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What we do

How do the elementary building blocks of nature move? Can atoms, molecules and electrons in matter be controlled and driven with precision on all length and time scales?

These questions represent some of the biggest and most exciting challenges of modern science – and the central objective of The Hamburg Centre for Ultrafast Imaging (CUI): The analysis of fundamental chemical and physical processes in photon and nanoscience

The scientists of CUI hope to gain profound insight into fundamental phenomena such as the mechanisms of high temperature superconductivity, the appearance of different states of magnetism or the development of ordered molecular as well as biological and mesoscopic structures.  The expected insights will extend and broaden our understanding of physics, chemistry and biology and will result in new applications in medicine and novel materials for key technology areas.

Watching atoms, molecules, and electrons in action

The opportunity to directly watch atoms, molecules, and electrons forming bonds and breaking apart will sustainably revolutionize research at the interface of biology, physics and chemistry. Hamburg with its highly developed and advanced X-ray and electron sources as well as laser physics facilities offers a unique surrounding for the direct imaging of atomic processes. To investigate and evaluate such highly complex processes on the relevant length and time scales, it is essential to combine the expertise of different scientific approaches and cultures. Since 2012, scientific teams of diverse disciplines such as physics, chemistry, biology and medicine have been merging under the umbrella of the CUI cluster of excellence.

Training & opportunity

It is fundamentally important for research in Germany to tightly promote young scientists. Therefore a graduate school for PhD students is established as a crucial part of the cluster.  It provides a completely new training programme with interdisciplinary modules developed specifically for the research projects. In addition, PhD students get the opportunity to participate actively in the development of the school, for example, by organizing winter and summer schools, seminars, and lectures.

Those parts of science that are shaped by physics in particular are still dominated by men. Therefore all cluster activities are directly linked to gender and family aspects. A new professorship – the Mildred Dresselhaus Guest Professorship Programme – has been installed especially for women. It invites top female scientists to do research at CUI.

Another important aspect of CUI is to deepen contacts with schools: The cluster intends to arouse interest in the fascinating possibilities of imaging physical and chemical processes and to give young people the opportunity to get in immediate contact with scientist.  Therefore the school lab “Light & Schools” offers training courses and material for teachers as well as regular guided tours and experimental courses for school classes.

Excellent initiative for cutting-edge research

The cluster of excellence aims at providing top researchers an excellent environment for interdisciplinary cutting-edge research. As a research project of Universität Hamburg, CUI is funded within the excellent initiative by the German federal and state governments with the amount of 25 million euro until 2017.