05. December 2023

Partnerships in Australia Strengthened for the Long Term Partnerships in Australia Strengthened for the Long Term

University of Bonn management extends partnership agreement with University of Melbourne

A delegation from the University of Bonn has visited Australia with three main aims in mind: to cultivate partnerships, strengthen exchange programs and explore options for joint research. Existing cooperation arrangements were stepped up on the trip and new ones agreed for the future.

Partnerships in Australia strengthened - a delegation led by Professor Michael Hoch, Rector of the University of Bonn (front left), visiting the University of Melbourne.
Partnerships in Australia strengthened - a delegation led by Professor Michael Hoch, Rector of the University of Bonn (front left), visiting the University of Melbourne. © Photo: Harry Wood/University of Melbourne
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The main event was the delegates’ visit to the University of Melbourne, with which the University of Bonn has enjoyed strong links for many years in the form of a strategic partnership. The two institutions collaborate in various areas, including the joint training of doctoral students, transdisciplinary research projects and management and administrative matters.

Partnership agreement with the University of Melbourne extended

During the visit to Melbourne by the delegation from Bonn—made up of representatives from the Rectorate, the International Office and the Faculty of Medicine—the existing partnership agreement between the two institutions was extended by Professor Michael Hoch, Rector of the University of Bonn, and Professor Duncan Maskell, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne. “We’re delighted to be continuing our successful partnership for the next five years at least,” Rector Hoch said. “The University of Melbourne is an outstanding center of research and a key strategic partner for us.” “The partnership agreement will enable our two universities to work even more closely together across the board,” added Professor Birgit Ulrike Münch, Vice Rector for International Affairs. “Over the next few years, we want to take our already very close cooperation on research projects and teaching partnerships and our joint training of doctoral students up to the next level with our shared research programs for all our faculties.”

With the aid of specific projects, how this collaboration might be structured in the future was explored in discussions with researchers from both universities, focusing particularly on partnerships in medicine. For instance, the Cumming Centre for Global Pandemic Therapeutics in Melbourne, a new research institute for studying and combating pandemics that has been endowed with AU$250 million by the philanthropist Geoffrey Cumming, is funding international research partnerships and thus opening up attractive funding opportunities for joint Bonn-Melbourne research teams as well. It is set to make an initial decision on funding soon.

International Research Training Groups underpinning strategic partnership

The two universities have also agreed to step up their joint work training doctoral students. The “Bonn & Melbourne Research and Graduate School Immunosciences,” which has been funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) since 2016, enables doctoral students in immunology to work in German-Australian research tandems and spend a year at the respective partner university. It has already produced over 35 graduates. “This international Graduate School forms an important and extremely successful part of our faculty that does much more than just deliver the program,” says Professor Bernd Weber, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Bonn. “It has made the bond of friendship and trust between our faculty and our colleagues from Melbourne even stronger, has generated numerous new research projects, and has undoubtedly laid firm foundations for the collaboration that the Immunosensation² Cluster of Excellence is doing within the framework of the Cumming Centre. I can’t wait to work together on more follow-up projects.” The first jointly supervised doctoral students are currently completing their doctorates in the plant sciences and in the “Decision Neuroscience” research field. A proposal for another DFG-funded international Research Training Group is being drafted at the moment and was the subject of much discussion during the delegation.

As well as working together on medicine in this way, the two institutions have also decided to boost their university-wide cooperation schemes. For instance, the joint supervision of doctoral students in the Joint PhD program, which sees researchers from Bonn and Melbourne tackle joint doctoral dissertation projects, is to be expanded, while the Collaborative Research Grants, which fund joint research projects, are likewise being continued.

Recipients announced for joint grant programs

Since 2020, the University of Bonn has been supporting joint research and doctoral dissertation projects across the two institutions from its Excellence funding together with the University of Melbourne in two programs: the “Bonn-Melbourne Research Excellence Fund” and the “Bonn-Melbourne Joint PhD Program.” This year’s recipients under the universities’ two joint grant programs were announced at a networking meeting in the company of the researchers and doctoral students from the University of Melbourne who have been awarded funding to date. The following secured funding from the Bonn-Melbourne Research Excellence Fund:
• Professor Alastair Stewart (Melbourne) and Professor Elena Reckzeh (Bonn): “Superfused Human Organoids to Study Metabolic Adaptation of the Gut in Response to Dietary Changes.”
• Professor Abbas Rajabifard (Melbourne) and Mahsa Moghadas (Bonn): “Advanced Resilience Analytics in the Digital Era: Knowledge Transfer on Harnessing Geospatial Data and Digital Twins.”
• Associate Professor Pierro Perucca (Melbourne) and Julika Pitsch (Bonn): “Molecular Pathology of Hippocampal Sclerosis: Detecting Pathogenic and Modifier Gene Variants in Hippocampal Tissue.”

The funding available under the Joint PhD program will soon be allowing the following research teams to invite proposals for two doctoral grants each:
• Associate Professor Raymond Ching-Bong Wong (Melbourne) and Professor Volker Busskamp (Bonn): project 1: “Study of Epigenetics and Transcriptomic Modifiers for Retinal Aging”; project 2: “Aging of Transdifferentiated and Stem Cell-Derived Human Photoreceptors.”
• Professor Andrew Western (Melbourne) and Professor Julian Klaus (Bonn): project 1: “Understanding Transit Time in the Catchment and Incorporating Reaction Times into Transit Time Models to Improve the Prediction of Non-Conservative Pollutants (Nitrate) in Catchments”; project 2: “Estimating Information Content of Tracer Data for Catchment Transit Time Modelling.”
• Dominic Dwyer (Melbourne) and Professor Eva-Christina Schulte (Bonn): projects 1 and 2: “Using Artificial Intelligence Approaches to Identify Subgroups of Individuals At-Risk of the Severe and Debilitating Mental Illness of Psychosis.”

Student exchange with universities in Sydney and Canberra

Following the talks in Melbourne, some of the delegates led by Professor Birgit Ulrike Münch and Professor Klaus Sandmann, Vice Rector for Teaching, Learning and University Development, proceeded on to Canberra and Sydney, where they visited the Australian National University and the University of New South Wales in order to strengthen existing ties and explore options for joint research. The University of Bonn already runs highly popular student exchanges with both institutions. “In the discussions that we held at ANU and UNSW, our partners reiterated that Germany is one of the most attractive destination countries for Australian students,” Vice Rector Sandmann revealed. “We want to keep on harnessing this potential going forward, further strengthen Bonn as a UN city and a hub for international students and expand our teaching partnerships with universities in other countries.” 

International Office
Dr. Christian Klöckner
E-Mail: c.kloeckner@uni-bonn.de

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