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U Bremen Excellence Chairs: Close Cooperation with International Experts

The university is strengthening its cooperation with international experts: it has gained selected experts from all over the world for the U Bremen Excellence Chairs. These visiting professors conduct research closely with colleagues of the university.

Great materials scientist Nicola Marzari and distinguished expert for wireless communication and networks Petar Popovski have already been working at the university, while renowned social anthropologist and sociologist Shalini Randeria arrived this week: At the University of Bremen there are currently many top executives to guest The experts hold high-ranking scientific positions, lead successful research groups, and have already received numerous awards. In the future, Bremen will also benefit from their networks and expertise: with the newly established U Bremen Excellence Chairs, the experts can pursue very specific questions with special support. They will work closely with their colleagues from the University of Bremen, who nominated them for these Excellence Chairs.

Boost for International Cooperation

“With this measure, science in Bremen and our international cooperation will receive another major boost,” says Professor Bernd Scholz-Reiter, President of the University of Bremen. “We link very successful researchers from other countries to us in scientifically highly interesting areas and intensify professional collaboration. Both sides are able to benefit from the respective networks of those involved.”

Excellence Chairs Also at MARUM

The successful “The Ocean Floor – Unexplored Interface of the Earth” Excellence Cluster from MARUM – Center for Marine Environmental Sciences at the University of Bremen, which is part of the Excellence Strategy of the German federal government and states, will also establish three marine sciences Excellence Chairs. “We have succeeded in involving internationally leading researchers in the fields of marine biogeochemistry, geomicrobiology, and the analysis of so-called ‘old’ DNA in ocean floor research,” says MARUM Director Professor Michael Schulz. “This will strengthen our cluster in a complementary way in terms of the subject and at the same time provide us with an excellent international network.”

What Are the U Bremen Excellence Chairs?

The U Bremen Excellence Chairs are financed from the so-called university lump sum with one million euros per year. The University of Bremen will receive the support as part of the Excellence Strategy of the German federal government and states from 2019 to 2025. These funds were granted to the university in addition to the successful cluster application of the MARUM – Center for Marine Environmental Sciences. The state of Bremen will increase this support by a further 500,000 euros per year. “The universities that were successful in the Excellence Cluster competition should thus also be able to develop strategically in all areas,” explains Fabian Heuel from Strategic Initiatives. “As ‘free strategic tools,’ they can be used at will. We have decided to create eight U Bremen Excellence Chairs. MARUM itself will set up three Excellence Chairs from cluster funding resources.”

The long-term guest professorships run for at least four years. They will be located in the two high-profile areas of materials science and Minds, Media, Machines (MMM), the area of remote sensing, and the “Worlds of Contradiction” research platform, which incorporates humanities, social sciences, cultural studies, and law. The visiting professors are proven experts with a high reputation at their home universities. The Excellence Chair at the University of Bremen provides them with additional research opportunities. They cooperate closely with their Bremen colleagues.

Closely Integrated into University Structures

Within the framework of the U Bremen Excellence Chairs, the University of Bremen finances two junior researcher positions for each visiting professor. The Bremen research group can also be expanded and developed with other funds. The U Bremen Excellence Chairs are closely integrated into the specialized structures in Bremen and can also supervise doctoral students here.

Initially, seven Excellence Chairs were set up at the University of Bremen and the MARUM. Four more will be added later this year. The first seven chairs at a glance :

Professor Nicola Marzari, L’École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland, materials scientist, research area: computational design and discovery of novel materials

Professor Petar Popovski, Aalborg University, Denmark, electrical engineer, research topic: wireless communication and networks

Professor Shalini Randeria, Rector of the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, Austria, and professor at the Graduate Institute for International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland, social anthropologist and sociologist, research topic: soft authoritarianism

Professor Haizhou Li, National University of Singapore, electrical engineer and electronics technician, research topic: machine listening

Professor Jack Middelburg, Utrecht University, Netherlands, geochemist, research topic: marine carbon cycle

Professor Victoria Orphan, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, USA, environmental scientist, research topic: microbial communities

Professor Eske Willerslev, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and University of Cambridge, United Kingdom, research topic: fossil DNA in marine deposits

More about the individual persons below.


