Excellence in Action

Bonn attracts prominent scholars yet again

Establishing and filling high-profile professorships is a key element of Bonn‘s excellence strategy. Prof. Dr. Carmen Ruiz de Almodóvar and Prof. Dr. Martin Keßler have just commenced their tenure as Schlegel professorship holders Prof. Dr. Dominik Bach has filled a new Hertz professorship. The internationally recognized researchers will provide important impulses in the life sciences and in Protestant theology. An overview of their research topics.

Schlegel Professorships

The Schlegel Professorships, named after the University of Bonn’s famed philologist August Wilhelm Schlegel (1767–1845), are prestigious professorial chairs created as part of wider efforts promoting excellence.
Appointments to the Schlegel Chairs are made by the faculties for existing and developing research fields of major importance. The central administration makes additional funding available for these chairs.

The relationship between the vascular and the nervous systems

The human brain requires roughly 20 percent of the body’s oxygen and glucose supply to maintain its sophisticated, high-precision functionality. This explains why the brain is rich with blood vessels supplying all kinds of nerve cells throughout the organ. As the new Schlegel Professor at the Faculty of Medicine, Dr. Carmen Ruiz de Almodóvar, will inquire how the vascular and nervous systems interact with each other in different areas of the central nervous system. How does vascularization take place in the brain during its development? What molecular signals do nerve cells and vessels give off to communicate with each other? And how is this communication affected by pathological conditions, such as neurological and neurodegenerative disorders?
Dr. Ruiz de Almodóvar and her team of interdisciplinary researchers will be working to increase our knowledge in the intersecting fields of neuroscience and vascular science in order to address these and other questions.

“The University of Bonn offers a unique environment of excellence in research and teaching for me and my research group, particularly because of the strong focus here on interdisciplinary life science research,” explains Dr. Carmen Ruiz de Almodóvar, “I look forward to making a contribution in support of the institution’s compelling vision, and to collaborating with researchers and clinicians from different areas to make advancements in the Life and Health Transdisciplinary Research Area.”

Prof. Dr. Carmen Ruiz de Almodóvar.jpeg
© Barbara Frommann

History of Christianity in the modern age

Prof. Dr. Martin Keßler.jpeg
© Barbara Frommann

Martin Kessler is the new holder of the Schlegel Professorship of Church History at the Faculty of Protestant Theology, principally devoted to study of the Reformation and the Enlightenment. His inquiry is concerned especially with the question of how and why certain individuals come to be seen retrospectively as key historical figures while others recede into obscurity? A scholar of the history of Christianity from the early modern period, roughly from 1500 to present, the newly appointed Schlegel Professor explains how “the denominational profiles that developed in the Reformation in the 16th century are of major importance to Christianity’s understanding of itself today.” Dr. Keßler also studies the Enlightenment as a European phenomenon with global impact and is a specialist on Johann Gottfried Herder (1744–1803)—much like August Wilhelm Schlegel himself was in the 19th century, for whom the professorship is named. Dr. Keßler is interested in collaborative interdisciplinary projects to create digital and hybrid editions of the works of Herder and others.

He looks forward to talking with students and colleagues at the University, noting how “the University of Bonn creates opportunities in collaborative research like few others in German-speaking Europe right now.” Dr. Keßler perceives an unsurpassed commitment on the part of the Rectorate to supporting theological scholarship in the denominationally diverse fashion typical of Bonn, in part by making funding available and promoting interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary networking. The appointment of Dr. Keßler will furthermore serve to heighten the profile of the Transdisciplinary Research Area “Individuals and Societies”.


At the heart of the cross-faculty concept are the Hertz Professorships named after the Bonn physicist Heinrich Hertz (1857-1894). They are filled with renowned researchers who are leaders in their respective fields and sharpen the profile of the Transdisciplinary Research Areas. The professors will receive 4.2 million euros for seven years, giving them considerable scope to establish new fields of research, combine disciplines and provide important impetus.

 Understanding the brain with artificial intelligence

The internationally renowned psychologist, physician and mathematicia Dominik Bach will establish a new focus at the interface between neuroscience, psychiatry and computer science in the Transdisciplinary Research Area „Life and Health“. For this he uses models and methods from theoretical neuroscience and artificial intelligence to decipher the function of the human brain. The brain uses mathematical operations to control actions. Bach‘s research aim is to characterize these operations. He and his team analyze human behavior in extreme situations to investigate the limitations - and thus the functioning - of these mechanisms.

The research team simulates such situations, for example, escaping dangerous animals or predicting threats in the environment. The research team uses virtual realities in which the players move freely, allowing them to record and reconstruct the players‘ behavior. The results can help to better understand mental illnesses and also enable new therapeutic approaches in the future.

Combining different disciplines in the best possible way is particularly close to Bach‘s heart. „The University of Bonn promotes excellent research in neurobiology, computer science and mathematics. I am looking forward to strengthening theoretical neuroscience in such an outstanding environment and to bridge the gap between these disciplines,“ says the new Hertz professor.

© Barbara Frommann
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