Call with CIS 2018

A total of 21 projects were selected for funding within the Seed Funding Grant connecting researchers in 13 Swiss institutions and 16 scientific entities in partner countries. Please find below the full list and descriptions of the selected projects.

Lysosomal biology in autophagy: peculiarities of the interaction of DPPII and ADA in lysosomes

Autophagy is a cellular recycling pathway that targets macromolecules for lysosomal degradation. We aim at a better understanding of the role and regulation of two lysosomal enzymes critical for macromolecule turnover: dipeptidyl peptidase II (DPPII, EC and adenosine deaminase (ADA, EC

In lysosomes a wide variety of macromolecules, including proteins, complex carbohydrates, glycolipids and nucleic acids are degraded. The role of lysosomes in supporting cellular activities is especially important under conditions of nutritional deprivation, which leads to the activation of autophagy. Lysosomes are a major recycling center, providing the basic building blocks and energy for synthesis of essential biomolecules necessary for cell survival.

DPPII is a proline-specific dipeptidyl peptidase family enzyme, localized in lysosomes. It releases N-terminal dipeptides from peptides with proline or alanine in the penultimate position at acidic pH. Some neuropeptides were shown to be cleaved by DPPII. DPPII participates in degradation of myofibril proteins, in cell differentiation, pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases, and protection from cell death. Also, DPPII was suggested to play a role in the degradation of collagens.

It was shown that ADA may convert adenosine to inosine in lysosomes. Inosine can be transported to the cytosol and converted by nucleoside phosphorylase into hypoxanthine and ribose 1-phosphate, which can be used to support cellular energy requirements, particularly important under conditions of nutrient deprivation. Lysosomal compartmentalization of ADA may be important for maintaining cellular energy requirements under conditions when cytosolic adenosine levels are low.

Using a resonant mirror biosensor, fluorescence polarization, and differential spectroscopy techniques we have shown that DPPII binds ADA. The goal of the present project is to (a) investigate the physiological regulation of this interaction and the underlying molecular mechanisms; and (b) on a broader scale to study the regulation of protein-protein interactions inside the lysosome of fed control cells and of starving cells actively undergoing autophagy.

To this end, the next tasks are:

(1) To prove the formation of the enzymes complex in vitro, DPPII from bovine kidney cortex and lung and ADA from bovine lung will be isolated and purified up to the electrophoretically homogeneous state at the Laboratory of Metabolism of Adenylic Compounds at the Institute of Biochemistry of the Armenian National Academy of Science (IBANAS) using standard protein chemistry methods.

(2) Quantitative mass spectrometry (MS)-based proteomics study at the Department of Biology, University of Fribourg (UniFr) of protein complexes inside lysosomes and their regulation in starvation conditions. As focus will be set on the DPPII-ADA complex.


Prof. Jörn Dengjel, University of Fribourg

Dr. Alvard Antonyan, Armenian National Academy of Science

Small finds in metal and mural paintings from a Roman grave

The Ukrainian archaeological heritage bears the marks of a turbulent history. The collaborative project that we are submitting here provides one example among many: a monumental Kurgan tomb, excavated in Kerch in the 1950’s by archaeologists from the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow. This tomb contained many precious small finds in metall, which are currently in the collections at Kiev. The excavation report (including photographic documentation) is archived at the Moscow Institute of Archaeology.

The Roman period tomb was excavated in 1954 under the direction of archaeologist V. A. Blavatskij. It consisted of a burial chamber, an antechamber and a dromos. This imposing structure must have been for elite members of the Cimmerian Bosporus Kingdom. The monument’s vaulted ceiling has not been preserved and some parts have been completely levelled. However, some of the remaining walls still have plaster fragments adhering upon which can be seen painting. The antechamber contained a painted niche, which had been sealed, but has suffered from looting in the past. The faces of the limestone blocks lining the dromos show signs of having been plastered and painted, though some of the roughly squared faces lack paint. The funerary monument housed many poorly preserved burials in which only the small finds in metal have survived. Among the small finds are a combat panoply, harness elements, rings, as well as embossed gold appliqués and thin gold sheets deposited at Kiev. The archaeologist in charge of the excavation included other objects in the inventory such as glass objects and beads, and pottery. The presence of third century CE coins in the burials provided proof of the chronological period.

The examination of the tomb’s outer walls revealed the presence of painted plaster on the stone blocks, indicating the re-utilisation of many architectural elements from an earlier painted tomb. The reconstruction of the painted mural proposed in 1960 (in the magazine "Soviet Archaeology") shows a sequence with imitation pilasters alternating with panels in opus sectile, a style of decoration visible among several painted tombs in Panticapaion.

The Swiss expertise will be used to complete the understanding of the Ukrainian small finds in metal from the tomb. The study of antique painted murals and the analysis of small finds in funeral contexts are among the skills specifically developed at the Institute of Archaeology and Sciences of Antiquity at the University of Lausanne. The prospect of collaboration with one of the most prestigious museums in the Ukraine is a continuation of an already established approach of scientific partnership with the Ukraine - a country on the north-eastern shore of the Black Sea with the archaeological vestiges of many cities, such as Olbia, Tyra or Nikonion, founded during the Greco-Roman Antiquity.

The active neutrality practised by Switzerland makes it possible to reunite the finds from this funerary ensemble (which until now has largely been ignored and only partially studied) in an unprecedented scientific contribution and thus valorising the collections of the Museum of the Historical Treasures of Ukraine.


Dr. Pascal Burgunder, University of Lausanne

Mrs. Ievgeniia Velychko, Museum of historical treasures of Ukraine

Demand-driven Research for Inclusive and Sustainable Rural Development in Georgia

Agriculture is a crucial economic sector in the Republic of Georgia. Yet since the collapse of the Soviet Union 28 years ago it is struggling with land tenure and productivity issues as well as low value addition. The agricultural land privatization reforms of the 1990s not only led to extreme land fragmentation but put the land in the hands of rural dwellers who had never experienced land ownership and/or commercial farm activities. Rural poverty continues to be high in many regions of the country.

In order to tackle these challenges, international development organisations and governmental schemes focus on numerous aspects of agriculture and rural development. Time and again the question arises how policies and development projects can be shaped best to foster productivity and sustainable land management, entrepreneurship and innovation. We believe that innovative high quality research for development can play a key role in this by analysing the needs, opinions and behaviour of stakeholders, evaluating and comparing the impact of past interventions and forecasting scenarios for the future. Put differently, this project aims to proactively link specific, real-world development interventions to applied research and thereby to assist and inform ongoing and pipeline projects.

