Media releases 2018
Executive Council applies for a credit for innovative research and implementation center
A world-leading research and implementation center is to be established in the field of nature and humanity at the University of Bern. The application-oriented center aims to improve nature conservation and environmental protection in line with the needs of economic and social development. The University of Bern, with the involvement of the Canton of Bern, will prepare a funding application worth CHF 100 million for the attention of the Hansjörg Wyss Foundation by April 2019. If successful, the university and the canton would each contribute CHF 50 million to this center over a period of ten years. The Executive Council will request a credit from the Grand Council in the 2019 spring session.
Preserving soil quality in the long term
The National Research Programme "Sustainable Use of Soil Resources" (NRP 68) proposes various measures to safeguard soil quality in Switzerland in the long term. The Centre for Development and Environment (CDE) and the Institute of Geography have investigated the impacts of soil use by Switzerland abroad.
Bern celebrates 50 years since the moon landing
A science festival will be celebrated in Bern on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing from June 27 to 30, 2019. The University of Bern and Bern Welcome are delighted that the European Space Agency ESA is supporting Bern’s activities as a partner.
Satellite data expose looting
Globally archaeological heritage is under threat by looting. The destruction of archaeological sites obliterates the basis for our understanding of ancient cultures and we lose our shared human past. Research at University of Bern shows that satellite data provide a mean to monitor the destruction of archaeological sites. It is now possible to understand activities by looters in remote regions and take measures to protect the sites.
Great success for the promotion of young researchers at the University of Bern
The Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) has pledged to finance nine new assistant professorships at the University of Bern within the framework of the first "Eccellenza" call for proposals. At the same time, an "Eccellenza" grant was also approved, resulting in a total of approximately 16.2 million in funding flowing to Bern.
Four researchers from the University of Bern are awarded EU research prizes
Four of the highly-regarded “ERC Consolidator Grants”, the research prizes of the European Research Council (ERC), have been awarded to researchers at the University of Bern. This reflects the excellence of the research in Bern – especially in the fields of medicine, as well as in space and climate research.
The polar regions communicate via "postcards" and "text messages"
The University of Bern was involved in a new study that has found two types of climatic connection between the North Atlantic and Antarctica. One is a rapid atmospheric channel and the other a much slower connection through the ocean. During the last glacial period, these links resulted in abrupt climatic changes – and could so again in future.
How we can get more out of our forests
Most European forests are primarily used for timber production. However, woodlands also offer spaces for recreation and they store carbon but it is not clear how forests can be managed for these multiple benefits. A new study under the direction of the University of Bern is now showing how forestry can be improved so that wooded areas can fulfill as many services as possible.
Markus Brönnimann appointed as new Administrative Director
The Canton of Bern Executive Council has appointed Markus Brönnimann as the new Administrative Director of the University of Bern. Brönnimann had been nominated for the appointment by the University of Bern’s senate. As of June 1, 2019, he succeeds Daniel Odermatt, who passed away in July 2018.
Recommendations for new EU Framework Program Horizon Europe
The University of Bern is a member of The Guild, a network of research-intensive universities. Within the framework of the legislative work on the new EU Framework Program for Research and Innovation, The Guild has now issued recommendations to the European Parliament, the Council of the EU and the European Commission. The Guild recommends that the scientific leadership of top researchers and a global orientation of the Horizon Europe program are treated as top priorities.
Emotional intelligence: a new criterion for hiring?
Researchers from UNIGE and UNIBE have developed an emotional intelligence test for the workplace that can be used to assess and predict an employee’s abilities in interpersonal relations and leadership capabilities.
Award for project on the positive influence of maternal intestinal microbes
This year's Johanna Dürmüller-Bol DBMR Research Award from the Department for BioMedical Research (DBMR) at the University of Bern goes to Stephanie Ganal-Vonarburg. The Research Award, endowed with CHF 30,000, was presented at the "Day of BioMedical Research", on Wednesday, November 7, 2018.
Wyss Foundation supports the University of Bern
The Wyss Foundation announced yesterday that it will begin a global conservation campaign. On a related note, they also announced that they will be working on a year-long pilot project in Kenya and Peru, together with the University of Bern. This should highlight possibilities of how sustainable development for people and the environment can be put into practice in the future.
