Uni-Tübingen

Profile Areas

Alongside the core research areas the University of Tübingen has a number of profile areas:

Medical Imaging

Looking inside

Imaging techniques are an important tool for basic research in the life sciences. In medicine, they are vital both to diagnostics and to the precise monitoring of many treatments. The Werner Siemens Imaging Center is home to several interdisciplinary research groups which are analyzing and developing functional and multi-parametric imaging methods. Their goal is to make the processes in the human body visible – in detail, right down to the molecular level, and in real time. This will help doctors to identify tumors, conditions such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson's Disease, and infectious diseases earlier and more reliably – and without having to use invasive surgery. For example, new multi-modal technologies are being tested that combine established methods such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET); and new imaging probes, known as tracers, are being developed to observe the conditions and processes in patients' bodies over the course of a disease. Scientists at the Werner Siemens Imaging Center are also pioneering approaches to combine microscopic and macroscopic imaging methods. In addition, they are integrating image data from clinical routine and the laboratory with omics data. Once obtained, these big data sets can be analyzed by intelligent algorithms. Thus, the researchers seek to better understand the complex interrelationships of diseases overall – and to tailor treatments to the ailment and to the individual patient. 

Data and images for healing

Research in the life sciences is generating a swiftly growing amount of data. To manage these enormous data sets, the University of Tübingen and the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology operate the Center for Quantitative Biology (QBiC), a central university facility providing expertise for high-throughput technologies and bioinformatics. QBiC offers comprehensive data storage and processing services for all kinds of bioscientific research and has the latest technology for generating and processing very large amounts of data which arise from genome sequencing and in transcriptomic, metabolomic and proteomic analysis.

QBiC and the Medical Faculty further expanded their capacity for high-throughput sequencing by initiating the NGS Competence Center Tübingen in 2018 – one of only four such institutions sponsored by the German Research Foundation in Germany. The NGS Competence Center Tübingen provides highly specialized infrastructure and expertise to support the latest methods in sequencing and bioinformatic analysis.

Pharmaceuticals Research Profile Area

New drugs for individual treatments

As part of its Excellence Initiative innovation, the University of Tübingen formed a new interdisciplinary platform called Clinical Research and Academic Drug Discovery & Development. It is a forum in which medical researchers work with pharmacologists and bioinformatics specialists. One focus is on finding and developing new medications and testing them in clinical studies and also to improve personalized medicine, in which treatments are tailored to the individual patient. The researchers are examining the molecular structures and signal pathways in which particular drugs take effect. One of their goals is to find out how to stop the growing resistance of many germs to antibiotics. Along with oncology and infectiology, immunology is a further important focus of the platform’s research. Vast sets of clinical and experimental data, analyzed using artificial intelligence tools, enable the researchers to make new discoveries. They can now identify new biomarkers which indicate that processes involving diseases or other disorders are underway in the body; this can provide starting points for possible new treatments.

The Tübingen Center for Academic Drug Discovery (TüCAD2) is responsible for developing new pharmaceuticals. It focuses on the fight against cancer, infectious and cardiovascular diseases, and on liver regeneration. A special feature of TüCAD2 research is functional genetic screening based on RNA interference. As part of the Academic Drug Discovery Consortium, an association of 150 drugs research institutions worldwide, TüCAD2 has outstanding international connections.

The Center for Personalized Medicine (ZPM), run jointly by the University and the University Hospitals, complements the work of TüCAD2 – primarily in the area of medical data management and the swift, safe translation of research results from individualized diagnostics into clinical applications. The ZPM receives omics data from high-throughput analyses, information from clinical imaging processes, and other clinical data. These large data sets can be analyzed to pinpoint information which will enable researchers develop treatments tailored to the individual patient. The data can also be used in the development of new clinical imaging techniques.

An important partner for the researchers at TüCAD2 and the ZPM is the Tübingen Center for Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP). The center produces new active substances which are tailored to a particular patient; these are delivered in the form of vaccines and antibodies. Both the time it would take and the cost of this development and production of individualized treatments would be many times higher in the pharmaceuticals industry. The GMP Center can also make quick alterations to the medications to increase their effectiveness.

