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Departments by subject group and central institutes
Department/ Central Institute
The Department of Law is divided into three fields: civil law, criminal law, and public law. The academic content taught is determined by current legal regulation and oriented towards actual judicial practice and adjudication. Therefore, an essential subject of research is the analysis of legal norms – found in legal comments, verdicts, consultations or legal opinions – and the method underlying their interpretation and application. The historical and philosophical dimensions of law are the object of basic research and teaching.
The Law Department’s central topics of research include the Europeanization and internationalization of law with a concentration on European, international and comparative law, international commercial and regulatory law, the application and understanding of law in general society, and the influence of demographic change and age on legislation. By cooperating with renowned law faculties around the world, the Center for Transnational Legal Studies offers the opportunity to conduct research on problem areas in law that transcend borders in a multicultural and transnational environment.
The Department of History and Cultural Studies offers a range of subjects that is unique in the German university landscape. Its scope in time and place covers the periods from antiquity to modernity and regions all around the world, from Europe to the Middle East, Asia, and North and South America. Another strength of the disciplines represented at the department are the methodological skills taught that make the empirical evaluation and development of theoretical models in different regions and time periods possible. The range of subjects gives orientation in and reflects a world in which the universality of European culture is more and more put into question.
The Department for Mathematics and Computer Science offers a variety of international degrees in Mathematics, Computer Science, Bioinformatics, and several subjects that include teacher training. The research foci of the Institute for Mathematics are in the fields of numerical mathematics, algebra, discrete mathematics and geometry, whereas researchers at the Institute for Computer Science are interested in how data transmission and processing in networks can improve cooperation among humans.
The department’s research is often times conducted in highly successful interdisciplinary and university-wide collaborations such as the Berlin Mathematical School, the German Research Foundation’s research center MATHEON, and the German Center for Mathematics Teacher Education. The research activities of these three institutions are now jointly taking place at the Einstein Center for Mathematics.
Examples of successful cooperation with non-university institutions are the International Max Planck Research School for Computational Biology and Scientific Computing and the Helmholtz Research Training Group GeoSim, which, in English-language PhD programs, train promising future researchers at the Dahlem Research School. The Research Forum on Public Safety and Security was founded in 2009 and works on bringing together research projects from different disciplines and institutions that deal with the topic of public safety and security.
The Department of Veterinary Medicine is a renowned center for veterinary training, research, and services. It is one out of five training facilities for prospective veterinarians. The research activities of the more than 20 scientific institutions, among them five clinics, are integrated in a global network. The department is present at two locations in Berlin, Düppel and Dahlem.
With the Veterinarium Progressum, the department has its own further training center for its approximately 500 employees and which is also open for external participants. The Library for Veterinary Medicine has a collection of around 160.000 books.
The department’s veterinary research traditionally evolves around maintaining and improving animal health, food safety, and the quality of animal food products. However, it also conducts research on the performance, health, and reproduction of agricultural livestock.
The special research area “Nutrition and Intestinal Microbiota – Host Interactions in Swine” looks at the influence of nutritional factors on the intestinal function and health of swine.
The German Research Foundation has established the International Research Training Group GRK 1673 “Functional Molecular Infection Epidemiology” at the department. In cooperation with the Indian Hyderabad University, the department’s veterinarians look into the manifestations of infectious diseases in dependency on genetic factors.
The John F. Kennedy Institute belongs to the most important research institutions on North America in Europe and stands out with its manifold research activities. It was founded by the political scientist Ernst Fraenkel in 1963 with the aim of creating scientific expertise on North America.
The institute’s six different departments are integrated into the faculty of their respective discipline. The library of the John F. Kennedy Institute has around 790.000 books and other media material, which makes it the largest library specialized on North American Studies in Europe.
The institute offers students an excellent academic education with specialization on the United States and Canada. As part of the university’s successful participation in the federal Excellency Initiative, the Graduate School for North American Studies was established at the John F. Kennedy Institute in 2006 and further extended in 2012. The PhD program is dedicated to the comprehensive and interdisciplinary research of the societal, economic and cultural changes of the North American societies at the beginning of the 21st century.
