Profile Areas

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

Pharmaceuticals Research Profile Area

The goal: to find individual treatments

The researchers’ aim is to individualize medical treatments - because every patient responds differently to a certain active substance. The effects may be due for instance to the genetically individual supply of enzymes which among other things process medications. To improve treatments in particular for life-threatening conditions, researchers at the Interfaculty Center for Pharmacogenomics and Drug Research (IZEPHA) are seeking to explain the links between an individual’s genetic makeup, disposition to disease and the effective mechanisms of medication.

In its research, the Center bears in mind potential clinical applications. As with every new medical procedure, effectiveness and safety must be proven in trials. IZEPHA designs and carries out such trials. IZEPHA is a key partner of the Centre for Personalized Medicine, which contributes to the development of targeted treatments with the fewest side effects via its individualized diagnoses.

Also working at the transition point from pharmacology to clinical application is the Tübingen Center for Academic Drug Discovery & Development (TÜCAD2), which seeks to develop and optimize active substances to treat cancers, inflammations, and other diseases.

Astrophysics and Elementary Particle Physics Profile Area

From tiny particles to the universe

The research spectrum of scientists at the Kepler Center for Astro- and Particle Physics could hardly be broader – it stretches from elementary particles to the far reaches of the universe. The universe provides various particles from natural sources – as well as extreme conditions that could only be recreated with tremendous effort on Earth. The observation of particles in space provides new information about where they come from – black holes, neutron stars and supernovas. Finding out more about the development of stars and solar systems can also provide clues as to the origins of life. The Kepler Center combines the disciplines of experimental and theoretical Physics, Astronomy and Astrophysics. Participating institutions in the Kepler Center are the Physics Institute, the Institute of Theoretical Physics and the Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Medical Imaging Profile Area

Translational – From basic research to the hospital bed

We need to bridge a gap in the road from basic research in the biomedical laboratory to imaging of the living body. The University of Tübingen’s Preclinical Imaging and Imaging Technology sets new standards in the field. By developing new tracers and biomarkers and using the latest imaging technologies, we gain fresh insights into the body, which can provide us with information on the normal physiological processes as well as processes altered by disease.

To this end we use PET and MRI scanning technologies as well as combined and multi-modal imaging. Our very close co-operation with the University Hospitals departments, particularly with Interventional Radiology, Nuclear Medicine and Neuroradiology form the basis for a translation of the results into clinical research and diagnostics using small animal experiments. Numerous clinical fields such as Oncology, Neurology, Immunology as well as Biochemistry and Radiochemistry have been working interdisciplinarily and translationally with the Werner Siemens Imaging Center, part of Preclinical Imaging and Imaging Technology.

The department also plays an outstanding role in the development of new and innovative imaging modalities. Working with a technology firm, it developed the first PET insert for an MRI scanner. This is now used in many laboratories around the world, and has been introduced into hospitals.

Biochemistry Profile Area

The cell: a small entity in big need of research

Countless biochemical processes have to mesh together within every cell of every living thing. Scientists are still far from understanding the details of these highly complex events. Researchers at Tübingen’s Interfaculty Institute for Biochemistry (IFIB), which belongs to the Faculty of Science as well as the Medical Faculty, examine the molecular mechanisms underlying these biological and biochemical processes. They also investigate how such processes are disrupted by disease.

Biochemistry of body cells plays an important role in infections: How do disease-causing viruses and bacteria manage to penetrate cells and hide from the immune system? Answers to questions such as these provide new approaches to the development of more effective treatments.
Other fields of research in cell biochemistry are cell ageing and death, which are linked with cancer and degenerative diseases.

Tübingen’s collaborative research center The Bacterial Cell Wall is part of the major research area of cell biochemistry. In addition, the biochemistry of plant cells is one of the areas dealt with by the Center for Plant Molecular Biology (ZMBP) and its collaborative research center, 1101 Molecular Coding of Specificity in Plant Processes.

The mitochondrial outer membrane (MOM) mediates numerous interactions between mitochondria and the rest of the cell. Despite its importance, the MOM is currently understudied. The multifaceted functions and dynamics of the mitochondrial outer membrane (MOM) (RTG 2364) research group intends to achieve comprehensive understanding of the structure, function, regulation, and biogenesis of the membrane.

The  consortium cGMP Signaling in Cell Growth and Survival (FOR 2060)  focuses on the complex functions of cGMP in the control of cell growth, differentiation and survival. The connecting goal of its projects is to dissect how cGMP affects tissue remodelling, degeneration and regeneration within the cardiovascular, nervous and neurosensory system. The research training group cGMP: From Bedside to Bench (GRK 2381) investigates the use of cGMP-modulating drugs.