Another key institution in the development of individualized medicine is the Interfaculty Center for Pharmacogenomics and Drug Research (ICEPHA). ICEPHA brings together University pharmacologists, toxicology researchers, doctors at the University Hospitals’ Department of Internal Medicine, and researchers at the Institute of Clinical Pharmacology and the Robert Bosch Hospital in Stuttgart. They seek to understand the connections between individual DNA, the disposition to diseases, and the mechanisms by which drugs take effect. The aim is to individualize medications for treating diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, tumors and autoimmune disorders – and to better predict the course the particular disease will take in each patient. This makes it possible for doctors to intervene earlier, and to prevent or delay damage caused by the disease.

Biochemistry

Seeking treatments within the cell

Researchers at the Interfaculty Institute of Biochemistry (IFIB) investigate all the dimensions of modern biochemical research – from the level of atoms and molecules to cells and organisms. Their goal is to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying biological and biochemical processes – and how disfunction in these processes leads to disease. Their work focuses on host-pathogen interactions, communication within the cell and between cells, and tumor biology. Among the things our researchers seek to explain is how pathogens gain entry to body cells and use them as hosts. This knowledge could be used to develop drugs that act directly inside the cell – an approach that opens up new perspectives in the fight against previously untreatable infectious diseases. The researchers are also seeking to improve treatments for tumors and degenerative diseases.

Additional research institutions and projects in this area

Literary and Cultural Studies

Bridges to Asia

In the Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies, the University pools its research activity focusing on Asia. Tübingen has one of the largest institutions for Japanese Studies in the German-speaking world, focusing on Modern Japan, Religion and Intellectual History, and Linguistics. The Tübingen Center for Japanese Studies at Doshisha University in Kyoto offers comprehensive language and regional studies classes for students and provides up-to-date insights into international Japan-related research through symposia and guest lectures.

Tübingen’s Korean Studies focus on the history, culture and society of modern Korea. At the Tübingen Center for Korean Studies at Korea University (TUCKU) in Seoul, South Korea, students become familiar with Korean language and culture. In addition, the Center promotes cultural and academic exchange with Korea via guest professorships, lectures, readings by authors, international research projects and conferences.

Chinese Studies in Tübingen focus on China and its place in the process of globalization since the 16th century. For students to experience the Chinese world directly, the University of Tübingen founded the European Center for Chinese Studies (ECCS) on the campus of Beijing University in 2001. In addition, the ECCS promotes contacts and cooperation between German and Chinese academics, for example via guest lectureships, doctoral student exchanges and conferences.

The China Center Tübingen (CCT) aims to increase China competence at the entire university. Based on the conviction that China will continue to grow in importance in the future, the CCT serves as a communication interface for all China-related topics.

Taiwan is a further focus of Tübingen’s Asia research. The European Research Center on Contemporary Taiwan (ERCCT) is a joint project between the University of Tübingen and Taiwan’s Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange. The center offers graduate students from all over Europe a forum for the discussion of social science-related Taiwan research. Exchange between Europe and Taiwan is promoted through various fellowship programs as well as visiting scholars.

How societies develop

How do raw materials, products and networks contribute to social cohesion? What social developments result from the exploitation of such resources? Some 70 researchers from disciplines such as archaeology, geography, classical philology and ethnology are investigating these questions at the ResourceCultures collaborative research center (SFB 1070). Their work uses examples from various cultures around the world and over a period of more than 30,000 years. The researchers are looking beyond the conventional economic definition of ‘resources’ to include sociological and cultural dimensions, investigating not only raw materials and goods, but also intangible things such as knowledge and services. They focus on processes and events that bring about a change in resources, which could, for example, become the cause of migration or war – phenomena that we continue to observe.

Exploring ancient cultures

Researchers at the Institute for Ancient Near Eastern Studies (IANES) are dedicated to studying the cultural development of civilization in the Mediterranean and Middle East regions. Since 2013, Tübingen Egyptologists have been investigating a burial site in the necropolis of Saqqara on the western bank of the Nile. It dates back to the Saitic-Persian period (664-404 BC). The religious texts, numerous mummies, sarcophagi and grave goods found in the shaft graves there – some of which are more than thirty meters deep – are important sources of information about the funeral rituals of the time.

