HITS Annual Report: Advanced Research

22. June 2016

Annual Report of the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HITS) published: Advanced research using supercomputers – from molecular biology to astrophysics.

In 2010, the physicist Klaus Tschira (1940 – 2015) and the Klaus Tschira Foundation founded the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HITS). Today, around 120 scientists from 22 countries work at the non-profit research institute. Organized in 13 groups, they explore scientific subjects by means of advanced mathematical and computational methods and powerful supercomputers. Looking back on the past year, the newly published annual report illustrates the spectrum of HITS research and the development of the institution. “We are continuing to pursue the goal of high-level interdisciplinary work on data-driven research in the pioneering spirit of our founders Klaus Tschira and Andreas Reuter,” says HITS Scientific Director Prof. Rebecca Wade, who heads the HITS together with Managing Director Dr. Gesa Schönberger.

In 2015, once again two HITS scientists numbered among the world’s most cited researchers. The Thomson Reuters Group study “Highly Cited Researchers” showed that the work of astrophysicist Prof. Volker Springel (Theoretical Astrophysics group) and mathematician Prof. Tilmann Gneiting (Computational Statistics group) belongs to the top one percent of the world’s most cited research in their respective fields. The ranking is an important indicator of the influence of a scientific publication.

HITS-mathematicians Dr. Michael Schick and Prof. Vincent Heuveline (Data Mining and Uncertainty Quantification group) published a scientific paper on the computational simulation of flow processes in one of the five journals of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) for which they received one of the highest honors in the field of applied mathematics.

HITS Annual Report 2015: Title Image (Mercadante, Sturm)
HITS Annual Report 2015: Title Image (Mercadante, Sturm)

Numerous research results are the outcome of intensive cooperations of HITS scientists with other researchers at home and abroad. Thus, HITS scientist Prof. Frauke Gräter (Molecular Biomechanics Group), together with colleagues from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and the Institute of Structural Biology (IBS) in Grenoble in France solved a fundamental mystery of molecular biology: The question of how the traffic of molecules between the cytoplasm and the nucleus of a cell can be so fast and yet accurate enough to prevent the passage of unwanted molecules. Using computer simulations and experiments, the researchers found that a very flexible and disordered protein can bind to its receptor within billionths of a second (publication in the journal “Cell”). The cover picture of the HITS-annual report shows a computer simulation of this process.

Moreover, two new groups were set up in 2015: In January, the group “Physics of Stellar Objects” began to work under astrophysicist Prof. Fritz Röpke. It investigates the death of stars, the so-called “supernovae”. In July, the mathematician Prof. Anna Wienhard set up her group “Groups and Geometry”. She examines symmetries and so-called deformation spaces in geometric structures. The HITS astrophysicist Dr. Christoph Pfrommer received a Consolidator Grant from the European Research Council (ERC) worth two million euros for his research project, enabling him to establish his own junior group at the institute.

In autumn 2016, HITS and the University of Heidelberg plan to fill a new professorship for scientific visualization. “The close collaboration with Heidelberg University and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) is also documented by the fact that both became shareholders of HITS at the end of 2014,” institute Scientific Director Prof. Rebecca Wade explains. The main shareholder of HITS is the HITS Stiftung, a subsidiary of the Klaus Tschira Foundation that continues to support HITS financially.

The annual report is online and can be ordered as a print version (peter.saueressig@h-its.org). On 2 July 2016, the HITS invites the public to an open day with talks, a Science Slam and interactive hands-on stations for children and adults.

Press contact:
Dr. Peter Saueressig
Head of Communications
Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HITS)
Phone: +49-6221-533245
Twitter: @HITStudies

About HITS

HITS, the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies, was established in 2010 by physicist and SAP co-founder Klaus Tschira (1940-2015) and the Klaus Tschira Foundation as a private, non-profit research institute. HITS conducts basic research in the natural, mathematical, and computer sciences. Major research directions include complex simulations across scales, making sense of data, and enabling science via computational research. Application areas range from molecular biology to astrophysics. An essential characteristic of the Institute is interdisciplinarity, implemented in numerous cross-group and cross-disciplinary projects. The base funding of HITS is provided by the Klaus Tschira Foundation.

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