The Educator

The challenge of advancing science

As scientists we ourselves might not make the biggest impact with our own work but rather through the people we educate. Education in the physical and life sciences is comprised from the text book knowledge that we transmit in the class room but also the practical skills that are taught. A huge part of becoming a scientist is the training conveyed during work on an original research problem as part of a doctoral thesis. Here, sound fundamental theoretical understanding, practical experimental skills are needed in addition to creativity, persistance and the ability to get over many difficulties and set-backs. I am convinced that as educators we have to convey the wonder and joy of discoery to the younger generation. To discover some truth for the first time or to make a new substance nobody before had ever made can give immense joy.

The real challenge of educating young scientists is for them to discovery ad to make them aware of their talent and creativity by providing new perspectives. Even experienced researchers need to break through the often encountered specialist-isolation and to learn - besides excellent scientific methodology - to engage in intense teamwork, reliable project management, proactive social interactions and to take responsibility. Just another scientific publication is simply not enough to make the difference. Instead, the discipline of "seeing" and then acting in a self motivated and dialogue-oriented manner leads to the challenge of exisiting boundaries.

Currently, I have teaching responsibilities as a Professor of Chemistry at the Free University of Berlin and the University Potsdam. My main research offer that trains doctoral and postdoctoral scientists is centered in the Department of Biomolecular Systems at the Max-Planck Institute for Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam where I am the director and at the Sanford-Burnham Institute for Medical Research (La Jolla, USA) where I have been an affiliate professor since 2003.

The chance to work with bright young scientists is not just a challenge on a daily basis for both sides, but it keeps me honest and opens the chance for me to “learning by teaching” as not just the student but also the teacher profits.

Links of interest:
Max-Planck Institute for Colloids and Interfaces
Free University of Berlin
University Potsdam
Sanford-Burnham Institute for Medical Research