A few years ago, Verena Lepper, a professor and curator of the Papyrus and Manuscript Collection at Germany’s Egyptian Museum in Berlin, sat down in a café with a professor of chemistry from Sudan.
Over coffee, they came up with the idea for a multidisciplinary research project into the origins of ancient pottery shards from the 3rd century B.C., found in Sudan. The project would combine her expertise as an Egyptologist with the chemistry professor’s ability to produce a sort of chemical “fingerprinting,” revealing where and when the clay pieces had been produced.
“I would not have met a chemistry professor from Khartoum in my normal academic life,” says Lepper. But both academics were members of a recently created academic institution, the Arab-German Young Academy of Sciences and Humanities, or AGYA. In fact, Lepper is the group’s founding director.
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Established in 2013 and funded in large part by the German government, AGYA is open to early-career academics from any academic discipline, from the arts and humanities to those in the sciences or technical specialties. The only condition is that the participants be affiliated with an academic institution. The program’s mission is to promote innovative academic cooperation, with the requirement that all projects must be both international and interdisciplinary.