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SNSF Advanced Grants for two Basel researchers

SNSF logo in front of the Basel skyline

Professor Malte Helmert from the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science and Professor Hanna Walsdorf from the Department Arts, Media, Philosophy will each receive a five-year endowment for their groundbreaking projects.

15 August 2023

With the SNSF Advanced Grants, the Swiss National Science Foundation supports outstanding scientists in Switzerland who choose unconventional approaches to reach new insights. The approved projects are funded with more than two million Swiss francs each over a period of five years.

The SNSF Advanced Grants were launched in 2021 to provide researchers at Swiss institutions with a substitute to the ERC Advanced Grants, for which they are currently not eligible to apply, as Switzerland is considered a non-associated third country by the EU’s Horizon Europe research program.

Towards a unified theory of state-space search

Portrait of Prof. Dr. Malte Helmert
Prof. Dr. Malte Helmert

In Artificial Intelligence, abstractly representing a problem using a state space and searching for valid paths is one of the most important ways to solve a problem. However, finding paths in very large graphs is a central problem in AI and other areas of computer science, since graphs of extreme size are common to many combinatorial optimization problems.

In AI research, state-space search is referred to as automated planning. It has been intensively researched for decades and has produced three predominant techniques, all of which have their specific strengths and significantly outperform the other two approaches on some inputs.

The project of computer scientist Malte Helmert now aims to develop a unifying theory that can explain the mechanisms by which each approach achieves selective superiority. In a second step, the researchers want to develop novel algorithms that combine the best features and can dominate existing algorithms from different methods.

In this way, the project promises to provide a new, unified understanding of the algorithmic foundations of factorized state-space search and to bring together three currently unrelated research directions with enormous potential for synergy.

Malte Helmert has been Professor of Computer Science at the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science since 2011. In 2013, he was awarded a Starting Grant and in 2018 a Consolidator Grant by the European Research Council (ERC).

The music after sunset

Portrait of Prof. Dr. Hanna Walsdorf
Prof. Dr. Hanna Walsdorf

Eight hours of uninterrupted sleep was not always considered the norm: Until the beginning of the industrial age, it was common for people to sleep in two shifts due to limited availability of artificial light. In between, they were awake and engaged in various activities, as American historian Roger Ekirch showed in 2001 using numerous historical examples. Making music after sunset appears in a new light against this background, and it becomes clear that the distinction between evening music (before the first sleep) and night music (after the first sleep) pre-1800 was in fact very deliberate.

In her project, “The Night Side of Music,” musicologist Hanna Walsdorf will examine how the segmented sleep shaped the history of music in the early modern period between 1500 and 1800. She looks at domestic religious music-making and musical practice in the monastic daily schedule, as well as nightly private concerts and musical gatherings. Finally, she asks how the time between sunset and sunrise was reflected in music itself. Walsdorf's goal with this research is to contribute to reassessing musical behavior and repertoire.

Hanna Walsdorf has been Assistant Professor of Musicology in Basel since 2022.

Upcoming call for SNSF Advanced Grants

Switzerland continues to be considered a non-associated third country in the European research program "Horizon Europe". For this reason, the federal government has mandated the SNSF to continue to advertise the transitional SNSF Advanced Grants and SNSF Swiss Postdoctoral Fellowships in 2023.

The State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation has given the SNSF the mandate for an SNSF Advanced Call for 2023. Information on the call for SNSF Advanced Grants 2023 will follow shortly. The instrument is aimed at researchers who wanted to apply for an ERC Advanced Grant this year to conduct innovative and high-risk research in Switzerland.

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