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New Humboldt Fellows begin projects at LMU

Munich, 11/25/2010

A new group of Humboldt Fellows has recently arrived in Munich to pursue research projects at LMU. Professor Jesus Casquete comes from the University of the Basque Country, and will collaborate with Professor Martin Baumeister (Chair of European History of the 19th and 20th Century). Drs. Haruyasu Asahara (Japan) and Guillaume Berionni (France) have taken up positions as postdocs in the group led by Professor Herbert Mayr (Chair of Organophysical Chemistry). All three Fellows are beneficiaries of a program set up by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, which enables highly qualified post-doctoral scholars and scientists from abroad to carry out research projects in Germany. The successful applicants collaborate with an established investigator of their own choice. Thus the number of Humboldt Fellows it hosts is a useful indicator of a university’s international reputation and the size of its network of contacts.

Jesus Casquete is Professor of the History of Political Thought and Social Movements at the University of the Basque Country. His current research project is devoted to the process underlying the social construction of political martyrs by the National Socialist movement in Germany prior to 1933. Casquete is interested in how the Nazis instrumentalized and exploited the idea of “martyrs for the cause“ to create a sense of identity among their supporters, in order to advance the Party’s political aims. This “politics of death“ was at the heart of National Socialist propaganda and was one of the main sources of their ability to mobilize mass support.

Casquete studied sociology and political sciences at Deusto University (Basque Country, Spain) and at the New School for Social Research in New York. His research has been supported on two previous occasions by the Humboldt Foundation: In 2001-2002, he was a research fellow at the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung (WZB), and in 2005-2006 he was back in Berlin to conduct research in the Institute for European Ethnology at the Humboldt University.

Work done in Professor Mayr’s research group over the past several years has led to the development of the most comprehensive quantitative model of polar organic reactivity yet constructed. With the help of this model, it is now possible for the first time to treat a whole range of organic reactions within a single framework, allowing one efficiently to predict novel reaction mechanisms. Two of the new post-doctoral fellows funded by the Humboldt Foundation have been actively contributing to this program for several weeks now. Asahara, who obtained his doctoral degree at Osaka University in Japan in March of this year, was awarded a Humboldt Fellowship to enable him to incorporate the workings of oxycarbenium ions into Professor Mayr’s model of reactivity. This class of ion plays an important role in glycosylation reactions. Berionni studied at the Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines (France) and was awarded his doctorate in December 2009. His Humboldt project will focus on the mode of action of organometallic reagents, and will make use of synthetic methods developed by Professor Paul Knochel (Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, LMU).

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