Both the group International Agriculture at the School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences (HAFL) in Zollikofen, Switzerland, as well as the Agricultural Policy Research Center (APRC) at the International School of Economics (ISET) in Tbilisi, Georgia, have ample experience in demand-oriented research for agricultural and rural development. Therefore we would like to team up to jointly conduct applied research for different international organisations as well as the Georgian government. We intend to establish a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the two institutions and to develop a common concept note regarding the mutual and complementary areas of excellence which we can offer to potential partners in development cooperation. This concept note shall be shared in and beyond our networks. We want to invite interested organisations to brainstorming workshops in order to identify their key needs and challenges to be addressed by applied research. Based on this, we will develop concrete project proposals to be submitted to apt funding schemes. While the specific focus shall be defined by our partners, potential areas for research include the core competences of the team and key topics of Georgian agriculture today: needs and impact assessments, value chain analyses, questions related to sustainable (range)land management and/or innovation adoption studies. While potential barriers to sustainable land management and innovation adoption are well researched and documented in literature in general, Georgia’s case allows for exploring these issues in the specific context of a Soviet past.

Overall, our demand-driven, application-oriented and inclusive approach is all the more important and promising in a post-conflict context such as the Republic of Georgia.


Uncertainty Quantification for Natural Resources

Many critical natural resources - such as fresh drinking groundwater, fossil fuels, geothermal heat, or mineral resources that are required to produce sustainable energy - are exploited underground. This exploitation is often costly, difficult, and subject to high uncertainty because the exact position of these resources is not accurately known in 3D. To minimize the risks, it is crucial to develop probabilistic models allowing decision makers to evaluate the risks, to decide about additional data acquisition, and to avoid wasting natural resources inefficiently.

Stochastic simulation approaches for resources evaluation can be classified into two main families, depending on whether they are model-driven or data-driven. The former relies on the specification of a parent spatial random field, characterized by the set of all its finite-dimensional distributions. For example, truncated Gaussian simulation defines the geological domains by truncating a Gaussian random field and can be applied when these domains obey an ordered sequence that can be confirmed through the geological setting. Plurigaussian simulation is an extension of truncated Gaussian simulation that allows working with more complex contact relationships between geological domains; in particular, the modeling process can explicitly specify the allowed and forbidden contacts and the chronology between domains. In contrast, data-driven approaches do not rely on a genuine spatial random field model, but on statistics and spatial continuity measures that can be inferred from the borehole data or from a training image (TI). This derivation is deemed representative of the spatial arrangement of the geological domains in the subsurface. For instance, multiple-point statistics algorithm enables the reproduction of more complex geometries and spatial patterns.

In this context, we propose to launch a long-term collaboration between the Center for Hydrogeology and Geothermics of the University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland and the School of Mining and Geosciences in Nazarbayev University, Kazakhstan.

The aim of this collaboration will be to develop joint research activities in the broad field of uncertainty quantification for natural resources. The research will include theoretical and mathematical aspects related to uncertainty quantification, the development and exchange of software, their test and applications to various problems in Kazakhstan and Switzerland, and the development of guidelines for best practices. To start, we will focus on those two common data and model-driven simulation algorithms, namely, Plurigaussian simulation (PLURISIM) and multiple-point statistics (MPS). Two early researchers (a Swiss and a Kazakh MSc or PhD students) will be involved. They will compare the MPS and PLURISIM uncertainty estimation techniques for two typical situations inspired from real applications: one will be related to properties of geothermal reservoirs in Switzerland, the other will be related to oil reservoir issues in Kazkhstan.

More generally, the project will set up a network of scientists from both universities to exchange experiences related to uncertainty quantifications for natural resources. Meetings and tutorials will be organized to share practical experience. The two young scientists will spend several months of exchange in the two partner universities. Finally, time is allocated for the preparation of a joint research proposal to allow the development of a long term and in-depth collaboration.


Prof. Philippe Renard, University of Neuchatel

Dr. Nasser Madani, Nazarbayev University

Globalization of Multicultural Regions: Discursive Landscapes of policy transformation (energy, urban development, language and education)

Building on the success of and inspired by the collaborative project “Capturing globalized energy discourses in an exhibition landscape (2017)”, the partnership between School of Humanities and Social Sciences of Nazarbayev University (Kazakhstan) and School of Applied Linguistics of Zurich University of Applied Science (Switzerland) undertakes to expand academic collaboration.

The project aims to observe linguistic and visual realizations of transforming globalizing multilingual discourse at a single time and space, the modern day Kazakhstan, while performing comparative analysis with similar cases in Switzerland. The project will focus on the linguistic landscape of Astana, the new urban, multi-lingual, multi-cultural new capital of Kazakhstan, manifesting transition of an economy, of a state, of a culture. The observed transition is multifaceted and represents an exciting overlay of factors including, interaction of tradition vs. modernization, modernizing push of an energy-driven economy, political transition of a former USSR republic, multilingualism and multiculturalism, an orthography reform (Cyrillic- into Latin-based). The aspirations of modern day Kazakhstan, to integrate into modern global intercultural community, while preserving and showcasing its cultural uniqueness and diverse heritage, are manifest in the local linguistic landscape as means of communicating various insights on culture, commerce, technology to domestic and international audiences.

The project explores discursive landscapes of policy transformations focusing on discourse related to policy changes, developing a longer-term research project in contrastive discourse analyses and developing further networking between actors of the existing strong Swiss-Kazakhstan collaboration.

The project investigates topical, narrative and strategic formation of language use in Astana and on comparable sites in Switzerland applying textual as well as transtextual analysis. The proposed project will benefit from fruitful entanglement of linguistic discourse analysis and "linguistic landscape" and "geosemiotics", developing further the potential for sharing of knowledge.

The key aim of the project is to document and perform in-depth analysis of discursive formations in their “natural” environment, and informed by a linguistic perspective on discourse analysis. While performing documentation of language use in the urban context, the focus will be on situated, multimodal practices of discourse. Data collection in the proposed project is performed by the students, co-supervised by the project supervisors at Nazarbayev University and ZHAW School of Applied Linguistics. The discourse analysis methodology will build on three levels of analysis:

  • Formation of Topical Concepts – regularities in regards to cognitive concepts;
  • Formation of Narratives – framing of topical concepts by means of visual and textual plots;
  • Formation of Discursive Strategies – recurring concepts and frames on the stage of urban signs and in relation to their specific interests.

The resources of the proposed project are used to organize preliminary activities, such as mutual visits between Kazakhstan and Switzerland, to organize planning and training workshops, and for presentation by faculty and students of the experience and interim results of the project.

