Researchers, students and employees at the university are responding to the current corona crisis in a variety of ways. This page provides an up-to-date overview of the numerous aid initiatives and projects in research, teaching and transfer.

News ticker: Projects in research, teaching and transfer

Department of Computer Science

A visualization developed at TU Darmstadt for the analysis and tracking of SARS-CoV-2 infections is successfully in use in hospitals. Using the computer-based early warning system SmICS (Smart Infection Control System), scientists, physicians, and medical practitioners can detect infections, suspected cases, and possible transmission routes in hospitals and thus contain them at an early stage.

SmICS was developed by the HiGHmed consortium, which also includes a team led by Dr. Tatjana von Landesberger, Interactive Graphic Systems Group. For two years, the team has been working on the interactive visualization of disease spread – monitoring outbreaks, identifying infected patients and identifying disease transmission pathways. The experience gained so far and the software developed have now been applied to research on the spread of the coronavirus.

Currently, SmICS is used at the founding sites of the HiGHmed consortium in Hannover, Göttingen and Heidelberg, but also at the Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the University Hospitals of Münster and Schleswig-Holstein. The software is also available to all other university hospitals. HiGHmed is part of the Medical Informatics Initiative of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

Department of Biology

An important task in biological and environmental science at many universities and colleges is animal identification. These lectures are especially difficult to provide in digital form because students need to be present so that they can access the objects. In cooperation with the University of Greifswald, TU Darmstadt has thus launched a project to enable the development of digital animal identification exercises.

Numerous universities and organisers were asked to photograph the objects used in their animal identification exercises in such a way that makes it possible to identify them with a traditional dichotomic key. The images are then made freely available in the DigiTiB identification tool. During the course of the summer semester, it should be possible to produce images of the spectrum of objects held at more than 20 German universities – almost 1000 species in total.

Department of Biology

An important task in biological and environmental science at many universities and colleges is animal identification. These lectures are especially difficult to provide in digital form because students need to be present so that they can access the objects. In cooperation with the University of Greifswald, TU Darmstadt has thus launched a project to enable the development of digital animal identification exercises.

Numerous universities and organisers were asked to photograph the objects used in their animal identification exercises in such a way that makes it possible to identify them with a traditional dichotomic key. The images are then made freely available in the DigiTiB identification tool. During the course of the summer semester, it should be possible to produce images of the spectrum of objects held at more than 20 German universities – almost 1000 species in total.

Department of Electrical Engineering and Information Technology

An international team of scientists from various research institutions have developed an online survey that is designed to help make better assessments of the number of corona cases. The survey is currently available for 17 different countries in the respective national languages. It will supplement the system that uses valid swab tests, which are currently only available in limited quantities. The research team is distributed across the world. It also includes Augusto Garcia-Agundez from the Multimedia Communications Lab in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Information Technology.

Detailed information is available here.

Job portal at TU Darmstadt

Stellenwerk, the official job portal of the Technical University of Darmstadt, has expanded its service for posting free job advertisements: Alongside private individuals, companies from the care and health sector, as well as charitable organisations, can now post adverts for temporary jobs during the corona crisis free of charge. Private individuals can also post advertisements for voluntary assistants.

Department of History and Social Sciences

In an interview with the Hanns Seidel Foundation, Arthur Benz, Professor of Political Science at TU Darmstadt (retired), discusses the advantages of federalism, especially in crisis situations: “Crisis management itself actually takes place to a significant extent in the cities, municipalities, districts and regions”, says Benz. We now know that global problems such as climate change, refugees, economic crises and also the current pandemic have local causes but a global impact and in turn that this global impact can manifest itself very differently at a local level. Federalism allows politicians to respond to complex, interdependent and dynamic developments.

Department of Law and Economics

As is the case in every crisis situation, the current corona pandemic does not only bring challenges but also opportunities, especially for entrepreneurs and startups who are willing to take risks. The Entrepreneurship Department headed by Professor Carolin Bock is thus currently investigating two main themes dealing with “Entrepreneurship during corona” as part of the emergenCITY project.

The team is investigating the extent to which crowdfunding as an innovative financing tool can be used as an effective supplement to government bailout funds for businesses, restaurants, bars and creative minds who have been particularly affected by the shutdown. According to the first studies, crowdfunding has proven to be a targeted, quick and flexible aid for those concerned. The researchers will now investigate the extent to which these types of social funding tools can act as a sustainable and above all affordable financing tool in a crisis situation.

