Life- and Neurosciences – Overview

Understanding Life

The life sciences originally focused on the observation of natural phenomena; today quantifiable data play an increasingly important role. They are the basis for algorithms and models and help to better understand life.

One of the most complex structures on earth is the brain. It consists of a network of several billion nerve cells (neurons). We want to understand how their interaction gives rise to cognitive abilities.

Life sciences

Modern biology is increasingly characterised by mathematical and quantitative approaches - in no other discipline the challenges to theory, modelling, and simulation are growing as fast as in the life sciences. 

Atoms cluster together to form molecules, molecular networks trigger cell reactions, and cell behaviour is in turn responsible for tissue structure. The development of theories for the organisation of molecular and cross-cellular networks is therefore a research interest at FIAS. 

Main research topics

  • Analysis, visualisation, modelling, and simulation of cell movements. 
  • Internal signalling processes; interactions of cells with each other and their chemical and mechanical environment. 
  • Personalised medicine: computer models for a holistic understanding of infectious diseases and their transmission. 


We study how the brain forms networks and independently adapts to ever-changing conditions. To describe and understand these dynamic networks, the language of life sciences is no longer sufficient. Sophisticated mathematical models and methods, for example from physics, can help here. 

Computer models of the complex information-processing processes in the brain facilitate the understanding of its functioning and organisation. This is the only way to make progress in the development of ever better information processing systems using artificial intelligence. 

Main research topics

  • Mathematical investigation of high-dimensional activity patterns that occur in specific neuronal networks in humans and animals during cognitive and executive processes (close cooperation with experimental partner institutions).  
  • Simulation of biologically inspired neural networks to better understand how the brain enables vision, learning, understanding and movement. 
  • Implementation of what has been learned in modern robotic systems.

Further Information


Find more information about the research done at FIAS by visiting our research groups.


From cell movements to understanding modern diseases – FIAS scientists work on many exciting topics.


May 23, 2024

Like ripples in the sand: the young cerebral cortex forms spontaneous patterns

International research team demonstrates ability for self-organisation in brain development.

The cortex allows us humans to think, perceive our environment and act purposefully. Certain patterns of brain activity enable this; they emerge early in brain development through dynamic processes of…

Professur Roberto Covino, Enrico Schleiff

May 6, 2024

Frankfurt professorship for Roberto Covino

FIAS is proud and congratulates!

FIAS Fellow Roberto Covino has become a W3 professor at Goethe University Frankfurt in May 2024. The scientist was appointed to the Institute of Computer Science. At the same time, he will retain his …

Frankfurt hat Hirn

April 25, 2024

Brilliant knowledge about the brain

The format "Frankfurt hat Hirn - live" (Frankfurt has brains) proved to be a big success. The casual presentation of knowledge about the brain caught an enthusiastic audience in the Jugendkirche, whic…

digital cellular twin

February 6, 2024

Digital twins: The path to new discoveries in cells

FIAS researchers are playing a leading role in developing pioneering technology that will enter the next funding round as part of the SCALE excellence initiative.

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the prestigious journal "Cell," FIAS Fellow Roberto Covino and his co-authors published an article discussing the future of structural and cellular biology. T…

December 18, 2023

PhD Gustavo Hernandez Mejia: impressive list of publications

FIAS doctorate on influenza infections

Gustavo Hernandez Mejia from Esteban Vargas' FIAS research group, supervised by FIAS Fellow Franziska Matthäus, defended his doctoral thesis on 18 December. During his doctorate, he studied affinity m…

November 24, 2023

Future Groove Slam with FIAS PhD student

The 'ON/NO FUTURE FESTIVALS' of the Heinrich Böll Foundation Hesse on 24 November was all about the next generation. FIAS doctoral student Jonas Elpelt hosted the U20 Science Slam and successfully too…

August 9, 2023

Understanding the network of the specific immune response

Steinberg Foundation promotes Hendrik Schäfer

The Rudolf Steinberg Foundation supported the bioinformatician Dr Hendrik Schäfer at FIAS. Now Schäfer presented his findings on follicular dendritic cells, which form network-like structure in the ly…

August 7, 2023

Sensing light without eyes

Elucidation of a light-controlled ion channel with the aid of artificial intelligence

FIAS Fellow Gerhard Hummer and PhD student Serena Arghittu are significantly contributing to elucidate the structure of a novel light sensor of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans.…

July 13, 2023

Sensor enables analysis of an important cellular scavenger

Glutathione concentration becomes measurable

During the metabolism of cells, aggressive oxygen compounds are formed as side products that can damage proteins or DNA. To intercept these oxygen compounds, cells use the peptide glutathione. A team …

July 3, 2023

Insights into the recycling of our cells

FIAS researchers have made a significant breakthrough in understanding the process of autophagy, a vital cellular mechanism responsible for the degradation and recycling of damaged cellular components…

April 25, 2023

Doctorate Josephine Tetteh

Modelling resistance evolution

Josephine Naa Ayeley Tetteh, from the group of Esteban Hernandez-Vargas, defended her doctoral thesis virtually on April 11th 2023. Her doctoral studies focus on the application of mathematical and co…

March 6, 2023

Understanding information processing in the brain

Gordon Pipa new FIAS Fellow

FIAS has been able to recruit the neuroinformatician Prof. Dr. Gordon Pipa as a new Fellow. The Chair of Neuroinformatics and Director of the Institute of Cognitive Science at the University of Osnabr…

November 29, 2022

Predicting the Course of Influenza Virus Infection

A few drops of blood could be enough to predict the course of influenza infection. This is suggested by a study conducted by the team of Esteban Hernandez-Vargas at FIAS, together with immunologists f…

September 23, 2022

Three Poster Awards on ECMTB 2022

Franziska Matthäus' group is happy to have won three poster prizes at the European Conference on Mathematical and Theoretical Biology, This large conference in the research fie…

September 7, 2022

New binding site to cell membrane identified

Role in retinal and hearing disorders

A team led by Sebastian Thallmair at FIAS investigates the interactions of proteins and lipids (fats) in membranes by means of simulations. In the barrel-shaped Tubby protein, they identified a previo…

August 5, 2022

How does the brain recognise an orange?

DFG Research Group on Abstraction in the Brain and for Better AI Systems

How abstract knowledge is stored in the brain is being studied by psychologists and computer scientists in the new DFG research group ARENA. The findings should contribute to making artificially intel…

July 19, 2022

Congratulations to Bastian Eppler on his doctorate!

Bastian Eppler from Matthias Kaschube's FIAS research group defended his thesis on 19 July and celebrated with the team afterwards. In his doctorate, he studied the mechanisms of how the brain stores …