate Development, was elected as the second new Vice-Rector.
Molecular Mechanism responsible for a neurodegenerative disease discovered
Scientists from the University of Bern have discovered a mechanism which is responsible for the degeneration of Purkinje cells in the cerebellum in a neurodegenerative disease called Spinocerebellar ataxia type 1. The results of their study open up new avenues for the future treatment of cerebellum associated degenerative disorders.
Promising approach awarded for combating antibiotic resistance
The University of Bern’s Hans Sigrist Prize, which is endowed with 100,000 Swiss francs, was awarded this year to microbiologist Luciano Marraffini on the occasion of the Dies academicus on Saturday, 5 December. Marraffini was honoured for his innovative research approach in the field of antibiotic resistance. The online magazine “uniaktuell” was able to be on hand during the interview conducted by the Hans Sigrist Foundation with the prize winner.
«Dance your Ph.D. contest»
Florence Metz from the Institute of Political Science won the «Dance your Ph.D.!» contest of «Science» magazine. She has bested 31 other teams to become this year’s "Dance Your Ph.D." winner with her video on water protection policies.
Einstein Lectures 2015: Video Podcasts
The audience was enthralled by Alan Guth’s lectures on the Multiverse, the Eternal Inflation and the Arrow of Time. His exciting Einstein Lectures are now available as video podcast.
Arun M. Kumar brings ‘good news’ from US on innovative investments
The World Trade Institute WTI was pleased to host the Director General of the US and Foreign Commercial Service on 12 November during his visit to Switzerland aimed at supporting and encouraging the deepening of the “robust commercial partnership” between the two countries.
Software detects at-risk tissue in record time following a stroke
The FASTER software developed in Bern can detect within minutes the areas of the brain that will be left with long-term damage following a stroke. The previous version –
BraTumIA for tumour segmentation – has been in use around the world since 2014.
"The comet is much more interesting than we expected"
The ESA Rosetta probe has been orbiting the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko for about a year. The University of Bern is taking part in the mission with the mass spectrometer ROSINA. In an interview, Kathrin Altwegg, a Bern resident and research scientist specialised in outer space, reviewed the discoveries they've made up until now, offers a forecast for Rosetta’s spectacular exit – and explains how much the award from the Bernese Handels- und Industrieverein she received on October 19 means to her.
Honey bee queens highly vulnerable to two neonicotinoid insecticides
Throughout the northern hemisphere beekeepers have struggled to maintain adequate numbers of honey bee colonies for crop pollination and honey production due to dramatic increases in colony deaths each year. Recent surveys of beekeepers suggest that poor queen health is an important reason for these losses, but why queen health is now being affected is not understood. A research team from Bern, Switzerland and Wolfville, Canada has found that honey bee queens, which are crucial to colony functioning, are severely affected by two neonicotinoid insecticides.
When climate change is at the door
It is often suggested that we should emphasise the local effects of climate change in order to increase the willingness of the general populace to stand up for climate change mitigation. From a psychological point of view, however, it is clear that this is a significantly simplified concept of the effect. This is demonstrated in the work of the Bernese researcher Adrian Brügger whose work has just been published in the prestigious specialist journal "Nature Climate Change".
"Reading Dürrenmatt was a gloriously awkward experience"
Wendy Law-Yone is the fourth Friedrich Dürrenmatt guest professor at the University of Bern. On the occasion of the inaugural event for her guest semester, the Burmese author recounted her literary connection to Dürrenmatt and to the German language on 22 September in the Haus der Universität. She read excerpts from her book "Irrawaddy Tango" and spoke with anglicist Virginia Richter and the comparatist Oliver Lubrich.
Trade rules and the WTO
The University of Bern online magazine Uniaktuell spoke to WTI Managing Director, Joseph Francois, ahead of this year’s World Trade Forum on ‘20 Years of the WTO’, which opens on 25 September 2015.
The balance between new-found freedom and new challenges
On Orientation Day, the university was amidst the academic future. Introductory events and informational stands were on hand to help students steel themselves for their entrance into their university life. "uniaktuell" was on the lookout for voices and wanted to hear from the fledgling students whether there was anything they were dying to ask.
Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel: “Rome wasn’t built in a day”
Germany’s Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel has received her honorary doctorate at the Universi-ty of Bern, which the senate and university management awarded her in 2009. She subsequently addressed the current refugee crisis in her speech.
Ebola vaccine tested successfully for the first time
A vaccine against the Ebola virus, tested in West Africa for the first time in a field trial, has proved to be effective. People who had come into close contact with someone recently infected, and who are therefore at particularly high risk, were vaccinated. Investigators from the University of Bern were heavily involved in designing the World Health Organization (WHO) «Ebola ça Suffit» vaccine trial.
Comets: Soft shell, hard core?
Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko poses new riddles: Surface material measurements performed by the «Philae» landing module indicate that the near surface material might have changed since its formation. Up to now, many researchers had assumed that it has remained in virtually the same state since its formation about 4.5 billion years ago. The results of the study, in which researchers from the University of Bern were also involved, have been published in «Science» magazine.
Particulate matter from modern gasoline engines damages our lungs
Particulate matter from gasoline engines is harmful to our airways, regardless of whether the engines are a bit older or comply with recent EU standards. Fine dust particles allow pathogens to enter the lungs easier. Researchers at the University of Bern and the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI have shown this conducting a realistic laboratory experiment.
Looking for extra-terrestrial life in alien oceans
Great honour for Nicolas Thomas from the University of Berne: The scientist was selected as part of the imaging team for NASA’s Europa Clipper mission. The mission will help to answer the question whether there is life in the oceans of Jupiter’s moon, Europa.
How the brain «remembers» pain
Scientists from Berne have discovered a mechanism, which is responsible for the chronification of pain in the brain. The results of their study suggest new strategies for the medical treatment of chronic pain.
A Doctor for Arts
It is now definitely possible to earn a doctorate in Bern at the combined Graduate School of the Arts of the University of Bern and the Bern University of the Arts. This
artistic/creative-scientific doctoral programme is one of a kind.
Heart catheterization: Change in methods lowers mortality
The groin is the usual access point for investigating or treating the heart with a catheter, but using the wrist as access point reduces bleeding and lowers mortality. These findings are from an international study with major involvement from the University of Bern published today in the Lancet.
Norway rats reciprocate help according to the quality of the help they received
Research performed at the University of Bern indicates that animals beyond Homo sapiens consider the value of previously received help when deciding whether to help a social partner.
Scientists develop active substance for fatal muscle wasting in male children
Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a congenital disease which causes muscle degeneration and eventual death in teenagers. Recently, researchers from Bern developed an active substance, which they together with an international team tested successfully.
Gas variations are suggestive of seasons on comet Chury
Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko continues to reveal more of its secrets: Researchers in Bern have detected considerable variations in the gas escaping from the comet. This could amount to seasonal changes on the tiny celestial body. Meanwhile, the camera OSIRIS on board the Rosetta comet probe is revealing new details of the surface of «Chury».