Switzerland-wide platform for cell therapy launched in Bern
Regenerative Medicine is one of the fastest growing sectors in biomedical research – replacing diseased cells, tissues or organs. A national, public-private platform has now been launched in Bern under the name "Translational and Clinical Bio-Manufacturing (TCBM)". Its goal is to share expertise in the translation of research results into clinical application to promote Regenerative Medicine as well as new cell therapy approaches in Switzerland.
6,4 Million Euros for research into the birth of agriculture in Europe
An interdisciplinary team from the universities of Bern, Oxford and Thessaloniki was awarded a grant of 6.4 million euros from the European Research Council (ERC). The team included researchers from the fields of archeology and biology. They received one of the highly competitive "ERC Synergy Grants". Aided by studies conducted in the lakes in Greece and in the south of the Balkans, the project should show how the climate, environment and agriculture have developed over the last 10,000 years and what influences these factors have had on each other.
Journey to Mercury with Involvement from Bern
On Saturday 20 October 2018, at 03:45 a.m. CET, the BepiColombo space probe is to set off on its journey to Mercury from the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. On board the European Space Agency (ESA) and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)’s joint space probe are instruments which were designed and built at the Physics Institute of the University of Bern: the laser altimeter BELA – the largest and most sensitive instrument of the mission – and the innovative mass spectrometer STROFIO.
Human hair cells from a test tube
Researchers from the University of Bern and Bern University Hospital have managed for the first time to differentiate human inner ear cells in a laboratory from somatic progenitors and to investigate their origin. This will make it possible to develop new treatment methods for hearing impairment in the future.
Narcolepsy, scientists unmask the culprit of an enigmatic disease
Patients with a rare disease, called narcolepsy, suffer of excessive daytime sleepiness and cataplexy. A study published in the renowned scientific journal Nature reports the cause of the disease, which has previously been a mystery. The study is the result of a close collaboration between researchers from the University Sleep-Wake-Epilepsy-Centre Bern at the University Hospital (Inselspital), the Institute for Research in Biomedicine in Bellinzona and ETH Zurich.
A very special protein synthesis machinery
Sleeping sickness-causing parasites contain an unusual protein synthesis machinery. A team of researchers from ETH Zurich and the University of Bern resolved its very special structure for the first time.
Strenghtening the position as a medical center
A hundred additional medical students are starting their studies at the University of Bern’s Faculty of Medicine in the new semester. The University of Bern is also driving its international networking, public private partnerships, digitalization and various construction projects forward in the new academic year.
Scent of a woman: what makes it attractive?
Reproductive hormones control a woman’s monthly cycle and regulate fertility. Reproductive hormones are also related to how attractive a woman smells a study now shows. Researchers at the University of Bern demonstrate that some women smell better to men than others. Namely those who are “fittest” for reproduction.
Jupiter had growth disorders
Researchers of the Universities of Bern and Zürich and of ETH Zürich show how Jupiter was formed. Data collected from meteorites had indicated that the growth of the giant planet had been delayed for two million years. Now the researchers have found an explanation: Collisions with kilometer-sized blocks generated high energy, which meant that in this phase hardly any accretion of gas could take place and the planet could only grow slowly.
New comet models thanks to "Chury" data
The MiARD project (Multi-instrument Analysis of Rosetta Data) was a 30-month international research project led by the University of Bern to make the best use of the vast amount of data produced by the Rosetta mission. The most important results, models and an artistic project on MiARD have now been presented.
How an herbivore hijacks a nutrient uptake strategy of its host plant
The struggle for iron determines the fate of maize and insect pest: Maize plants release secondary metabolites into the soil that bind to iron and thereby facilitate its uptake by the plant. The Western corn rootworm, the economically most important maize pest worldwide, is attracted by these complexes, extracts the bound iron from the maize plant and uses it for its own nutrition. With these insights, researchers from the University of Bern, Switzerland, and the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany, provide a new explanation for the extraordinary success of the Western corn rootworm as a global maize pest.
Marine heatwaves are threatening ecosystems
Marine heatwaves can irreversibly damage ecosystems and, therefore, also present a threat to fishing. As a team led by physicist Thomas Frölicher from Bern showed in a study just published in the journal Nature, the number of marine heatwaves has increased dramatically in past decades. This trend will further intensify as a result of climate change.