The project contributes to the cooperation between Kazakhstan and Switzerland in the domain of education, and will lay the infrastructural and methodological foundation for further sustained longer-term collaborative activities.



Special design issues of low emittance electron storage rings

PSI is planning for an upgrade of the Swiss Light Source (SLS) storage ring (project “SLS 2.0”), and already submitted a proposal to the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF) early 2018. CANDLE SRI pursues design of a new light source for Armenia as one of its most promising projects. PSI and CANDLE successfully collaborated since 2007 in various ways, including shared work packages, mutual visits of scientist and organization of joint workshops.

Our joint proposal addresses special problems of low emittance storage rings, which are both relevant for the SLS upgrade and for the future light source at CANDLE. It has several benefits with regard to scientific progress, support of young scientists and launching further collaborations based on third party funding:

  • Collaboration on particular problems of low emittance rings, for example on vacuum chamber impedances, where CANDLE SRI traditionally has a high level of competence, and PSI has a strong interest to strengthen confidence in predictions.
  • Establish a collaborative platform for involvement of young talented scientists from CANDLE in joint R&D within the SLS upgrade program. Hands on experience and face to face communication with leading scientists will give opportunities for the Armenian side to acquire a new working culture, to experience cultural exchange and to pursue further career development.
  • Dissemination of latest achievements in low emittance lattice design: in order to be competitive it is extremely important for the CANDLE project to stay attached to state-of-the-art research and technology in the field. In this context dedicated seminars and/or lectures by Swiss experts will promote generation of new and further development of existing ideas for the CANDLE project.
  • Career opportunities for Armenian scientists: PSI is a leading accelerator center and thus young scientists may gain experience with latest technology and software as well as with working in an international environment. This will enable successful applications for post-doc and other positions in laboratories all over the world, including PSI itself.
  • Establish partnership contacts with respective divisions and persons at PSI and CANDLE in order to jointly apply for international funding programs (IJRP, ISTC etc.) This benefit will also constitute the project sustainability factor and may pave the road for further collaboration after the end of funded project.

We strongly believe that this project will be beneficial for both sides considering the accumulated expertise of PSI with design, exploitation and upgrade of the SLS, and the high level of beam dynamics knowledge at CANDLE SRI.


CoWriting Kazakh

Kazakhstan has recently adopted a state program for the development and functioning of languages for 2011-2020. This new trilingual education policy aimed at development among the Kazakhs of fluency in three languages: Kazakh, Russian and English. Additionally, a recent decision on the transfer of Kazakh language from Cyrillic into the Latin alphabet was approved by the Kazakh authorities in October 2017 [1]   While there are clear reasons for these reforms, there are numerous risks facing the transfer, including risks to increase inequalities in education services (e.g. preference for schools with teachers better trained in English or for Russian-speaking schools), to cause illiteracy in adults in their native language, and to cause disinterest and lack of motivation to write and read Kazakh among Kazakh and non-Kazakh children and adults.  Beyond familiarity with local conditions, assessing and managing these risks requires understanding the effects they can have on a variety of those affected including children, teachers, and adults, who on the one hand are comfortably able to read the basic Latin script (e.g. English), but on the other, will not recognize crucial distinctions projected onto familiar graphemes.

Since 2014, the CoWriter project has explored how robotic technologies can help children with the training of handwriting via an original paradigm known as learning by teaching (LbT) [2,3,4]. Since the children act as the teachers who help the robot to learn handwriting, the children practice their handwriting even without noticing it and stay committed to the success of the robot via the Protege effect. Previous research have shown the motivational aspect of the LbT with a robot for handwriting [3]. However, a long-term effect on learning handwriting skill has still to be demonstrated. Nevertheless, we believe that the CoWriter activity has the required innovative aspect to it and, hence, it can boost the children’s self-esteem and motivation to learn the Latin-based Kazakh alphabet and its handwriting.

The proposed collaboration aims to benefit from the new Language Planning in Kazakhstan in order to address 1) challenges of training and motivating children to learn and use a new alphabet, 2) cross-cultural differences between Switzerland and Kazakhstan in the context of robots for learning, 3) to develop a novel approach for training teachers and the adult population e.g. a CoWriter’s smartphone version.

With this Seed Funding Grant, we propose to initiate this collaboration via two main phases: 1) data collection required for adapting Kazakh language in both alphabets into the CoWriter and 2) implementation of the "CoWriting Kazakh" child-robot interaction activity.

The data collection phase includes collecting children’s handwriting data using a Wacom tablet. This data is required for training the CoWriter’s learning algorithm. Then we propose to adapt the CoWriter to the Kazakh alphabet and to explore whether it is the best approach to start the switch from the first graders in comparison to children who already know some English as the Latin alphabet might be easier for them. The implementation phase also includes the CoWriter’s deployment by conducting a series of experiments with children and teachers investigating cross-cultural differences in the classrooms.


  1. .E. Altynsarina: Kazakhstan adopts new version of Latin-based Kazakh alphabet. 2018. NATION. [Accessed on 9-July-2018: https://astanatimes.com/2018/02/kazakhstan-adopts-new-version-of-latin-based-kazakh-alphabet/]
  2. D. Hood; S. Lemaignan; P. Dillenbourg: The CoWriter Project: Teaching a Robot how to Write. 2015. 2015 Human-Robot Interaction Conference, Portand, USA, March 3-5, 2015. DOI : 10.1145/2701973.2702091
  3. A. Jacq; S. Lemaignan; F. Garcia; P. Dillenbourg; A. Paiva : Building Successful Long Child-Robot Interactions in a Learning Context. 2016. 11th ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction (HRI), Christchurch, NEW ZEALAND, MAR 07-10, 2016. p. 239-246.
  4. S. Lemaignan; A. D. Jacq; D. Hood; F. Garcia; A. Paiva et al. : Learning by Teaching a Robot: The Case of Handwriting; Robotics and Automation Magazine. 2016. DOI : 10.1109/Mra.2016.2546700.


ATREEbranch in the Ukraine

Problem statement. This project will be conducted within the framework of the Swiss applicants’ recently started NFP73 Project “Analysing TRade-offs in forests between sustainable Economy and Environmental objectives” (ATREE). The ATREE project proceeds from the observation that the growing sustainable economy produces increasing trade-offs in forests, in Switzerland as well as in other European countries. For example, renewable energy facilities and the revitalization of waterways often necessitate forest clear cuttings. An increased use of wood as source of energy and substitute for other materials can lead to intensified harvesting which in turn can have negative effects on the provision of forest ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration and biodiversity conservation (Zabel et al. 2018).

