Cluster of Excellence on Plant Sciences (CEPLAS) secures funding for an additional 7 years
Germany’s only purely plant-focused Cluster of Excellence, CEPLAS, will receive an additional seven years of funding through the “Excellence Strategy” programme. This continued support, starting from the beginning of 2019, constitutes a ringing endorsement of the quality of plant science in the Cologne/Düsseldorf area and will ensure that the Rhineland and its institutions will continue to lead the way in world-class plant research.
CEPLAS was first established in 2012 within the Excellence Initiative and comprises principle investigators from two universities – Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf and the University of Cologne – as well as researchers from Forschungszentrum Jülich and the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research (MPIPZ). MPIPZ researchers are strongly represented in CEPLAS. The three current directors, Paul Schulze-Lefert, Miltos Tsiantis, and George Coupland, as well as Jane Parker and the Humboldt professors Jijie Chai and Wolf Frommer are all members of the faculty, while other scientists from the institute participate as associate members.
Under the appellation SMART Plants for tomorrow’s needs, CEPLAS aims to contribute to improvements in plant performance and to thus meet rising demands for sustainable food production and ecosystem maintenance. This strategic mission is achieved by research that is grouped into four areas: research area 1 aims at optimizing plant performance by mapping the interface between development and metabolism, research area 2 aims at understanding the functional relationship between plants and their associated microbiota and soil edaphic factors. Both research areas are complemented by the new research areas ‘theoretical plant biology and data science’ and ‘synthetic and reconstruction biology’, that both strongly interact with the other research areas.
Beyond research goals, CEPLAS is also committed to providing outstanding support and training to scientists at all career stages. This includes research internships for undergraduate students and a new Bachelor degree in quantitative biology jointly offered by the University of Cologne and Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf. In addition, the cluster will continue its support for doctoral and postdoctoral researchers by setting up a new CEPLAS Graduate School and a Postdoc and Group Leader Programme that will enable the participating institutions to recruit and train an increased number of outstanding young plant scientists.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for basic research in plant science in our region. We can build an international center of excellence reflected in major discoveries, recruitment of top-level international talent, and truly interdisciplinary training of young researchers who will work in a supportive environment designed to harness creativity”, says managing director of the MPIPZ, Prof. Miltos Tsiantis.