Iron and titanium discovered in the atmosphere of an exoplanet
For the first time, researchers of the universities of Bern and Geneva have proven the presence of iron and titanium in the atmosphere of an exoplanet. The existence of these elements in gas form was theoretically predicted by a team led by the Bernese astronomer Kevin Heng and has now been confirmed by Geneva-based astronomers.
Zika virus is infectious for a shorter time than previously thought
Zika virus (ZIKV) may be sexually transmissible for a shorter period than previously estimated, according to a systematic review published this week in PLOS Medicine by Michel Counotte and Nicola Low of the Institute of Preventive Medicine (ISPM), and colleagues from the World Health Organization, US Centers for Disease Control and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. The review included analysis of data from both human and animal studies, and was conducted to describe the epidemiology of sexual transmission of ZIKV.
Self-worth of children and teenagers develops more positively than supposed
Contrary to previous assumptions, self-esteem already grows during childhood and doesn’t drop during adolescence. Furthermore, it increases considerably as a young adult until it reaches its peak at the age of roughly 60 to 70 years old. Our self-esteem only declines in old age. Researchers at the Institute of Psychology at the University of Bern have been able to show the development over the lifespan in a comprehensive study.
Blood Pressure Medication can be detrimental in Old Age
Old and frail patients have an increased mortality risk and increased memory problems when their blood pressure is lowered too much through medication. This is what has been discovered by researchers from the University of Bern and University of Leiden (Netherlands) in a large-scale study – thus relativising the official recommendations for antihypertensive medications. They were awarded with the 2018 research prize by the Kollegium für Hausartztmedizin [College of General Medicine] for their work.
How to find signs of life in space
Astrophysicists of the University of Bern, Switzerland, contributed to a series of NASA papers that lay out strategies to search for signs of life beyond our solar system. They assume that the detection of atmospheric signatures of a few potentially habitable planets may possibly come before 2030.
Where Medical Technology and Astrophysics Meet
At the University of Bern, astrophysicists of the Center for Space and Habitability (CSH) teamed up with medical technology researchers to develop a new method to analyse spectra of atmospheres of planets beyond our solar system. The unusual collaboration applied an artificial intelligence tool to study the chemistry of exoplanetary atmospheres.
First international higher education program in sleep medicine
The first CAS (Certificate of Advanced Studies) in "Sleep, Consciousness and Related Disorders" course is starting this autumn. The new higher education course in a growing field of medicine is a cooperation between the University of Bern and the Università della Svizzera italiana, as well as the Inselspital Bern and the Ente Ospedaliero Cantonale in Ticino.
Lessons about a future warmer world using data from the past
Selected intervals in the past that were as warm or warmer than today can help us understand what the Earth may be like under future global warming. A latest assessment of past warm periods, published in Nature Geoscience by an international team of 59 scientists from 17 nations, shows that in response to the warming ecosystems and climate zones will spatially shift and on millennial time scales ice sheets will substantially shrink.
New defense mechanism against oxygen radicals discovered
Oxygen radicals occur as a by-product when living beings burn carbohydrates or fat. They are suspected of accelerating the ageing process in humans and animals, and to be partly responsible for severe illnesses such as Alzheimer’s or certain types of cancer. Researchers at the University of Bern and the University of Stockholm have now discovered a so far unknown defense mechanism against oxygen radicals which could serve as a base for various medications.
Tracking down the mystery of entangled particles of light
Bernese researchers have taken an important step towards new measurement methods such as quantum spectroscopy. In an experiment, they succeeded in uncovering part of the mystery surrounding the so-called "entangled photons" and gaining fine control on the measured correlations.
Research-intensive universities call for a strengthening of European science and innovation
The Guild, of which the University of Bern is a member, calls on Horizon Europe and Erasmus to strengthen Europe's global position in science, education and innovation.
A single control center for sleep and wake in the brain
Until now, it was thought that multiple brain areas were needed to control sleep and wakefulness. Neuroscientists from Bern have now identified one single control center for the sleep-wake cycle in the brain. The findings are of great importance for finding new sleep therapies.
New Drug target to combat prostate cancer
A study by an international team of researchers from University Children’s Hospital Bern and the Autonomous University of Barcelona has discovered how the production of specific human sex hormones known as androgens is interrupted. These findings can help in development of new therapeutic approaches, as the overproduction of androgens is associated with many diseases including prostate cancer in men and polycystic ovary syndrome in women.