In Ukraine, related conflicts in forests are emerging. Wood is increasingly being extracted as source of energy that is a comparatively low cost substitute for gas, while conservationists are pushing for the creation of more forest reserves to safeguard biodiversity, in particular of the remaining old growth forests. How such trade-offs in forests are dealt with is a question of appropriate policy choice and design of governance institutions (Sandström et al. 2011).

Project objective and research questions. The aim of this project is to develop a better understanding of these nascent sustainable economy trade-offs, from the perspective of the Ukrainian forest sector. Particular emphasis will be put on investigating goal conflicts between policies that give rise to such conflicts in the Ukrainian context. The key research questions are: (i) Which sustainable economy trade-offs exist related to Ukrainian forests, (ii) Are policies (or lack thereof) fostering these trade-offs? (iii) Which policy changes could help alleviate the trade-offs?. Information will be collected through reviews of scientific and grey literature, as well as expert interviews, inter alia at a workshop in Lviv.

Ukrainian case study within ATREE. While the focus of the ATREE project is on Switzerland, four master theses will produce case studies on related trade-offs in Austria, Germany and Sweden. The Ukrainian case study will add to these, thereby widening the geographical scope and providing for a broader base of comparison and mutual learning between the countries. The various case studies will be discussed at a workshop in 2019 and will feed into an International Scientific Symposium later in the project which will serve as preparation for a special issue in an international peer-reviewed scientific journal.

Deliverables. This project will produce novel insights on sustainable economy trade-offs in Ukrainian forests. Deliverables are a master thesis as well as a resulting manuscript for submission to the peer-reviewed ATREE special issue.


  • Sandström C, Lindkvist A, Öhman K, Nordström E-M (2011) Governing Competing Demands for Forest Resources in Sweden. Forests 2:218–242. doi: 10.3390/f2010218
  • Zabel A, Schulz T, Lieberherr E (2018) Grüne Wirtschaft: Eine Annäherung an mögliche Zielkonflikte und Synergien im Wald. Schweizerische Zeitschrift fur Forstwesen 169:143–149. doi: 10.3188/szf.2018.0143


Bern University of Applied Sciences (BFH)

Ukrainian National Forestry University

ADC4SD: Armenian Data Cube for Sustainable Development

Pressures on natural resources are increasing and many challenges need to be overcome to meet the needs of a growing population in a period of environmental variability. Some of these environmental issues can be monitored using remotely-sensed Earth Observations (EO) that are increasingly available from various freely and openly accessible repositories. EO data acquired by satellites are helpful to monitor environmental changes providing synoptic, consistent, spatially explicit, sufficiently detailed information to capture anthropogenic impacts, and national in scope. This can provide the long baseline required to determine trends, define present, and inform future. However, the full information potential of EO data has not been yet realized and remain still underutilized mainly because of their complexity, increasing volume, and the lack of efficient processing capabilities.

Earth Observations Data Cubes (EODC) have emerged as a paradigm revolutionizing the way users interact with EO data. They minimize the time and scientific knowledge required to access, prepare and analyze large volume of data having consistent and spatially aligned calibrated observations.

Switzerland is the second country in the world to have a national-scale EODC. The Swiss Data Cube (SDC – https://www.swissdatacube.ch) is supported by the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) and developed, implemented and operated by the UN Environment (UNEP)/GRID-Geneva in partnership with the University of Geneva (UNIGE). Currently, the SDC contains 34 years of Landsat 5,7,8 (1984-2018) and 3 years of Sentinel-2 (2015-2018) Analysis Ready Data over Switzerland (total volume: 3TB; 110 billion observations).

Armenia, one of the most industrialized post-soviet country, encounters numerous environmental issues. Since 90s, the economic policy shifted towards a strong support to industrial development greatly ignoring environmental interests. In 2016, Armenia has initiated the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) nationalization process and encounters various problems caused by the lack of sufficient data impeding efficient national environmental monitoring. Alternative means need to be developed to fill this gap. Therefore, EODC represents a promising solution for continuous remote environmental monitoring in Armenia. However, technical capacities of Armenian institutions need to be improved to benefit from the new possibilities offered by EODC.

The main objective of ADC4SD will be to transfer the necessary knowledge from Switzerland to Armenia for developing and implementing the first version of an Armenian Data Cube (ADC) with a complete and up-to-date archive of EO data (e.g., Landsat, Sentinel-1&2), benefiting from UNIGE’s experience in implementing the SDC.

Synergies will be created between leading research teams in both countries empowering Armenian scientists to benefit from EO data by lowering the barriers caused by Big Data challenges and providing access to spatio-temporal data over the entire Armenia. Ultimately, the ACD4SD project will deliver a unique capability to track changes in unprecedented detail using EO data, enabling more effective responses to problems of national significance.

The project will be implemented by organizing three one-week meetings so that participants can efficiently work together. Regular teleconferences will be organized to foster exchanges and share updates. A final meeting/event will be organized to showcase the ACD to local stakeholders. Finally, we plan to submit one peer-reviewed article in a high-impact open-access journal.


Gender Sensitive Research in Armenia and Switzerland: New Ideas for a Neglected Aspect

This project aims to develop the capacities of Yerevan State University Center for Gender and Leadership Studies (CGLS) staff and its affiliate researchers through a series of workshops, trainings, and online coaching in the field of gender research methodology. These workshops and trainings will be organized together with members of the University of Fribourg. The majority of researchers and policymakers all over the world in general, and in Armenia in particular, have an absence of gender or women studies programs. Moreover, they fail to consider the importance of the variable element of gender at all, and therefore it is not incorporated in their analyses. Often times there exists double standards. There are wrong assumptions that are used when conducting research. For example, assuming that the head of households are always men, or measuring the income of households by the income of men. Doing gender research also involves a lot of ethical issues, especially when studying sensitive topics such as gender-based violence, sexual violence and harassment, and other related issues. The approach to these study topics is also poorly understood by researchers and professors.

In the framework of this project, two workshops will be organized, one in Armenia and one in Switzerland, covering such topics as gender-sensitive research, and feminist qualitative research. PhD students and young scholars from both countries will take part at these workshops. An example of such method can be a method of oral story - a feminist approach when undertaking narrative-based research. Gender sensitive methodology will be explored taking as examples research on gender and mobility, gender and labor market, gender attitudes of youth, and other related topics. The workshops and cooperation will result in a methodological guideline on how to conduct gender sensitive research. This guideline will be published in English and Armenian, and will include mainly the following topics:

  • Placing gender at the center of research
  • Conscious partiality vs value-free research
  • Vertical relationship between the researcher, and the “research objects”, minimizing power relations
  • Socially engaged research, responsibility of the researcher
  • Using traditional research methods to approach gender issues
  • Self-reflexivity, positioning in relation to research participants
  • International comparative research on gender issues
  • Epistemological/methodological/ethical dilemmas in gender research, and how to address them
  • Gender research as a challenge to hierarchical power social relations, and empowerment for women and other marginalized groups

The guideline will be widely distributed to researchers, teachers, professors, representatives of local NGOs, and international organizations interested in gender research in both countries. It will be as well of help for lectures on methodological issues at both universities.

