Molecular basis of sensory biology
The RTG aims at investigating how environmental stimuli are sensed and processed by different organisms. Animals have developed a complex variety of sensory receptor cells for physical and chemical stimuli in response to millions of years of evolutionary pressures. Sensory receptor cells process the incoming information by intracellular molecular components leading to a cellular response. The research program of the RTG involves thesis projects that aim at understanding the common principles of sensory processing from a molecular biological, chemical and physical perspective. It includes research topics on a wide variety of senses including vision, hearing, magnetoreception and chemoreception with a strong input from chemistry, biophysics and physics. Topics will address activation processes of receptor molecules, receptor-coupled signal transduction pathways and molecular switch mechanisms, but will also include studies on visual and auditory dysfunction. We expect mutual benefit from physical model systems and from biological concepts, which might lead to the development of new technical applications (e.g. biomedicine).
We address these central questions using different experimental strategies based on tools available in molecular and cellular biology, but input from biophysical techniques and the design and synthesis of chemical compounds (e.g. for fluorescence studies) are central to many projects as well. Consequently, the study programme will provide the students with strong skills in biology, chemistry and physics, thereby facilitating close collaboration and mutual exchange of ideas between these disciplines. It is further important that the students acquire background knowledge and practical experience with a range of different technologies, including those that are not directly related to their specific thesis project. The institutional framework in place at the University of Oldenburg and the educational programme of the RTG guarantees achieving these aims. Co-supervision of thesis projects by at least two principal investigators, special training workshops in techniques given by the principal investigators and visiting scientists, a network of existing (already funded) research and project groups, and their multidisciplinary colloquia are central parts of the qualification concept. PhD students will also enrol in the PhD programme “Neurosensory Science and Systems” that has been in place in Oldenburg since 2008.