In addition, the team is using social media data to help analyse which themes are currently relevant to startups in the current crisis and what technologies are becoming increasingly important. In particular, the team wants to investigate which type of startups are currently being launched and how they are using these technologies to overcome the crisis and help society.

Department of Human Sciences

Sports competitions are currently on hold. How can sportsmen and sportswomen nevertheless motivate themselves to train? Sports psychologist Professor Frank Hänsel from the Institute of Sport Science at TU Darmstadt discusses this subject in an article in the Darmstädter Echo newspaper. Amongst other things, Hänsel advises people not to view the crisis as a threat but rather as a challenge and, for example, to try out new forms of training.

PEASEC – Science and Technology for Peace and Security

Professor Christian Reuter from the Department of Computer Science at TU Darmstadt discusses the role of social media, disinformation and apps in the corona crisis in a video for the series “Scientific dialogue – perspectives on corona” from the Rhine-Main-Universities. Reuter is head of PEASEC – Science and Technology for Peace and Security.

The corona pandemic is placing unprecedented challenges on health systems, politics, business and society around the world. In a series of videos published by the Rhine-Main-Universities and the Mercator Science-Policy Fellowship-Programme, researchers from various disciplines at the Goethe University Frankfurt, TU Darmstadt, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz and other scientific institutions in the Rhine-Main area discuss the latest impacts of the corona crisis.

Department of History and Social Sciences

In a guest article in ZEIT ONLINE, Alfred Nordmann, Professor of Philosophy for History and Philosophy of Technoscience advocates a combination of government-mandated measures and self-responsible citizens. Ultimately, we would all like to understand the problem and then we would be able to find solutions instead of letting ourselves be led blindly through the corona crisis.

In an earlier guest article in ZEIT ONLINE, Alfred Nordmann also took a critical look at the current measures being deployed in the fight against the coronavirus. He calls for creative solutions that meet the following three key requirements: They should be knowledge-based, find common support and be technically smart.

Department of History and Social Sciences

What lessons can be learnt from the corona crisis for international cooperation, environmental and climate protection, the health system and digital literacy? HR Info online asked experts for their opinion on this subject. In her contribution, Michèle Knodt, Professor for Comparative Politics and European Integration and Director of the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence “EU in Global Dialogue”, analyses which of the four phases of typical crisis management we currently find ourselves in. Although the country only currently finds itself between the phases of immediate response (phase one) and managing the crisis (phase two), it is already possible to identify points where we can improve crisis management in the future. These need to be discussed in the last phase of crisis management.

According to Knodt, this includes, for example, better coordination of crisis mechanisms across different political levels and between different political actors, such as between the German federal states, and improving the health system. “It has been demonstrated in many cases, especially in the response phase to the crisis, that the knee jerk reaction of employing exclusive politics for your own political entity and in your own self-interest has come to the fore”, says the political scientist. And: “Health as a central element of public services should no longer be designed primarily according to aspects of cost efficiency.”

Department of Computer Science

The Department of Science and Technology for Peace and Security (PEASEC) headed by Prof. Dr. Christian Reuter in the Department of Computer Science (secondary appointment in the Department of History and Social Sciences) is conducting research in the projects emergenCITY and ATHENE-SecUrban into subjects such as “self-help organisation in crisis situations” and “the perception of fake news in crisis situations”. These themes are also being covered in the lecture courses and will be dealt with in the seminar on “Cyber security, Cyber war and Cyber peace” and the practical course “Computer science in security, peace and crisis situations”.

Department of Computer Science/AI.DA

The AI4healthcare Group under the umbrella of the AI.DA research network (Artificial Intelligence at TU Darmstadt), which is headed by Dr. Anirban Mukhopadhyay (Interactive Graphics Systems Group), is a partner in a broad-based consortium supported by the Deutsche Röntgengesellschaft. The consortium aims to use image data and other multimodal data to better understand COVID-19.

Department of Law and Economics

The Institute of Marketing & Human Resource Management (Department of Law and Economics) headed by Professor Dr. Ruth Stock-Homburg has started the COFIT4u initiative under the motto “Mentally fit though the crisis” to provide support for office workers working from home and management personnel during the current crisis. The current situation is placing a huge mental strain on many people and requires a delicate balancing act in many areas of life – whether professional or private. The website has collected a wealth of tips and links to other sites covering themes such as learning tools, social contacts, self-organisation, relaxation, a healthy diet and exercise that can also be used in isolation to avoid boreout. At the same time, the COFIT4u platform is also home to comprehensive research work being carried out with the support of the Leap in Time foundation: a longitudinal study on management personnel, which aims to find solutions that will help management personnel cope with the current situation more easily, and a longitudinal study on office workers. The researchers will use the findings from these studies to identify measures to help us all stay mentally fit during the current crisis.