As a result of the project, and in order to continue our collaboration, a common methodology and a research designed to study gender and mobility issues in Switzerland and Armenia will be developed. This project will also help to build up a knowledge hub on feminist epistemology, and research methodology in the University of Fribourg and Yerevan State University.


Characterization of UHF Schottky diodes based on oxide semiconductors

Future societies will benefit from a constantly increasing degree of automation in all aspects of everyday life. The ultimate connectivity from machine to machine and from human to machine via wireless networks will become a reality under the wider notion of the Internet of Things (IoT). The key elements of IoT applications are a radio frequency (RF) reader/emitter in association with a RF identification (RFID) tag, the microelectronic component attached to an object, based on a single custom CMOS integrated circuit (which included a rectifier) and an antenna. While high frequency (HF) tags operating at 13.56 MHz are usually restricted to a read distance below 10 cm, ultra high frequency (UHF) devices are capable of operating over some meters that increase the sphere of device application. UHF rectifiers based on Schottky diode as a part of interfacing chain will be a cornerstone in interfacing of a mobile telephone, as one of the most popular device in everyday life, and printed functional objects. Amorphous metal oxide semiconductor materials such as ZnO, InZnO, SnO, InO2, InGaZnO are considered as the most suitable materials to realize such Schottky diodes.

One of the important problems in characterization of electronic component in the UHF range, especially based on new materials on flexible substrates, consist in the signal reflection and attenuation at contacting points in the circuit where the impedances of characterized component (e.g. Schottky diode) and measuring devices are not matched. The main cause of the signal reflection is a based on the oxide semiconductor device itself with unknown and frequency-dependent impedance, whereas the rest of the circuit (cables and probes) has an impedance of 50 Ω. The problem of impedance matching could be solved by development of matching circuit or measurement cell using classical approaches of circuit design. An application of resonant measurement methods allows definition of such electrical characteristics of the functional material as a dielectric constant and dielectric loss tangent in accordance to a resonant frequency and Q-factor of the system. Preliminary investigation of materials properties represents a fundamental approach to measuring process optimization and determination of measuring values ranges and system limitations.

As the first stage the low-frequency measurements will be performed by LCR-meter, and UHF measurements will be carried out by a vector spectrum analyzer with a frequency range up to 3 GHz as the second stage. These measurements will help to carry out the energy-harvesting properties of developed diode from mobile phones and more specifically, within the global system for mobile communication frequency bands currently used by all mobile networks (i.e. roughly at 850 MHz/1.9 GHz in America and 900 MHz/1.8 GHz in Europe and other parts of the globe).

To summarize, the project is devoted to the development and assembling of characterization system for the UHF Schottky diode based onto flexible substrate and its fundamental metal oxide materials.


  • Empa - Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology
  • National Technical University of Ukraine “Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute”
    • Prof. Dmytro Tatarchuk
    • Dr. Yurii Didenko
Neuromorphic controller for an autonomous robotic vehicle

The goal of the project is to establish a long-term collaboration between Laboratory of Robotic Systems in Minsk and Institute of Neuroinformatics in Zurich. The two labs share interest in neuronally inspired control for autonomous robots, capable to work in real-world environments. In particular, in this first joint project, we will develop a reactive neuromorphic controller for mobile robots and autonomous vehicles based on branching algorithms, proposed by the Minsk's group. The control will be based not on primitive pairs of causes and reactions, but on a set of intersecting functional chains that include distant goals, preconditions, effects, and hidden causes. This scheme allows us to implement various branching algorithms using neuronal modules. Using this paradigm, we will implement a search controller in neuromorphic hardware, provided by the Zurich's group. The neural branching architecture will control the mobile robot to search for a way out of a labyrinth. The developed architecture will be validated on a self-balancing robot chassis. Neuromorphic sensory and actuator modules will be implemented for the chassis. Thus, the controller will solve two tasks -- balancing the robot based on two-axis analog accelerometer AD203 and finding a way out of the labyrinth using ultrasonic and infrared rangefinder signals. The controller will feature a high speed of sensory data processing thanks to event-based nature and local computation of neuromorphic sensory and processing systems. This will increase the robot's robustness to external perturbations and dead zones of the sensors. Potential application of such controller is the autonomous navigation in constrained and cluttered industrial environments.


Intercultural approaches in teacher education: a comparative and exploratory study Switzerland – Kazakhstan

This project is a partnership between University of Geneva and Al-Farabi Kazakh National University focuses on enhancing intercultural approaches that are necessary in educating teachers in Switzerland and Kazakhstan. Both educational systems are dealing with an increasing cultural and linguistic diversity. The research emphases on intercultural approaches necessary in educating teachers to become globally and culturally competent and how teacher educators could cooperate for mutual benefits of both countries.

The research is centred on three issues:

  1. Exploring multicultural competencies of teachers in Switzerland and Kazakhstan?
  2. Analyzing the representations / conceptions of multicultural education of teacher’s educators
  3. Identifying differences and similarities between Switzerland and Kazakhstan in implementing multicultural education

As a first phase of the collaboration, the partners will work on the implementation of a common questionnaire "Multicultural Efficacy Scale (MES)" to measure intercultural competencies of prospective teachers. The team will also do interviews with teacher educators in both universities to explore their orientations and believes on intercultural competencies.

In a second phase, taking advantage of the results of the exploratory study, the two teams will present a request for a larger joint research project.

The results of this research can be valued both in the initial training of teachers in partner institutions and in the continuing training of professionals confronted with cultural diversity.


  • University of Geneva
  • National Kazakh University Al-Farabi
    • Prof. Almash Seidikenova
    • Mr. Aitkali Bakitov
    • Ms. Raushan Matkerimova
Glacier meltwater: current and future relevance in mountain hydrology in Kyrgyzstan

Arid and densely populated regions of Central Asia strongly depend on water from nearby mountain ranges. The changing climate will likely affect river discharge and related water availability from glacier melt. While a number of studies point towards a decrease in future water availability, comparison to actual discharge measurements is rarely carried out as data are relatively sparse. Collaboration with researchers in Central Asia could ease data access, but the required connections are often lacking.