The Freie Universität’s School of Business and Economics is one of the biggest faculties for economic sciences in Germany. Four departments in the area of business administration and one in economics offer students a wide range of research areas and topics that they can choose from and combine.
At eight different institutes, the Department of Philosophy and the Humanities offers students a multifaceted spectrum of the liberal arts, which includes Philosophy, the cultures of antiquity, Greek, Latin, English, Roman, German, and Dutch Philology, Comparative Literature, Theater and Film Studies, Musicology, and Culture and Media Management.
The department currently offers over BA degree programs (some of them with a 60 CP or 30 CP module/minor) – some of them with optional teacher training -, and numerous consecutive MA programs. The PhD programs in German and English are embedded in the structure of the Dahlem Research School. The Study, Examination, and PhD Offices of the department are available for questions.
Students and doctorates of the humanities have an excellent academic infrastructure at their disposal. It includes the Philological Library, designed by Baron Norman Foster, as well as the Friedrich Schlegel Graduate School, the only graduate school for literary studies successful in the Excellency Competition of the German federal and state governments up to this day.
Physics is one of the basic sciences at the core of the natural science canon at the Freie Universität Berlin. Having its foundation in basic research, the Department of Physics is divided into the areas of experimental physics, theoretical physics, and didactics of physics. Solid-state, cluster, and surface physics are among the department’s research foci, as well as biophysics, theoretical physics and didactic. Objects of interest are, for example, the fundamental characteristics of nanomaterials and elementary processes, the properties of proteins, atoms and molecules on surfaces, and how electrical structures of surfaces react to high-intensity femtosecond laser pulses.
The many-body quantum theory, quantum information theory, and computational molecular biophysics are some of the topics dealt with in theoretical physics. The department’s didactics section looks at how findings in modern physics can be simplified and conceptualized, develops new school experiments and teaching material, and evaluates the effectiveness of teaching and learning methods.
Special professorships established together with the Helmholtz Center Berlin and the Max Born Institute further expand the department’s research spectrum to include solar energy research and rapid non-linear processes on surfaces and solids.
In addition to its work on the latest innovative research in international scientific collaborations and joint projects, the department also stands out with its quality of teaching and intensive support of young scientists. Furthermore, through its didactics section, the department has close ties to local schools and has set up a student laboratory to be used by secondary school students and their teachers.
The Departments of Medicine of the Freie Universität Berlin and the Humboldt University Berlin were merged into a faculty of the new university hospital Charité in 2003. It comprises all institutions and facilities occupied with the academic responsibilities of teaching and researching human and dental medicine.
The Institute for East European Studies is an interdisciplinary area studies institute of the Freie Universität Berlin. Located on the campus in Dahlem, the institute’s teaching, research, and consulting reflects the dynamic of the diverse processes of change taking place in the eastern part of our continent.
It is a heterogeneous, conflict-laden and, after the expansion of the European Union, very important region that has to deal with many questions and challenges.
The teaching program of the institute focuses on the contemporary and multidisciplinary MA degree program “East European Studies” and the distance learning MA program of the same name.
Research is focused on contemporary issues, especially those related to the transformation processes in Central, Southeast and Eastern Europe and their historic origins.
Other areas of research are cultural scientific questions and ethnonational conflicts in the eastern European region.
The Department of Education and Psychology consists of the fields Psychology, Education, and Primary School Education, and includes the Dahlem School of Education. The practical training that the prospective teachers and pedagogues receive there and its intensive cooperation with schools are outstanding characteristics of the department.
“Life Sciences” are a special focus of the Department of Biology, Chemistry, and Pharmacy. Its institutes have connections with numerous non-university research institutions and offer excellent education and career opportunities.
The Institute for Biology focuses on the areas molecular plant science, microbiology, neurobiology, ecological processes, the evolution of animals and plants, and biodiversity in all its facets.
