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New Humboldt Fellows at LMU

Munich, 12/08/2011

Four new Humboldt Fellows from abroad have recently begun their research projects at LMU Munich. Dr. Jean-Eric Alard (Université de Bretagne Occidentale, France) has come to work with Priv.-Doz. Oliver Söhnlein at the Institute of Prophylaxis and Epidemiology of Cardiovascular Diseases at the Medical Center of the University of Munich. Dr. Kohji Mori (Osaka General Medical Center, Japan) is a guest of Professor Christian Haass (Director of the Adolf Butenandt Institute at LMU), and Dr. Kathleen W. Christian is being hosted by Professor Ulrich Pfisterer at the Institute of Art History. The fourth Humboldt Fellow is Dr. Dmitry Chernoglazov (St. Petersburg State University, Russia), who will carry out his project as the guest of Professor Albrecht Berger at the Institute of Byzantine Studies, History of Byzantine Art and Modern Greek Studies.

The Fellowship Program sponsored by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation enables highly qualified postdoctoral scholars and scientists from abroad to carry out research projects in Germany. Successful applicants work together with an established investigator of their own choice. Thus the number of Humboldt-sponsored scholars hosted by a university is a useful indicator of its international reputation and the size of its network of contacts.


Jean-Eric Alard

White blood cells – otherwise known as leukocytes – are an integral component of inflammatory reactions. They infiltrate damaged tissues, contribute to the elimination of bacterial pathogens and facilitate tissue repair. Inflammatory responses are orchestrated by a battery of signaling molecules, some of which are secreted by the leukocytes themselves. The so-called α-defensins represent one class of signals which are capable of initiating the elimination of invading bacteria but also serve to attract leukocytes to sites of inflammation and activate them there. In the course of his work at LMU, Jean-Eric Alard hopes to learn more about the interactions of α-defensins with leukocytes and to identify the receptors for α-defensins on the surfaces of white blood cells. He then intends to use various model systems to tease out the roles of these interactions with defensin receptors and the processes initiated by the binding of their cognate ligands in the inflammatory response itself. Alard’s studies may point toward methods for the targeted manipulation of pro- and anti-inflammatory reactions in the future.

Jean-Eric Alard studied Cell Biology and Physiology at the Université de Bretagne Occidentale in Brest (Frankreich) and earned a PhD in Immunology in 2010, before becoming a Postdoctoral Fellow at the same institution.


Dmitry Chernoglazov

Dmitry Chernoglazov studies the Byzantine epistolography, that is, the correspondence between educated persons during the Middle Ages. As in the case of other genres of medieval literature, both the style and content of Byzantine letters are governed by a complex system of etiquette. Depending on the occasion to which a given missive responds, a particular reaction or form was expected of its author. The central goal of Chernoglazov‘s work is to reconstruct, and trace the development of the etiquette of letter-writing during the Middle Byzantine Era, i.e. from the 9th to the 12th century. The investigation is intended to provide the basis for a characterization of Byzantine epistolography which will facilitate the interpretation of each individual example of this literary genre.

Dmitry Chernoglazov studied at the Institute of General Linguistics in the Faculty of Philology at the State University of St. Petersburg (Russia), where he obtained his PhD in 2006. Since then he has served as a lecturer at the Institute.


Kathleen W. Christian

Kathleen Christian’s project is devoted to Raphael, one of the most famous artists of the Italian High Renaissance in the 16th century. Her intention is to re-appraise his artistic personality and probe the cultural and intellectual roots of his great success. In contrast to other Renaissance masters such as Dürer or Michelangelo, Raphael does not conform to the modern image of the creative genius – his persona is too polished and courtly. His contemporaries described him as modest, amicable and graceful, and this picture has hardly changed during the succeeding centuries. In particular the writings of Baldassare Castiglione, Ludovico Dolce, and Giorgio Vasari  have led posterity to view him as an artist whose personality seems in perfect harmony with his work. However, this image is now viewed as a highly complex construct, which merits further study. Christian therefore plans the first systematic investigation of the creation and transformation of Raphael‘s artistic persona, covering the period from his earliest notable achievements up to the mid sixteenth century.

Kathleen W. Christian studied the History of Art and Architecture at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut (USA) and at Harvard University (USA), where she obtained her PhD in 2003. After working at the National Gallery of Art in Washington (USA) she was Assistant Professor at the University of Pittsburgh, USA (2004-11). In 2010 she was a visiting lecturer at the University of Zurich in 2010, and next year she will begin a position as Lecturer at the Open University, Milton Keynes (UK).


Kohji Mori

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is an inexorably progressive and fatal disease of motor neurons. The disease is characterized by an advancing impairment of motor neuron function, which leads to the degeneration of specific groups of nerves in the spinal cord and the brain that are responsible for controlling muscle activity. The destruction of these cells results in muscular dystrophy and paralysis. Patients gradually lose the capacity for most voluntary and involuntary movements, depriving them of the ability to speak and to breathe. Many ALS patients present with respiratory problems and die within two or three years of diagnosis. In the majority of cases, the disease appears spontaneously, but about 10% of patients suffer from a familial form of the syndrome.  The latter cases are due to inherited genetic mutations. Studies undertaken in the USA and England have mapped the major genetic locus affected to a particular region of chromosome 9. The aim of Dr. Mori’s project is to determine how mutations in the gene called C9ORF72  located in this segment of chromosome 9 contribute to the pathology of ALS. The findings could also throw new light on the more common spontaneous form of the condition, and perhaps bring us a step closer to the development of effective treatments.

Koji Mori studied Medicine at Ehime University in Japan. From 2004 to 2006 he was employed as a physician at Kansai Rousai Hospital in Hyogo (Japan) and at Osaka University Hospital (Japan), before enrolling in the PhD program at Osaka University. In 2010 Mori earned a doctorate in Psychiatry, and joined the staff of Osaka General Medical Center as a Clinical Fellow in Psychiatry. (göd/PH)

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