The path to success in fish sperm
In many animals, males pursue alternative tactics when competing for the fertilization of eggs. Some cichlid fishes from Lake Tanganyika breed in empty snail shells, which may select for extremely divergent mating tactics. A recent study at the Institute of Ecology and Evolution of the University of Bern shows that different male types within a species produce divergent sperm, specializing either in speed or longevity.
Focus on space debris
The Astronomical Institute of the University of Bern (AIUB) has extended its observatory in Zimmerwald with two additional domed structures, and has renovated a dome. As a result, there are now six fully automated telescopes available for observation and specifically for detecting and cataloguing space debris. The research station is thus gaining even greater international significance under the name "Swiss Optical Ground Station and Geodynamics Observatory".
Cosmic ravioli and spaetzle
The small inner moons of Saturn look like giant ravioli and spaetzle. Their spectacular shape has been revealed by the Cassini spacecraft. For the first time, researchers of the University of Bern show how these moons were formed. The peculiar shapes are a natural outcome of merging collisions among similar-sized little moons as computer simulations demonstrate.
Spoilt for choice? How neuroscience can explain your attitude toward freedom of choice
Being spoilt for choice can be a burden or a blessing: People value their freedom of choice differently. Whereas some people happily let others make decisions for them, others might rebel against restrictions of their freedom of choice. Scientists from the University of Bern have now been able to explain the individual attitude toward freedom of choice based on brain activations.
Low Self-Control Influences Smartphone Use
The wide use of smartphones in our working and private lives has led to an unprecedented level of networking between people. Aside from the possibilities that the smartphone offers, there are also side-effects such as distraction while driving or at work. Bern researchers now show that differences in personality in our capacity for self-control can explain whether people react immediately to smartphone signals.
Seven Marie Curie Fellowships for the University of Bern
Each year, the European Commission awards Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowships to post-doctoral researchers. Seven Fellowships went to researchers of the University of Bern, making it one of the most successful host institutions in Switzerland.
Soils in Swiss nature reserves contain significant quantities of microplastics
It is one of the first research projects into the existence of microplastics in the soil: Scientists at the University of Bern investigated floodplain soils in Swiss nature reserves for microplastics – and made a find. They estimate, that there are around 53 tonnes of microplastics lying in the top five centimetres of the floodplain. Even many of the soils in remote, protected mountainous areas, are contaminated with microplastics.
Bernese Mars camera CaSSIS sends first colour images from Mars
The Mars camera CaSSIS on the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter has returned its first colour images of the red planet. The camera system, which was developed at the University of Bern, is now ready for the start of its prime mission on April 28, 2018.
University of Bern to be location of World Bank programme
For the very first time, the world’s leading training programme for evaluation will be taking place in Switzerland. The World Bank has chosen the University of Bern, together with the Centre for Evaluation in Saarbrücken (CEval), as the provider of the International Programme for Development Evaluation Training (IPDET).
Dicer is not rolling dice
Researchers keep discovering new functions of small RNAs. For instance, they can be used as a defense mechanism against viruses or self-replicating genome invaders. These tiny pieces of RNA are often produced by a cleavage of long precursors by so called Dicer proteins. To their surprise, researchers from the University of Bern have found that some Dicers acquired a unique and as yet unknown feature that allow them to cleave the RNA precursors in a very specific way, resulting in small RNAs that work much more efficiently.
Tobacco smoking – not long-term marijuana use – associated with build-up of plaques in heart arteries
Tobacco smoking, but not marijuana use over time, was associated with plaque build-up in heart arteries in a study that followed men and women for over 25 years, according to a study led by the University of Bern.
Space telescope CHEOPS leaves the University of Bern
Construction of the space telescope CHEOPS is finished. The engineers from the Center for Space and Habitability (CSH) at the University of Bern will package the instrument this week and send it to Madrid, where it will be integrated on the satellite platform. CHEOPS (CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite) is to be ready to launch in early 2019 and will observe how exoplanets in other solar systems pass in front of their host star – assisting in the search of potentially habitable planets.