Department of Physics

A joint project between TU Darmstadt (Professor PhD Marco Durante) and the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig aims to improve the method of using ionising radiation to inactivate viruses and enable the development of vaccines. The team proposes to irradiate influenza and SARS-CoV-2 viruses with highly energetic heavy ions at the GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research to inactivate the virus by inducing breaks in the RNA but leaving the envelope intact. The resulting viruses will then be investigated at the HZI to test their ability to promote the formation of antibodies and provide immunity. The preparatory tests are currently being completed.

Department of Computer Science

The online seminar Corona-Con run by Professor Dr.-Ing. Ahmad-Reza Sadeghi deals with IT approaches for tackling the Covid-19 pandemic. The seminar focuses on developing a general overview of potential applications for digital technologies in the management of exceptional situations, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, and deriving concrete proposals for action.

The main focus is placed on data processing and communication systems, as well as data analysis methods that enable the extraction of useful information on the emergency situation in a pandemic. The aim is to process and analyse the data and make it available to the authorities, those impacted by the catastrophe and potential users in a broader sense.

HIGHEST Startup and Innovation Center

Information on immediate assistance for startups has been summarised on the HIGHEST website.

Department of Computer Science

The “AutoDock-GPU” software for the accelerated simulation of molecular docking processes, developed by Dr. Leonardo Solis-Vasquez in the Embedded Systems and Applications Group, is currently being ported to the world’s fastest computer “Summit” at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the USA. Using tools such as AutoDock-GPU will hopefully make it possible to develop medicines to combat COVID-19 more quickly than using conventional “wet” laboratory work.

AutoDock-GPU is, however, just one of the software tools being investigated for this application. It is not yet clear which algorithms will prove successful in the end.

Department of Chemistry

Inspired by the article in Science Magazine by Hilgenfeld and Drosten, the group headed by Boris Schmidt in the Organic Chemistry Working Group has started work on identifying inhibitors of the SARS-Cov2 3CL protease. The group has been developing inhibitors with similar structures since 2002.

SARS-Cov2 and COVID-19 are the main focus of the upcoming module on medical chemistry for the lecture courses in the Organic Chemistry Working Group because they provide numerous practical examples: The interaction of the virus with target proteins (ACE2) and therapeutics, the effectiveness of face masks and the development of enzyme inhibitors.

Department of Computer Science in cooperation with the Rhine-Main-Universities

More than 30 researchers in the “Content Analytics for the Social Good” research initiative (CA-SG) at the universities of Darmstadt, Frankfurt and Mainz are holding a workshop on combating the global COVID-19 crisis. The research is based on the strengths of the three universities in the interface between content analysis, political decision making and society. The researchers have quickly defined and started a series of projects dealing with COVID-19.

For example, individual projects have been started with the aim of combating disinformation on the web, identifying complex arguments in the corona debate on the Internet, creating a searchable annotation platform, using data from Twitter and Google Search to predict the number of new infections, developing a platform providing answers to the most urgent questions about the crisis and extracting information from user-generated images on the theme of corona using computer vision techniques to support researchers from other areas with their research. Accumulating knowledge on public opinion about the lockdown of the country is also the subject of research.

Department of Chemistry

The latest publications on coronavirus target structures and docking sites for the virus in the lungs have enabled Professors Dr. Felix Hausch, Dr. Harald Kolmar and Dr. Boris Schmidt to start work on developing drug candidates. While the groups headed by Hausch and Schmidt are following a medicinal chemistry approach and searching for small molecules, the group headed by Kolmar is using their expertise in the field of protein and peptide engineering to generate macromolecular drug candidates. Both approaches are coordinated and complement each other and have the aim of developing lead compounds and strategies for mitigating the effects of corona infections. Naturally, no viruses or non-viable virus particles are being used at TU Darmstadt. The drug candidates are being tested on target proteins and in cell cultures. Research on their anti-viral effect will then be conducted with partner institutions in infection studies.

Department of Law and Economics

Professor Ruth Stock-Homburg is working on the psychological secondary damage that can be caused by crisis periods, such as the one we are currently experiencing, and which is rarely the subject of public discussion: boreout as a consequence of social isolation. The professor of Marketing & Human Resource Management explains in an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper how it can develop and what people can do to protect themselves against it.