ViroCarb: Glycans Control Non-Enveloped Virus Infections (FOR 2327) focuses on three families of non-enveloped viruses: Caliciviruses, Polyomaviruses and Papillomaviruses. All three viruses include human pathogens, and in all three cases glycans (sialic acids, histo blood group antigens and glycosamino-glycans) play critical roles in cell attachment and determining host range and tropism. The goal of the research group is to define the parameters that, at the atomic level, guide glycan-binding for members of each of these virus families, and use this knowledge to develop novel compounds with inhibitory and thus antiviral activities. 

History Profile Area

Historical insights shed light on current events

History research in Tübingen is characterized by close ties with many other disciplines, such as the Philologies, Archaeologies, Cultural Anthropology, Sociology, Historical and Cultural Anthropology, Political Science, Medical Ethics, and the Theologies. This gives researchers at the History Department the opportunity to cover historically interrelated themes from a wide variety of sources in in-depth and broad-based analyses.

Answering questions raised by history is one approach for finding solutions to today’s problems. The collaborative research center 923 Threatened Orders is a good example of this. The collaborative research center investigates existential situations and their consequences – for example, financial crises, natural and technical disasters, terrorist attacks, and upheavals which have lasting effects on politics, economics, society, and culture. It makes us understand how fragile the foundations of trade and civil order are, and how dependent upon favorable conditions. Extreme situations can lead to rapid changes in social orders and to the interpretative and behavioral patterns of individuals and groups. The researchers analyze whether and how social groups or entire societies change when confronted with existential threats.

The Centre for Advanced Studies "Migration and Mobility in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages" (FOR 2496) brings together scholars from a wide range of disciplines working on the history of migration and mobility in Europe and the Mediterranean between 250 and 900 CE. Migration and mobility fundamentally shaped this period. By pursuing this approach, the Centre aims to achieve results that can be used for research on migration and mobility in other periods, including those in present-day societies.

The Heidelberg Academy’s research unit “Johannes Malalas’ Chronographia” deals with the Byzantine historiographer born around 490 A.D. His world history in 18 volumes covers the time span from the beginnings of mankind to Malalas’ time of writing. The researchers are working on commentaries on the Chronographia and studying it as an unparalleled example of a historical record from the “Byzantine millennium.” The Chronographia is not only important for the reconstruction of the political history of the time, it also provides valuable insights into questions of mentality, culture, and religious history.

Literary and Cultural Studies

Research into Japan, China, Korea and Taiwan - along with Cultural Anthropology, Indology, Oriental, and Mideast Studies are grouped within the Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies.

The University of Tübingen was one of the first German universities to develop ties with Japan and China. Tübingen collaborates with Peking University in Beijing. The European Center for Chinese Studies (ECCS) there is to be expanded in the long term to reinforce our Chinese and China-related research. In Japan the University of Tübingen works with Dôshisha University in Kyôto at the Center for Japanese Studies. We have a third branch in the region, in Seoul, South Korea, at the Tübingen Center for Korean Studies at Korea University (TUCKU).

Taiwan is a further focus of Tübingen research in East Asia. 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 Scholarly Research, which brings together the European Taiwan expertise in Tübingen.

The project The Temple as the Canon of Egyptian Religious Literature, a collaboration with the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, aims to find a definition for what constituted the essential nature of an Egyptian temple in the Graeco-Roman era. It will propose the reconstruction of an encyclopaedia of priestly knowledge in which one of the essential concerns will be to clarify whether or not such a canon of Egyptian literature ever actually existed.

The Tübingen Interdisciplinary Centre for Global South Studies is a platform for an ongoing dialogue within a network of researchers, scholars and postgraduate students from Africa, Asia-Pacific, Latin America and Europe who are engaged upon the exploration of the intellectual challenges of the Global South. The Interdisciplinary Centre supports a networking intellectual enquiry and exploratory political project that seeks to create new concepts and expand its scholarly reach across the South.

The Ludwig Uhland Institute (LUI) for Historical and Cultural Anthropology in the heart of Tübingen examines phenomena of everyday culture both in the present day and from a historical perspective. Both perspectives are used to analyze and interpret cultural orders and dynamics in modern societies.

The collaborative research center 1391 Different Aesthetics seeks to explore the contribution of 2000 years of cultural history before the 18th century to our understanding of the aesthetic and to current debates on art and society.

The interdisciplinary research training group Religious Knowledge in Pre-Modern Europe (800-1800) (GRK 1662) provides a new description of how the so-called "Western knowledge-based society", with its self-attributed tolerance, secularity, rationality and differentiation of science and education, law and politics, religion, art and literature, could develop in Europe.

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

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.