Enhanced therapeutic vaccine platform achieves two proof of concepts in veterinary medical use
Chronical allergic diseases of dogs and horses can now be treated with an innovative vaccine. It was developed by an international research team led by he University of Bern and in cooperation with the University of Zurich, together with private enterprise companies. The findings obtained in horses and dogs could lead to similar herapeutic vaccines for humans.
Climate change drives mountain hares to higher altitudes
A warming climate will shrink and fragment mountain hare habitat in the Swiss Alps. Populations are likely to decline as a result, concludes an international study led by the University of Bern and the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL).
Comet "Chury's" late birth
Comets which consist of two parts, like Chury, can form after a catastrophic collision of larger bodies. Such collisions may have taken place in a later phase of our solar system, which suggests that Chury can be much younger than previously assumed. This is shown through computer simulations by an international research group with the participation of the University of Bern.
Why rare plants are rare
Rare plant species suffer more from disease than commoner species. The fact that rare species are more susceptible to attack by micro-organisms living in the soil, such as fungi and bacteria, may in fact be one of the reasons they are rare. Biologists have been trying to work out why some species are rare, while others are common, since Darwin's time and a new study from researchers at the University of Bern provides a possible answer.
Multi laboratory studies improve reproducibility of animal research
Pre-clinical animal research is typically based on single laboratory studies conducted under highly standardized conditions, a practice that is universally encouraged in animal science courses and textbooks. In a new study in PLOS Biology, researchers from the Universities of Bern and Edinburgh demonstrate that such insistence on uniformity risks producing results that are only valid under very specific conditions. In contrast, multi-laboratory studies that are based on diversity, substantially increased the reproducibility of animal experiments, which could help to further reduce the number of animals used for research.
Evidence on the advantages and acceptability of antidepressants
An international study co-led by the University of Bern offers important insights from a synthesis of 522 clinical studies. The results show differences in efficacy of the 21 most commonly used antidepressants worldwide.
New weakness discovered in the sleeping sickness pathogen
Trypanosomes are single-celled parasites that cause diseases such as human African sleeping sickness and Nagana in animals. But they are also used in basic research as a model system to study fundamental biological questions. Researchers of the University of Bern have now investigated how trypanosomes equally distribute their “power plant” to the daughter cells during cell division. The discovered mechanism potentially opens new avenues for drug interventions.
What the TRAPPIST-1 planets could look like
Researchers at the University of Bern are providing the most precise calculations so far of the masses of the seven planets around the star TRAPPIST-1. From this, new findings are emerging about their density and composition: All TRAPPIST-1 planets consist primarily of rock and contain up to five percent water. This is a decisive step for determining the habitability of these planets.
Norway rats trade different commodities
Researchers of the University of Bern have shown for the first time in an experiment that also non-human animals exchange different kind of favours. Humans commonly trade different commodities, which is considered a core competence of our species. However, this capacity is not exclusively human as Norway rats exchange different commodities, too. They strictly follow the principle “tit for tat” – even when paying with different currencies, such as grooming or food provisioning.
University of Bern enhances research across disciplines
Research at the University of Bern is being intensified: Networking projects from different subject areas are being supported with three new Interfaculty Research Cooperations IRC. The projects deal with the health of environment, animals and humans, with religious conflicts and with sleep.
Bernese archaeologist discovers the earliest tomb of a Scythian prince
Deep in a swamp in the Russian republic of Tuva, SNSF-funded archaeologist Gino Caspari has discovered an undisturbed Scythian burial mound. All the evidence suggests that this is not only the largest Scythian princely tomb in South Siberia, but also the earliest – and that it may be harbouring some outstandingly well-preserved treasures.
Evolution of Alpine landscape recorded by sedimentary rocks
Rock avalanches and torrents started to form V-shaped valleys in the Alps approximately 25 million years ago. This landscape contrasts to the flat and hilly scenery, which characterized the Alps a few millions of years before. Geologists from the University of Bern applied digital technologies to unravel these changes in landscape evolution. They analysed 30 to 25 million-year old lithified rivers in Central Switzerland and came out with a detailed picture of how the Alps evolved within a short time interval.
A thermometer for the oceans
The average sea temperature is an essential parameter of the global climate – but it is very difficult to measure. At least until now, because an international team of researchers including University of Bern scientists have now developed a novel method using the concentration of noble gases in the eternal ice. This allows conclusions to be drawn on the changes in sea temperature from the last ice age to the present day.