Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster

12/04/2018 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 12/04/2018 01:57

Grants worth millions for Münster University lawyer and chemist

Niels Petersen and Ryan Gilmour awarded Consolidator Grants by the European Research Council

Two Consolidator Grants for 2018, awarded by the European Research Council (ERC), go to researchers at the University of Münster: Prof. Niels Petersen, a lawyer at the Faculty of Law, and Prof. Ryan Gilmour, a chemist at the Institute of Organic Chemistry, each receive one of the coveted grants, which are together worth 3.6 million euros.

'These grants from the European Research Council represent special recognition for our researchers and are an indicator of the excellent research being done at our University,' says Rector Prof. Johannes Wessels. 'What is particularly gratifying in this case is the fact that we have been successful not only in Natural Sciences but also in Law. This is impressive evidence of the breadth of the top-level research being undertaken here. These grants will enable the two researchers to continue with the work they have been doing so far and further strengthen their academic reputations.'

Niels Petersen holds the chair of Public Law, International Law and EU Law and Empirical Legal Research. In the coming five years he will be receiving around 1.6 million euros for a research project dealing with the question of how inequality can be corrected through the law. Rights relating to equality and bans on discrimination can be found in almost all constitutions and human rights treaties. At first glance, equality appears to be a fundamental postulate of justice. However, a closer inspection throws up numerous questions. Equality with reference to what, for example? Do laws on equality offer protection against social inequality? Do they protect minorities from discrimination? Do they provide protection against arbitrary decisions by the state?

In most cases, constitutional texts are not very forthcoming on these questions, so it is hardly surprising that attempts in court to make these standard texts more specific vary greatly in different legal systems. The research project being undertaken by Niels Petersen has two primary aims. Firstly, it makes a survey of rulings on equality. It examines the rulings made by 16 different international and national high courts and seeks to define the notion of equality upon which each ruling is based. And secondly, the research also has a normative intention. Niels Petersen aims to find out which notion of equality is most appropriate for the court context. Which types of inequality should courts correct, and where should they rather exercise restraint and leave any corrections to the democratic legislators.

Ryan Gilmour holds the chair of Organic Chemistry and Chemical Biology at the 'Cells in Motion' (CiM) Cluster of Excellence. He already received an ERC Starting Grant in 2013. Building on this success, this latest award - the Consolidator Grant worth two million euros - will enable him and his team to undertake detailed research into new fields of organofluorine chemistry in the next five years.

The background to this is as follows: looking at all the molecules which occur in nature, only around twelve of them have a fluorine atom. In contrast to this, fluorinated organic materials account for 20 to 30 percent of pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals. This disparity plays an important role in the discovery and development of many high-performance materials which impact on our daily lives - e.g. Teflon. However, in most cases the fluorination patterns which have a significant influence on molecular properties are restricted to structures which can be produced in the laboratory. This indicates that there are extensive areas within the field of chemistry which still have to be explored - in the search for next-generation materials for medicine, agrochemicals, materials sciences and biomedicine. The fundamental aim being pursued in the project is the development of new types of highly selective fluorination reactions. Starting with simple, inexpensive, commercially available sources, the aim is to make it possible to access complex, spatially defined, fluorinated organic materials.

The Consolidator Grants funding line is aimed at junior researchers between seven and twelve years after they have gained their doctorate. It provides support in building up or continuing excellent, independent research teams. Further funding lines are ERC Starting Grants and ERC Advanced Grants. At the University of Münster there are a total of around 20 researchers who have received a grant from the EU Commission during their careers.

Niels Petersen:

Niels Petersen was born in 1978 and studied law and socio-scientific methodology at the Universities of Münster and Geneva and at Columbia University. After taking his PhD at the University of Frankfurt/Main he was a post-doctoral research fellow at the Max Planck Institute of Research on Collective Goods from 2007 to 2015. In 2012 and 2013 he also undertook research at the New York University School of Law. In 2014 he completed his habilitation at the University of Bonn and was appointed professor at Münster University's Faculty of Law at the beginning of 2015.

Ryan Gilmour:

Ryan Gilmour was born in Ayrshire, Scotland, in 1980. After gaining his PhD at the University of Cambridge in England, he undertook research at the Max Planck Institute of Coal Research in Mülheim an der Ruhr, as well as at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, Switzerland. At the ETH he subsequently held an Alfred Werner Assistant Professorship, funded by the Werner Foundation, which provides financial support for talented junior researchers in Switzerland. Since 2012, Gilmour has been Professor of Chemical Biology at the University of Münster and, since 2016, has held the chair of Organic Chemistry and been CiM Professor of Chemical Biology. He was also awarded the Ružička Prize by the ETH Zurich and was appointed a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry