Research in movies or TV series? Not a chance – not in Germany anyway! Yet this is actually an area with huge potential to encourage young people to go into the sciences. After all, despite all of the politically instigated job market, educational and equal opportunity measures, there has been hardly any progress in cracking open the gender-typical study and career choices and the distance felt (by females) toward scientific and technical professions in business and academia.
Physics & Astronomy
Quantum physics effects not only bear witness to the exotic nature of the microworld; they also facilitate completely new approaches, for instance in data processing. To better understand them, the team working with Immanuel Bloch, Director at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Garching, is using atoms in optical lattices to simulate quantum matter.
Biology & Medicine
In the course of evolution, cells have acquired a lot of redundancy. Many processes are probably more complicated than they need to be. Petra Schwille from the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried wants to find out what constitutes the bare essentials of a cell. By concentrating on what’s important, the biophysicist also manages to reconcile her career and family life.
Materials & Technology
Emergency braking systems already prevent quite a few traffic accidents, but electronic assistants still have no proper overview of what’s happening on the road. Bernt Schiele, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Informatics in Saarbrücken, wants to change this. He teaches computers to anticipate the routes of vehicles and pedestrians.
Environment & Climate
It is commonly thought that methane forms either chemically, at high pressure or temperature, or as a product of microbial activity. But there are also other ways. Junior scientists working with Frank Keppler from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz discovered unexpected sources of methane: plants, fungi, soil – and even meteorites.
Culture & Society
Everyone who has worked for a long time wants to enjoy a sufficient pension. But is this still realistic given the scale of demographic change? How could the social insurance system be reformed to take the pressure off contributors and still prevent poverty in old age? Axel Börsch-Supan conducts research in the politically charged field of pension financing, extended life expectancy and the threat of declining solidarity at the Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA), part of the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy. He says the most important area to improve upon is labor force participation.