Tübingen archaeologists are also active in northern Iraq. In the province of Duhok their field surveys have turned up signs of around 500 previously unknown settlement sites, among them the remains of a 50-hectare urban complex which the researchers determined to be the ancient city of Mardaman. The settlement was founded around 3000 BC and flourished for more than 1200 years. It offers ideal conditions for researching the development of an urban center against the background of changing economic, political, social and ecological conditions.

The function of art

The collaborative research center Different Aesthetics (SFB 1391) focuses on the 2000-year-old history of art and culture prior to the 18th century. Its aim is to identify and reflect on aesthetic practices, manifestations and concepts that open up alternatives to the traditional notion of modernity, in which the aesthetic is defined above all by its freedom of purpose. The researchers from 16 disciplines ranging from archaeology, art and musicology, ancient and modern philology to history and theology focus on phenomena at the interface between art and social practice. 

Additional research institutions and projects in this area

Theology and Religious Studies

Seeking interfaith dialogue

Since the 1960s, the Protestant and Catholic theologies at the University of Tübingen have focused on working across denominational boundaries. Since that time, the Institute for Ecumenical and Interreligious Research, which is part of the Faculty of Catholic Theology, has actively promoted fruitful cooperation between the two main Christian theologies. Its counterpart at the Faculty of Protestant Theology is the Institute for Hermeneutics and Dialogue of Cultures. The theological researchers there seek to promote both interreligious as well as interdisciplinary exchange – especially with the humanities, cultural and social sciences 

Since 2011, the Center for Islamic Theology (ZITh) has complemented the theological profile of the University of Tübingen. The center provides training for Muslin theologians and for teachers of religion in state schools. Its long-term goal is to better represent the approximately four million Muslims living in Germany and to promote knowledge about Islam and initiate interreligious dialogue. Research at ZITh covers the entire spectrum of Muslim theology, from historical topics to systematic approaches and practical theology.

The Faculty of Protestant Theology, together with the Chair of Religious Studies and Jewish Studies, has also established the Institutum Judaicum, which, in cooperation with the Faculty of Philosophy, will enable a focus on Judaism in teaching and research.

The Global Ethics Institute at the University of Tübingen also contributes significantly to promoting dialogue between cultures. As a non-denominational institution, it complements the work of the three theologies with regard to the values that unite all people.

Ethics in Research

Responsibility in research

For the University of Tübingen, taking responsibility for the future also means addressing ethical issues in research. To this end, the University established the International Center for Ethics in the Sciences and Humanities (IZEW) in 1990. The IZEW brings together over 60 researchers from the sciences, humanities and social sciences. They investigate ethical and moral problems arising in the sciences and humanities – critical reflection of their own disciplines is thus an important part of the center’s research.
Researchers at the IZEW concentrate on three main areas. 

  • In Ethics and Education they are concerned with the foundations of ethical judgement and how it is transferred, for example to schools, universities and adult education. 
  • Researchers in the area of Society, Culture, and Technological Change deal with such questions as those arising from security measures – the use of body scanners, or the automated analysis of video surveillance data. 
  • The third research area, Nature and Sustainable Development, is concerned with questions of justice and responsibility in society’s interaction with nature. 

IZEW researchers are integrated into numerous national and international networks. The center also maintains one of Europe’s largest libraries on the ethics of science and the humanities.

Academics at the Institute of Ethics and History of Medicine conduct research and teaching in this twofold subject. On the one hand, they look at topics ranging from the history of psychiatry to medicine under National Socialism to contemporary medical history. On the other hand, they focus on the ethical implications of the medical profession and of biomedical progress.

Additional research groups and institutions in this area

Ethics of Genome Editing research group

Overview on research at the University

The brochure "Committed to the Future" provides an overview of the spectrum of research carried out in Tübingen – from institutions and research infrastructure to third-pary projects to collaboration with non-university partners. Download of the revised edition 2021

The University’s spectrum of research includes several profile areas, a number of collaborative research centers, Transregio collaborative research centers and research groups backed by the German Research Foundation (DFG).

The University plays a crucial role in the training of young researchers in DFG research training groups, as well as in the University’s own doctoral training groups with an interdisciplinary focus. These groups are incorporated into the Graduate Academy, set up to attract graduates both from within Germany and abroad.