Here we apply for seed funding to intensify collaboration with researchers from Kyrgyzstan. We will focus on the problem of present and future hydrology in Central Asia on the example of the At-Bashy Mountain Range in the south-eastern Kyrgyz Tien Shan. Meltwater from the glaciers of the At-Bashy Range is one of the sources of the Naryn River. As the main contributor to the Syr-Darya River, the Naryn is a major and vital source of water for large parts of the dry and densely populated lowlands of Central Asia.

The envisaged research and collaboration centres at a series of clearly defined project goals and milestones. Step (1) Details of the collaboration will be coordinated between the main applicant Horst Machguth (HM), senior researcher at the Department of Geosciences at Fribourg University (DG-UniFr) and the project partners Ryzkul Usubaliev (RU; head of department) and Ruslan Kenzhebaev (RK; PhD student) at the Central Asian Institute for Applied Geosciences (CAIAG), Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. (2) RK will collect hydrological and glaciological data from the At-Bashy mountain range in Kyrgyzstan. RK will carry out data quality control and preprocessing under supervision of RU and HM. (3) RK will visit DG-UniFr for a duration of two months where he and HM will further develop and prepare the combined glaciological and hydrological model. (4) The model, originally developed and published by HM, will be calibrated to measured present-day glacier melt and river discharge in the At-Bashy mountain range. (5) The calibrated model will be forced by a series of future climate scenarios to simulate future runoff and meltwater contribution to Naryn streamflow. (6) The results will be summarized and submitted for publication in an international peer-reviewed journal.

Direct collaboration with scientists from Central Asia is at the heart of the present project. To optimize benefits for all partners involved, the planned work will be carried out according to the following guiding principles:

  • Mutual collaboration: Model development is carried out collaboratively. RK will perform the model runs himself (assisted by HM).
  • Using local resources by locals: RK will gather data in his home region (city of Naryn, Naryn district, Kyrgyzstan) and will use the data himself to test and calibrate the modelling approach.
  • Adopt model complexity to data availability: We will put special emphasis on adopting the existing modelling approach together with RK for optimal applicability in the context of available data.

Clearly defined geographic extent: We will break the very complex hydrology of Central Asia down to a clearly defined study area, namely the At-Bashy Range.


Exploring the utility of new Artificial Intelligence and Deep Learning methods for radiological image analysis and lung disease diagnosis

The MedGIFT research group of the University of Applied Sciences Western Switzerland (HES–SO), Sierre, Switzerland (Swiss group) and the Biomedical Image Analysis group from United Institute of Informatics Problems, National Academy of Sciences of Belarus (Belarus group) have had a remote collaboration based on emails, telephone conferences and common conference organizations for over three years. The major points of mutual interest include development of new methods and software for biomedical image analyses and computer assisted diagnosis.

The project of this current application aims at performing the following collaborative activities:

1. Exchange of open biomedical image data (at least 1000 Computed Tomography chest scans and Chest X-rays).

2. Carrying out a workshop in Switzerland. Giving presentations on novel Artificial Intelligence and Deep Learning methods for radiological image analysis and lung disease diagnosis, focusing on tuberculosis and lung cancer.

3. Development and approval of study protocols for benchmarking and comparison of the effectiveness of methods and software developed by both parties.

4. Organizing and conducting the ImageCLEF 2019 international benchmarking campaign on multimodal data analysis methods, mainly for radiological images and lung diseases.Carrying out a workshop in Belarus.

5. Performing analytical comparison of the results on image analysis and lung disease diagnosis achieved by Swiss and Belarusian teams. Scoring and publishing of the ImageCLEF 2019 results.

The above activities stick to the Open Science philosophy in the biomedical domain. It is planned to create a solid ground for future European H2020 project submissions and possible other joint project applications and collaborations.


Eastern Partnership Security Policy Workshop “Situational Neutrality – A Strategic Option for In-between States?”

Neutrality as a concept is suited to combine academic research with applied policy in the Eastern European context. Switzerland's experience in researching and applying neutrality is immensely valuable for a debate in the region, and particularly in Belarus between East/Russia and West/EU. In turn, Swiss research can benefit from the experience in applying and tailoring the neutrality concept in such an environment to discuss its interpretation, benefits and timeliness. The interpretation of Swiss neutrality has been undergoing constant change itself (see Heinz Gärtner 2017) depending on the climate in international and European relations, and Switzerland shares a certain notion of an 'in-between state' with Eastern Europe states.

The workshop on ‘Situational Neutrality – A Strategic Option for In-between States?’, organized by the Minsk Dialogue Track-II Initiative (co-PA), shall contribute to clarifications and informed discussions of neutrality and non-alignment in today’s international relations. It will inquire whether these options are available to the Eastern Partnership countries, under which conditions and security implications. The event will have two working languages – English and Russian (simultaneous interpretation provided).

The format of the workshop should be a closed one-day track-II-meeting in Minsk, bringing together think tankers, representatives of EaP and EU countries, institutions, and academics. Its methodology will rely on structured and focused analysis. This will ensure comparable data for ‘an orderly, cumulative development of knowledge and theory’ (George and Bennett, 2005: 69). Three sessions will discuss 1) neutrality (cases of Austria, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland - supported by ETH's CSS (PA)); 2) the need for neutrality in Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine; and 3) situational neutrality as a security policy for in-between states.

The workshop will be followed by an on-the-record evening panel discussion (open to journalists, professors, selected students) that will address Neutrality in Today’s International Relations. The workshop will thus combine a focused in-depth deliberation with a public panel discussion to disseminate the workshop’s immediate findings among a broader foreign policy community.

An initial base for a Belarusian-Swiss academic collaboration and dialogue can be established through this workshop with a view to then expanding it into a neutrality program within the annual Minsk Dialogue Forum. The Forum is a new, prominent platform for annual academic and policy exchange on IR and security in Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian spaces. The inaugural edition of the Minsk Dialogue Forum gathered 500 participants from 59 countries, including the Belarusian president and the OSCE Secretary General.

Based on the findings of the workshop in September/November, a joint working paper (policy brief) on the theoretical and applied aspects of the contemporary concept of neutrality will be co-authored by Swiss and Belarusian researchers involved in the project, and printed for dissemination at the Minsk Dialogue Forum 2019.

Through this grant, the participation of a sizeable Swiss delegation - of which half will be junior researchers - in the workshop will guarantee the elaboration on the case study Switzerland, with a focus on young researchers, who are needed to rethink European security and the potential of neutrality in this tense regional environment. The academic sphere offers much prospect to foster cooperation between Western Europe/Switzerland and Eastern Europe/Belarus in a non-politicized way.


