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The Humboldt Centre for Nano- and Biophotonics (HCNB) was founded with funding from the Alexander von Humboldt Professorship awarded to Prof. Gather in 2019. It aims to maximize synergies emanating from several large, structured research programmes in Cologne and, thus, to address urgent scientific questions in fields where the University of Cologne has established internationally leading research programmes. The centre is based in the Faculty of Sciences, and has strong links to the Faculty of Medicine, thus bridging a current gap between two key priority areas of the UoC, i.e., “Ageing-Associated Diseases” and “Quantum Matter and Materials”.

Initially, the HCNB works on four main scientific areas: (A) Micro- and nano-scale cell-implanted lasers (“Intracellular Lasers”), (B) Force microscopy, (C) Bio-integrated light sources for optogenetics, and (D) Fundamentals of the interaction between light and soft matter. Each of these areas see a variety of different developments, many of which manifest through close interaction between scientists across the university. A major role of the new center is thus to bridge different activities, harness synergies and trigger research in novel, innovative and interdisciplinary directions, with the goal of establishing further consortia and structured programs. Beyond the immediate academic benefit, the development and validation of new biophotonic tools at the HCNB opens up exciting opportunities for clinical and commercial translation.

The current core members of the HCNB are Prof. Malte Gather and Prof. Marcel Schubert and their groups. A number of other colleagues across the university are associated with the centre to different extents.