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HZDR with new scientific director


Once Helmholtz, Always Helmholtz

Prof. Sebastian M. Schmidt takes over as HZDR’s scientific director

Press release of April 1, 2020

Prof. Sebastian M. Schmidt takes the reigns as scientific director of the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) beginning April 1, 2020. He comes from the Forschungszentrum Jülich, where he was a member of the Executive Board and has been responsible since November 2007 for the research areas “Matter” and “Key Technologies / Information” in Scientific Division I. After fourteen years of service to the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf, Prof. Roland Sauerbrey is retiring as scientific director.

From one of the largest research centers in western Germany to one of the largest research centers in eastern Germany: Prof. Sebastian M. Schmidt remains loyal to the Helmholtz Association. His path leads from Jülich to Dresden, where the physicist will lead as scientific director of the HZDR from April 1st. Prof. Roland Sauerbrey, as planned, officially renounced his position on March 31st. The long-time director is particularly pleased about the seamless handover of the torch: “I am very certain that we have found an outstanding successor in the position of scientific director with Sebastian Schmidt. He is quite familiar with the Helmholtz Association and knows research at large-scale facilities inside out. He is well connected internationally and has a scientific profile that fits with the HZDR.”

Drawn by HZDR’s Excellent Infrastructure

Above all good reasons, it is the large-scale facilities in Rossendorf and the broad research spectrum that attracted Schmidt to the Saxonian capital. “In the area of materials research, the HZDR is ideally positioned with its unique infrastructures. The ELBE Centre for High-Power Radiation Sources, the High Magnetic Field Laboratory and the Ion Beam Center are in demand by users around the world. With the European platform for dynamo experiments (DRESDYN) and the Helmholtz International Beamline for Extreme Fields (HIBEF), additional exciting facilities are being created that will attract national and international attention to the center. Under the leadership of my predecessor, Roland Sauerbrey, other areas have also been developed extremely well – mainly energy and nuclear waste repository research as well as cancer research and data sciences.”

The new scientific director is now interested in using this positive starting position for the next steps in development: “One of my great ambitions for the HZDR is to improve the center’s international visibility and network. To achieve this aim, we need the excellent partners locally and in the cross-border region, above all the Technische Universität Dresden (TUD), with which I am striving for even closer collaboration.” For Schmidt, the topics of diversity, a wide range of perspectives, and equal opportunity play a central role. “I very much welcome the HZDR’s commitment to reconciling work and family life and promoting equal career opportunities. It is important to me that together we support an organizational culture in which every employee can contribute and play a part in creating a lively center, as I’m convinced that diversity means wealth. I very much look forward to the new endeavor and cooperating with colleagues in Dresden as well as at the locations in Freiberg, Görlitz, Leipzig, Schenefeld and Grenoble.”

Introduction: Professor Sebastian M. Schmidt

Born in 1967, Sebastian M. Schmidt’s scientific career began at the University of Rostock and in the Russian city of Dubna. He completed his PhD in theoretical physics in 1995 in Rostock. In 2001 he undertook his “Habilitation” at the Universities of Tübingen and Rostock. RWTH Aachen University appointed him professor of physics in 2012. He had previously worked in Israel and in the United States, receiving a Minerva stipend from the University of Tel Aviv (1995-1996) as well as a stipend from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation to work at the Argonne National Laboratory (1999-2000). Schmidt meanwhile worked for two years as scientific staff at the University of Rostock and took over leadership of an Emmy Noether Junior Research Group, part of the German Research Foundation (DFG), at the University of Tübingen.

His own research work involves quantum statistics of strongly correlated systems, more precisely quantum chromodynamics (QCD) and quantum electrodynamics (QED) under extreme conditions. While quantum chromodynamics focuses on the fundamental building blocks of matter—that is, quarks and gluons—quantum electrodynamics concentrates on the electromagnetic interaction coupled via photons as exchange particles.

“My special interest is, for example, the quark-hadron phase transition in the early universe, in neutron stars or simulated in experiments for instance at CERN and in the future at FAIR. In other words: how does stable massive matter arise as a precondition for the formation of planets or life? On the other hand, I find the non-equilibrium physics of particle-antiparticle production from the QED vacuum in strong external fields extremely exciting, and I am particularly looking forward to HIBEF,” explains Schmidt, who has approximately 100 publications with a citation index of 60 and a h-index of 40.

From 2002 to 2006, Schmidt acted as employee and later as managing director of the Helmholtz Association headquarters in Berlin. There he had already devoted himself to a wide range of topics: strategic development and implementation in the Helmholtz Association’s Program-Oriented Funding (POF), career appointments, promoting junior research, investments, equal opportunity issues, and knowledge transfer to society.

Media contact:

Simon Schmitt | Science Editor
Phone: +49 351 260-3400 | email: s.schmitt@hzdr.de