Brain cancer incidence and mortality–comparisons between Switzerland and Georgia

Tumours of the brain and the central nervous system (brain/CNS) include a collection of neoplasms (gliomas, meningiomas, and acoustic neuromas) that vary widely by the degree of malignancy. Aside from increasing age, high-dose radiation, and some hereditary syndromes, no risk factors for these tumours have been established and their etiology remains largely unknown (Bondy ML et al, Cancer 2008). They are rather infrequent with respect to incidence rates, but the mortality from this disease is high. Since brain/CNS tumours frequently occur at a younger age than tumours at other sites, they have a strong impact on years of potential life lost due to cancer. For example, in Switzerland, for the years 2003-2007, brain/CNS tumours ranked 15 with respect to incidence, but second with respect to years of potential life lost in men (NICER & FSO 2009).

Data from 39 countries indicates large variability in the rates of diagnosis of new cases of brain/CNS cancer–with a 5-fold difference between the highest rates (mainly in Europe) and the lowest (mainly in Asia) (Miranda-Filho A et al, Neuro Oncol 2017). The observed variation between countries might be due partly to differences in health systems infrastructure, access to care, and the availability of diagnostic services. However, quality and availability of incidence data in low and medium income countries is a critical consideration as well.

The Cancer Registry Zurich/Zug in Switzerland was established in 1980 in the canton of Zurich and expanded to include the canton of Zug in 2011. Each year, about 120 incident malignant brain/CNS tumours (ICD-10 C70-C72) and about 200 benign cases (D32-D33, D42-D43) are registered in Zurich. The registry receives notifications (personal information, tumour characteristics) from pathology and hematology laboratories, hospitals, and physicians as well as death certificates from the Swiss Federal Statistical Office (Wanner M et al., Biomed Res Int. 2018).

The Georgian Brain Tumour Data Bank was established in 2008 by Dr.Gigineishvili and team from the Department of Neurology & Neurosurgery at the Tbilisi State University and was supported by Rustaveli National Science Foundation. Data are collected from fifteen different hospitals, which provide neurosurgical and neuroradiological services and numerous ambulatory-based CT and MRI units in three large cities (Tbilisi, Kutaisi and Batumi). Active case ascertainment captures all cases of newly diagnosed brain/CNS tumours.

The main aim of the proposed study is to compare brain/CNS cancer incidence, mortality and survival between a cancer registry in Switzerland, a high-income country with a universal health care system that provides basic health care for all, and Georgia, a former Soviet republic that became independent in 1991 and is considered a lower middle income country by the World Bank (https://data.worldbank.org/?locations=GE-XN). Our team has previously evaluated differences in cancer epidemiology between the canton of Zurich and the city of Sofia (Bulgaria; Dehler S et al., Tumouri 2014).


Formal Analysis and Verification of Accidents

This project aims to extend CAFAISHA, a cognitive architecture developed at NU, to incorporate STAMP, an accident causality model extensively used at ZHAW in industrial projects.

CAFAISHA (Cognitive Architecture for the Formal Analysis of Interactive Systems and Human Activities) consists of an arbitrary number of system components, interfaces and human components interacting through two distinct environments: an observable environment for the interaction between human components and interfaces, through human perceptions and actions, and a system environment for the interaction between system components and interfaces, through a communication network. System components may be modelled using various formal modelling languages, such as process algebras and Petri nets. Each human component is equipped with a model of short-term memory (STM) and a model of long-term memory (LTM). Human tasks are modelled as sets of rules describing basic human activities which are stored in LTM. Each rule is triggered by a perception, some information stored in STM and is executed by modifying the information in STM and possibly performing an action. In addition, rules describing deliberate behaviour are driven by goals, whereas rules describing automatic behaviour are not. The LTM also contains a representation of the mental model of the system with which the human interacts. CAFAISHA supports the continuous modification of both the rules describing human activities and the human expectations, driven by the feedback received and the experiences and new knowledge acquired during interaction. Properties of the interaction, expressed in temporal logic, can be verified using model checking.

STAMP (System-Theoretic Accident Model and Processes) is a framework that has been developed by Nancy Leveson (MIT) to model and analyse accidents. In STAMP, safety is viewed as a control problem and is managed by a control structure embedded in an adaptive socio-technical system and acting as constraints on the system. This project focuses on two controlling components of the system, the Human Supervisor and the Automated Controller. The Human Supervisor, in addition to having a mental model of the controlled process, also has a mental model of the automated controller behaviour. These two mental models evolve throughout the time and it is often their mismatch with the real process and the real controller to determine accidents. The Automated Controller has a model of the process and a model of the interface with which the human interacts. In many cases the automated controller does not directly issue control commands, but acts as an automated decision support providing information to the human controller. In such a situation, a possible lack of synchronisation between the human supervisor and the automated controller may lead to system accidents.

The project aims to extend CAFAISHA by

1) explicitly separating model of process and model of automation as distinct categories of system components;

2) defining and implementing the mechanisms for the evolution of the mental models for these two categories;

3) implementing a module for the high-level definition of safety constraints and their automatic translation into temporal logic;

4) implementing a module for the analysis of the counterexamples generated when model-checking safety constraints.


Dr. Karl Lermer, Zurich University of Applied Sciences

Prof. Antonio Cerone, Nazarbayev University

Opioid maintenance therapy (OMT) in Belarus and Switzerland – a multistep project to enhance methodological knowledge and strengthen competencies in the further education of young scientists and physicians in the area of OMT

In the 1980s the consumption of illegal psychotropic substances, especially heroin, increased massively in Switzerland. The intervention methods, which were considered revolutionary at the time, included a harm reduction approach with the introduction of low threshold opioid maintenance programs (OMT) even in special settings like prisons. In addition to methadone and buprenorphine, heroin assisted treatment (HAT) was introduced for severely addicted patients who continued to use “street heroin”. That Swiss drug policy – based on a four-pillar drug approach – is considered a success. The main elements of this success are a c. 50% reduction in overdose deaths since 1991, a c. 80% reduction in incipient heroin use, a c. 65% reduction in HIV infections, plus a reduction of drug-related delinquency in cities and in nuisance from open drug scenes. Belarus has recently made methadone substitution treatment for opioid-dependent people possible under very different economic and legal conditions compared to those in Switzerland. In this endeavor Belarus was supported by several NGOs. Today the treatment costs for patients are covered by an initiative of the Global Fund, which is set to expire. According to data from the Ministry of Health, 66,500 people were listed in an official state register as addicted to illegal psychotropic substances at the end of 2016. The number of opiate addicts is estimated to be around 18,500, about 1/3 of whom are women. Since the regular introduction of OMT in 2009 a significant amount of clinical-practical competence has developed in Belarus. The aim of this project is to extend these practical competences by adding scientific methodological knowledge and by strengthening competencies in the field of further education of young scientists and physicians in the area of OMT. Switzerland and the University of Bern can contribute here, particularly in view of their decades of experience in these areas. A multi-step approach is planned to achieve these aims: 1. To hold one seminar each in Belarus and Switzerland in order to gain an initial insight into the institutions, and to familiarize participants with concrete practical-clinical as well as educational procedures and to discover any political and legal boundaries. 2. To implement an annually recurring exchange between young researchers in the form of a visiting research fellowship in order to strengthen scientific cooperation. 3. To develop a continuing education curriculum that meets the needs of patients and health professionals in Belarus in the area of OMT. To this end, a mixed methods study is to be conducted in Belarus over the next two years, which will identify perceptions, expectations, possibilities and limits of OMT in Belarus. The results of this study will be published in an international journal, e.g. Frontiers in Psychiatry, Plos One or Harm Reduction Journal. Within the framework of the proposed project, not only can the University of Bern and the Belarus State Medical University benefit generally from deepened scientific cooperation, but even more the heavily burdened and stigmatized group of opioid-dependent patients.


