“My first visit to the Einstein Foundation in Berlin turned out to be a particularly stimulating two weeks of my life. Quite apart from my typical everyday commitments, I was able to enjoy lengthy conversations with colleagues in whose work I had a passionate interest, develop ideas, and work out the details of our joint projects. I also appreciated the warm welcome I received at the Einstein Foundation, and even managed to get hold of tickets for the Berlinale. I hope that during my time at the Einstein Foundation, my Berlin colleagues and I will be able to tap into new areas of research, and combine the pleasure we find in science with an effective approach. The Foundation's philosophy seems to me to be ideally suited to smoothing the sharp corners which one typically encounters in everyday research work.“ (March 2015)
Please close your eyes for a moment and think about your research project. What do you see at first?
Please name three things that you spontaneously connect to Albert Einstein!
A brilliant scientist, a humanist, the theory of relativity
What do you do first thing in the morning when you arrive at your workplace, and why?
I brew some coffee, probably because I'm addicted, although I've been assured there are worse addictions.
What would your research project look like if it was a piece of art?
A piece by Jean Tinguely
Please imagine you had one free wish to guarantee the success of your research project. What would it be?
Plenty of time to reflect
To your opinion, what are the three most meaningful inventions of mankind?
Writing, electricity, the computer
In terms of medicine: vaccinations, antibiotics, anaesthesia
If I am allowed to include discoveries which have radically altered our lives and perceptions, then in biology, the discovery that the cell is fundamental to all life forms, the mechanism of evolution, and the molecular basis of heredity.
What is the most favourite word you ever heard in Berlin? And what does it mean? JWD, 'janz weit draussen', meaning that the Berlin Buch campus is in the middle of nowhere, albeit only in geographical terms. As far as research is concerned, it is right at the centre of things. I also like 'Schrippen', which are rolls. In Swabia, where I began my studies, they were known as 'Weckle'.
Who or what inspires you at work?
Discussions with my smart colleagues and associates
Which district in Berlin do you like the most, and why?
The centre: you can find the scars and visual evidence of Berlin's history everywhere you look, but the district is nonetheless full of life and surprises.
What characteristics distinguish researchers from other people?
Curiosity; wanting to understand even the most seemingly insignificant details. Scepticism; questioning supposed truths, and even one's own convictions. A lack of respect for dogma.
What do you think: Is there a true prejudice about researchers?
Absent-mindedness is a defence mechanism which enables them to cut themselves off from everyday distractions and affords them more time to concentrate.
With whom would you like to exchange your workplace for one day, and what would you do then?
Wim Wenders, to make a road movie
Foto: Jean-Marie Heron