The three Professors for the first Mercator Research Group have been appointed
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Press info 329 » Press release (german) » Press & PR office
Bochum, 15.10.2009
No 329
The three Professors for the first Mercator Research Group have been appointed
Stiftung Mercator helps to fund research in the topic“Structure of Memory” at Ruhr University Bochum
International Young Academics have been won over to Bochum

The first Mercator Research Group (MRG) at the Ruhr-University Bochum (RUB) is ready to commence its work, Prof. Elmar Weiler, the Rector of RUB, having appointed the first three professors, namely Dr. Magdalena Sauvage (Boston), Dr. Sen Cheng (San Francisco) and Dr. Markus Werning (Düsseldorf). As of January, 1st 2010, they will establish an independent research group to investigate diverse aspects of the “Structure of Memory.” The three young professors were selected from 52 international applicants in a multi-phase selection procedure. A second Mercator Research Group concerning “Spaces of Anthropological Knowledge” is being prepared. In 2008, the Mercator foundation (Stiftung Mercator) and RUB agreed on the establishment of the two Mercator Research Groups, the total funding volume amounting to 10 Million Euro over a period of six years. The appointment of these three professors underlines the exceptionally position of RUB as an excellent international academic institution fostering young scientists.

Internationally linked and with senior (emeritus) researcher’s assistance
The research of this Mercator Research Group “Structure of Memory“ focuses on the following questions: How do the different brain structures contribute to memory? How is information selected for retention and oblivion? How do the different brain sections involved in memory structures interact? Are there aspects of memory that only exist in humans and thus characterize human evolution? The three young academics will establish independent research units focusing on the different aspects and work at both an interdisciplinary and international level. A senior (emeritus) researcher of their own choice, who through his or her extensive experience can act as mentor and advisor for the independent research of the young professors and additionally strengthen the international network, will accompany them. As a group, the young and experienced researchers will develop state-of the-art experiments, concepts and theories that will be competitive at the highest international level. Dr. Bernhard Lorentz, chairman of the board of directors of the Stiftung Mercator pointed out that the foundation wants to expand its profile areas at the university through the work of the Mercator Research Groups. Moreover, the MRGs will support innovative forms of organization and simultaneously help to establish interdisciplinary research as a strong institutional basis at RUB.

Ideal Conditions for outstanding young Researchers in Bochum
The Mercator Research Groups emphasise RUB’s top position in fostering young researchers. With these two new groups, the RUB now has 18 independent young research groups. Recently the Land North-Rhine-Westphalia granted the establishment of five new research groups at the Ruhr University. Rector Elmar Weiler explained that early independence of outstanding postdocs and assistant professors with the possibility of independent scientific work with a autonomous budget has proven to be the best practice model to support academic careers of young researchers. Therefore it is no coincidence that young researchers from the RUB are also the largest group within the “Jungen Kolleg der NRW-Akademie der Wissenschaften” (Junior Research Group of the Academy of Sciences in North-Rhine-Westphalia).

The Neurobiology of Memory
Dr. Magdalena Sauvage’s research unit will investigate the behavior process and functional imaging of the memory of lower mammals. Her team aims to investigate its principles, contents and limits. To this end, the unit will develop complex and creative behavior experiments, in part adapted to functional imaging (FMRT, i.e. functional magnetic resonance tomography) to analyze the functional organization of memory-relevant cerebral structures. In combination with the other research units, a unique global approach enabling better understanding of the structure of episodic memory is obtained.
Dr. Magdalena Sauvage, born in France in 1974, completed her degree in Neurosciences in Bordeaux in 1997. She received her doctorate at the Max Planck Institute for Psychological Research in Munich in 2001. She then worked as a research scientist in the Graybiel Laboratory at the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) in Boston (USA) from 2002 to 2005. Before coming to Bochum, she worked as a Research Assistant Professor in the Eichenbaum Laboratory in Boston/USA.

The Functional Architecture of Memory
This research unit under the auspices of Dr. Sen Cheng will investigate the theoretical basis for learning and memory processes at the neural level. Focus is placed on the dynamics of this process, which basically has been ignored up to date. The researchers will work with experimental data such as electrophysiological and electroencephalographical (EEG) recordings, as well as with behavior and imaging data. They will use quantitative analytical methods, mathematic models and computer simulation of neuronal networks for their research. This unit will work closely with international neuroscientists and further specialists on the RUB campus, for example from the departments of psychology, biology, medicine and neuroinformatics.
Dr. Sen Cheng, born in 1975, completed his M.Sc. in Physics at Michigan State University (USA), where he also obtained his doctorate in 2002. Prior to coming to Bochum, he worked as research scientist at the Sloan-Swartz Center for Theoretical Neurobiology at the University of California in San Francisco.

Theory of Memory
Dr. Markus Werning’s unit will focus on the philosophy of memory and the philosophy of language with a strong interdisciplinary neurophilosophical approach. The group will develop an integrative theory, which will position the research subject “memory” in a wider context of philosophy. On the one hand, this unit will present the relationship between semantic memory and conceptual representation, as well as their role in the constitution of linguistic meaning. On the other hand, they will investigate the relationship between episodic memory and the phenomena time perception, realization of past and present as well as personal identity using electroencephalography (EEG) and functional magnetic resonance tomography. Moreover, the researchers will develop theoretical models together with the other two research units of this MRG and the institute of neuroinformatics in Bochum. The relationship with the first research unit and further neuroscientific institutions at the RUB will be established by the transformation of animal and human models. This unit is the intermediary body within the Mercator Research Group and central place of contact for human research at RUB.
Dr. Markus Werning, born in 1970, completed his degree in philosophy and physics at the FU (Freie Universität) in Berlin in 1999, was Research Scholar at Rutgers Center of Cognitive Science in New Jersey and research assistant at the universities of Erfurt and Düsseldorf. He obtained his doctorate there in 2005, and has worked, amongst other things, in the DFG (German Research Foundation) Research Group " Functional Concepts and Frames” (Funktionalbegriffe und Frames). His last position was that of substitute Professor for Theoretical Philosophy in Mainz.

The three Professors for the first Mercator Research Group
Dr. Sen Cheng (San Francisco), Dr. Magdalena Sauvage (Boston) und Dr. Markus Werning (Düsseldorf).
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Sen Cheng
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Magdalena Sauvage
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Markus Werning
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Further information  
Claudia Haun, Dr. Thomas Koch, Ruhr-University Bochum, Dezernat 1, Tel. +49 (0) 0234/32-22163/-29142

Stiftung Mercator, Christiane Duwendag, Leiterin Kommunikation, Tel. +49 (0) 201/ 245 22 42
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