Focus areas of the Institute for Chemistry and Biochemistry are structural formation, function and chemical reactivity, stereo selective and macromolecular synthesis, molecular and medical biochemistry and structural biochemistry.
The Institute for Pharmacy is the biggest pharmaceutical educational institution in Germany. Teaching and research are conducted in the fields of pharmaceutical biology, pharmaceutical chemistry, clinical pharmacy, pharmacology, and pharmaceutical technology.
The Institute for Latin American Studies (LAI) of the Freie Universität Berlin is the largest institute for Latin American Studies in Germany. It belongs to one of the leading institutions in its field in Europe and combines area studies with the traditional specialized disciplines.
The LAI is one of the three central institutes at Freie Universität. The institute houses seven disciplines from the social and cultural sciences doing research and teaching.
In 2009, the International Research Training Group “In Between Spaces. Movements, Actors and Representations of Globalization” was established which looks at movements between world regions. The topic of the competence network desiguALdades.net, founded in 2010, is “Interdependent Inequality Research in Latin America”.
Also in 2010, the Research Center Brazil was established at the LAI. The international joint project “MISEAL – Measures for Social Inclusion and Equality at Latin American Institutions of Higher Education” has been running since 2012.
The Department of Political and Social Sciences is home to the Otto Suhr Institute for Political Sciences, the Institute for Sociology, the Institute for Media and Communication Studies, and the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology.
The department’s research in the field of political and social sciences looks at the phenomena of social life and interaction. Among them are questions about the political structure and design of globally and nationally interconnected processes with regards to both international relations and the framework of transregional politics in and outside of Europe.
Important research foci are the cultural and social aspects of contemporary migration flows, which are analyzed in both the European and outer-European context. Global processes are also relevant for the research of environmental policies, natural disasters, and the conditions, structures, contents and effects of media communication.
Questions about the role of emotions in social interactions and social movements and about the social and cultural conditions of health and diseases are increasingly gaining in importance at the department. Other major points of research are social inequalities in the European and outer-European context, which include issues of gender relations.
The department belongs to the most research-intensive institutions for political and social sciences in Germany. Representative for its manifold research activities are the Collaborative Research Center and Research Group for international and European relations, participation in research associations, such as the clusters “TOPOI” and “Languages of Emotion” that were successful in the Excellence Competition of the German federal and state governments, and the Graduate Schools for “Muslim Cultures and Societies” and “East Asian Studies.”
The Department of Earth Sciences on the GeoCampus Berlin-Lankwitz/Dahlem consists of three institutes: Geological Sciences, Geographical Sciences, and Meteorology.
The Department’s research focuses on the interactive physical, chemical, and biological processes taking place within the Earth, on the Earth’s surface, and the Earth’s atmosphere, as well as on the interactions between humans and the environment. Researchers study these processes primarily through the lens of natural science, but also using methods drawn from the social sciences.
The strength of the department’s research is evident in its participation in the TOPOI cluster of excellence, the German Research Foundation’s (DFG) decision to establish three of its Research Units there, as well as several other projects co-financed by industrial partners. This success is based on the development and application of interdisciplinary research approaches, and a broad and highly active research network including university and non-university institutions in the greater Berlin-Potsdam region as well as in Europe and other parts of the world.
The Center for Area Studies brings together the expertise and research activities of the university's various research clusters in the humanities and social sciences that specialize on different regions of the world.
The DHC aims to bring together the university's nationwide unique range of research in the humanities.
DynAge - Disease in Human Aging
Within the DynAge Focus Area (Disease in Human Aging – Dynamics at the Level of Molecules, Individuals, and Society), researchers look at age-related disease processes using an interdisciplinary approach.
NanoScale – Functional Materials at the Nanoscale
Within the Focus Area “Functional Materials at the Nanoscale,” researchers explore the properties of nanoscale systems. The systems range from nanotubes and nanoparticles over macromolecules up to peptides and proteins.