Additional Information:



Fabian Heuel
Strategic Initiatives (SPE)
University of Bremen
Tel.: +49 421 218-60018
E-mail: fabian.heuelprotect me ?!uni-bremenprotect me ?!.de


Overview of the Excellence Chairs:


Professor Petar Popovski

is a professor of wireless communication at Aalborg University, Denmark. Wireless communication and networks, communication theory, the connectivity of the Internet of Things, and wireless 5G systems are core topics of the award-winning electrical engineer. His U Bremen Excellence Chair is integrated into the “Advancing Earth Observation Science” (AEOS) cluster initiative of the University of Bremen to improve Earth observation by means of small satellites. It is headed by Professors Armin Dekorsy, John Burrows, and Claus Lämmerzahl. By combining the expertise of Petar Popovski and his Bremen colleagues, data transmission between small satellites and Earth is to be improved using modern methods of machine learning. These are needed in the so-called NewSpace area for high-performance networks of small satellites.


Professor Shalini Randeria

is Rector of the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna and a professor of social anthropology and sociology at the Graduate Institute for International and Development Studies in Geneva, where she also heads the Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy. In Bremen, within the framework of the interdisciplinary “Worlds of Contradiction” (WoC) research platform, she is establishing a research group on “soft authoritarianism” at the interface of cultural studies, law, and social sciences. Case studies on Eastern Europe, India, and Turkey, and their diaspora, examine the processes of the subtle, systematic transformation of democratic institutions. The focus is on legal and everyday practices as well as the language forms of the new authoritarianism.


Professor Nicola Marzari

holds the “Theory and Simulation of Materials” chair at L’École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland, and is one of the most prominent materials scientists in the world. At EPFL, he heads the MARVEL Center of Excellence for computational design and discovery of novel materials. For his U Bremen Excellence Chair, on which he will work together with scientists from MAPEX – Center for Materials and Processes at the University of Bremen, he has set an ambitious goal: Mazari wants to develop new materials on demand – with the help of artificial intelligence, from the perspective of atoms, and in a resource-conserving and future-oriented way. His team will use a skillful combination of physics-based and data-based modeling.


Professor Haizhou Li

is a professor in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering and the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the National University of Singapore. As a U Bremen Excellence Chair, he will lead a research program within the University of Bremen’s “Minds, Media, Machines” network that focuses on modeling, implementing, and verifying a biologically inspired auditory model for machine hearing that mimics human hearing. Professor Li will establish the “Machine Listening Laboratory” and cooperate closely with computer scientist Professor Tanja Schultz and her team at the Cognitive Systems Lab. One of the goals is to improve speech recognition in multi-speaker scenarios such as cocktail parties.


Professor Eske Willerslev

is a professor at and Director of the Centre for GeoGenetics at the University of Copenhagen and Prince Philip Professor of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Cambridge. He is considered a pioneer in the application of fossil DNA in paleoecological studies. Together with colleagues from the “The Ocean Floor – Unexplored Interface of the Earth” Excellence Cluster at MARUM – Center for Marine Environmental Sciences at the University of Bremen, he now wants to open up the fossil DNA archive in marine deposits. His aim is to use fossil DNA as a source of information on the response of marine ecosystems and food webs to climate change in the past, which is not available by studying classical fossils.


Professor Jack Middelburg

is a professor of geochemistry and Research Institute Director at Utrecht University. His research is located at the interface between environmental sciences, biogeochemistry, and geosciences. As a U Bremen Excellence Chair he will conduct experimental and theoretical research on the marine carbon cycle at the Excellence Cluster of the MARUM – Center for Marine Environmental Sciences at the University of Bremen for four years. A special focus: how is carbon transported through the water column, from the light-flooded zone to the deep sea and ultimately to the ocean floor – the habitat of the deep biosphere? Together with colleagues in the cluster, he will also investigate the functioning of the ocean floor ecosystem. One of the goals is to develop numerical models of the carbon cycle in the ocean.

Professor Victoria Orphan

is a professor of environmental sciences and geobiology at the California Institute of Technology. Her research topics include microbial communities involved in carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur cycles. How do such communities function in the deep sea, in sediments, and in oil and gas leaks? At “The Ocean Floor – Unexplored Interface of the Earth” Excellence Cluster at MARUM – Center for Marine Environmental Sciences at the University of Bremen, Orphan will expand her research in cooperation with MARUM members. Specifically, she is planning to develop a new understanding of the dynamic transformation of carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur compounds in microbial communities using state-of-the-art analytical equipment and unique deep-sea instruments in Bremen.

Zwei Männer im Gespräch
Close cooperation thanks to the U Bremen Excellence Chair: Professor Petar Popovski (left), expert for wireless communication at Aalborg University, Denmark, discusses with his Bremen colleague Armin Dekorsy.