Establishing a Swiss-Kazakh collaboration for teaching and research studies on the Cenozoic paleoclimatic and paleoenvironmental record of Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan, being among the largest countries in the world, occupies a wide territory from Eastern Europe to China. The rich geological history and unique (paleo)geographic location of Kazakhstan provide an outstanding opportunity for investigating different aspects of Earth history, including climate evolution, desertification of Eurasia, history and development of vertebrate faunas. The main part of geological research has been done in the second half of the 20th century. Following the independence of Kazakhstan in 1991, international collaborations started to develop. Despite the rich Cenozoic recort, previous geological studies unearthed only a small part of the country’s potential in paleoenvironmental and paleoclimatic studies.

The present project aims at launching a collaboration between JURASSICA Museum (Porrentruy, Switzerland) and Nazarbayev University (Astana, Kazakhstan), which will use the potential of both newly established institutions as a basis for a long-term cooperation in the fields paleoenvironmental and paleoclimatic studies, as well as for developing a teaching of excellence in paleontology at Nazarbayev University.

The staff of JURASSICA includes researchers in the field of Cenozoic continental vertebrates, which are also lecturers at University of Fribourg in paleontology and geology. Being a newly established educational institution, Nazarbayev University, in particular the School of Mining and Geosciences, is seeking international collaborations to support newly established undergraduate programs, and, in that respect, could profit from the teaching experience of the staff of JURASSICA. The team of paleontologists from JURASSICA would contribute to establish a reference teaching collection of fossil material at Nazarbayev University, as well as to train students for collecting fossil material in the field.

Within the present project, we define two objectives which include the collection of:

  1. robust preliminary data for future project application at the SNF,
  2. fossils of different groups of plants and animals from different geological epochs for building a teaching collection for the School of Mining and Geosciences at Nazarbaev University.

The envisioned field trips are planned in the areas with Paleozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic deposits. In these areas potention for future collaborative project will be assessed as well as fossil teaching paleontological collection at Nazarbayev University will be collected. The field trips will be conducted by a group of lecturers (DV and LR) and a group of undergraduate students. The students will be guided in the field and trained for collecting and preparing the fossil material.


Dr. Davit Vassilyan, Jurassica Museum, Porrentruy, Switzerland

Prof. Laurent Richard, Nazarbayev University

Collaboration in PTSD studies between UZH and Ilia State Univ. Tbilisi, Georgia

The project is aimed at knowledge transfer between University of Zurich and Ilia State University, Tbilisi, Georgia. PA from the Switzerland is Prof. Andreas Maercker and Co-PAs from Georgia are Proff. Jana Javakhishvili and Nino Makhashvili. The project goal is to establish closer collaboration in the field of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) between above mentioned universities and foster research and exchange.

The objectives are:

  • Introduce contemporary research and directions in trauma field to Georgian colleagues, especially processes around WHO ICD-11 classificatory system;
  • Expose Georgian colleagues to Switzerland university-level education processes, namely how PTSD-related topics are taught at masters’ level;
  • Support in developing PhD program in mental health oriented at psychological trauma;
  • To promote contacts and cooperation between young talents/young minds (advanced students) from University of Zurich and Ilia State University.

Georgia is a country that experienced a number of military conflicts in recent years, since early 90s with a big population of war-affected internally displaced persons  - around 6% of the population. The burden of common mental disorders (especially, PTSD) is still high among these groups (Makhashvili et al, 2014[1]). In addition, the population still suffers from the inter-generational effects of trauma related to the totalitarian past (Javakhishvili, 2014[2]).

The Co-PAs are affiliated with Ilia State University, one of the leading research and educational institutions in Georgia. The Co-PAs have established a resource center on mental health in 2011 and developed a Masters’ Program on Mental health in 2012. The program has 2 directions: social psychiatry and PTSD studies. Each year the program accepts a number of experienced and motivated students on a competitive base.

The project will bring a new knowledge, motivation and experiences to master students of Ilia University by involving them into workshops lead by Prof. Maercker. New directions of ICD-11, new trends of PTSD research, networking and exchange would benefit them. The Co-PAs will be also gain from the exchange visit as they will observe Zurich University research excellence activities, meet with colleagues and students and discuss possibilities of joint studies and also developing a new PhD program in the PTSD field. In particular, a study focusing on cross-cultural differences in symptomatic representation of PTSD will be planned that bring together main research interests of the two sides (e.g. Maercker et al., 2018[3]).

[1]Makhashvili, N., Chikovani, I., McKee, M., Bisson, J.I., Patel, V., Roberts, B. (2014). Mental Disorders and Their Association With Disability Among Internally Displaced Persons and Returnees in Georgia. In: Journal of Traumatic Stress, Vol. 27(5), Pg: 509-518;

[2]Javakhishvili, J.D. (2014). Soviet Legacy in Contemporary Georgia: A Psychotraumatological Perspective. In: Identity Studies, Vol.1(5), Pg:20-40;

[3]Maercker, A., Heim, E. & Kirmayer. L.I. (2018). Cultural clinical psychology and PTSD. Boston: Hogrefe International.



Prof. Andreas Maercker Ph.D., M.D.
University of Zurich, Dept. of Psychology

Prof. Jana Javakhishvili Ph.D.
Ilia State University, Tbilisi Georgia, Arts and Science Faculty

Prof. Nino Makhashvili PhD
Ilia State University, Tbilisi Georgia, Business School, Health Policy

Dr. Mareike Augsburger
University of Zurich, Dept. of Psychology