Advanced Grants for systems biologist and computer scientist

Mustafa Khammash (left) and Marc Pollefeys each receive an SNSF Advanced Grant.
Mustafa Khammash (left) and Marc Pollefeys each receive an SNSF Advanced Grant. (Photographs: ETH Zurich / Pino Covino / Giulia Marthaler)
ETH Zurich professors Mustafa Khammash and Marc Pollefeys are each recipients of a prestigious Advanced Grant currently awarded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, rather than the European Research Council.

Two out of 18 Advanced Grants from the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) go to researchers at ETH Zurich. This funding is a transitional measure offered by Swiss Confederation, since researchers from Swiss universities are currently not eligible to apply for an Advanced Grant from the European Research Council. Currently, Switzerland is not associated with the European research programme, Horizon Europe. The aim of the Advanced Grants are to offer research funding for leading scientists, who wish to conduct innovative high-risk research in Switzerland. The SNSF is funding the two projects with a total of CHF 4.8 million.

The following two projects, by researchers, were selected in the current round:

Synthetic cell-based control

The healthy human body is capable of auto-controlling its own processes. If this natural internal control system fails, it manifests in diseases, for example, of the immune system or as metabolic disorders. In his SNSF funded project, Mustafa Khammash , a Professor of Control Theory and Systems Biology, will develop synthetic cell-based control systems for use in human therapy. These advanced biological systems will be able to monitor the physiological variables of patients in real-time and maintain them within healthy ranges by ensuring the finely tuned production of therapeutics. This approach promises advantages over current treatment approaches, which measurements of variables and drug administration are usually intermittent and only roughly tuned to the disease state.

Algorithms that infer functional 3D models

Creating true-to-original three-dimensional virtual reality models has become increasingly easy in recent years. Algorithms can calculate such models directly from photographs. However, this does not apply to functional and interactive objects such as doors, drawers, light switches, keyboards or touch screens. If these are also to be functional in a 3D model, they still have to be programmed painstakingly by hand with appropriate software. In his project, Marc Pollefeys , a professor of Computer Science, will develop algorithms that can automatically create 3D models of functional objects from visual information. To do this, the algorithms evaluate, among other things, the interactions of users with the objects and infer their functionality. This will facilitate the creation of dynamic 3D models for planning and simulation software or entertainment such as mixed reality games.

Further SNSF Advanced Grants were awarded to: Andrea Alimonti , Professor at the UniversitÓ della Svizzera italiana (UZI) and ETH Zurich, and Niklaus Zimmermann , Group Leader at the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL) and an Adjunct Professor at ETH Zurich. These two grants for professors Alimonti and Zimmermann were not obtained through their affiliation with ETH Zurich.
Fabio Bergamin