In the frame of the DGM-Forum you were awarded with the highest recognition of the DGM, the Heyn Medal. What does this award mean for you and which was your reaction when you received the news?
When I received the letter announcing that I would receive the Heyn medal I felt incredibly happy. It was such good news that I even thought somebody might be pulling me a prank. I needed to be sure that this was really happening so I called the DGM, but the offices were closed due to holiday season. I did not want to wait until everybody came back so I called Professor Hans-Jürgen Christ. Happily, he confirmed that I indeed would be awarded with the Heyn medal during the MSE Congress in Darmstadt.
The Heyn medal represents one of the greatest honours I have received in my career. It also has a special personal family meaning for me because my father studied in Aachen and he always had the greatest respect for German science and technology.
Which were your impressions from the DGM-Tag and the MSE Congress?
The MSE Congress 2014 was fantastic, the DGM office did a good job with the organization of the event. The poster presentations, lectures, awards and an unexpected event for me –the Brazilian-German symposium- made this an enriching experience. I was amazed by the participation of young people and the dynamics generated by them. Everyone was eager to learn and participate and I believe that three hundred persons attended my talk. I felt very honoured.
The talks presented during the DGM Tag, which took place prior to the MSE Congress, addressed many interesting topics. They were mainly oriented to senior professors but I believe that if the DGM- Tag events could be integrated to the overall programme this would be definitive very enriching for the younger students as well.
Do you think there are many differences in terms of research culture between Germany and the United States?
Yes, I believe that the research culture is different in the United States from Germany. In the United States there is a constant competition whereas in Germany everything is more structured in terms of hierarchy and sometimes a bit difficult for young professionals to get a spot as a professor.
From your perspective which improvements could be done in order to make Germany more competitive to the outside world?
I think that the quality of German universities is excellent but this is somehow not being translated into the world university rankings and this is problematic for attracting new talent. Germany has been doing well in the transition process of integrating English into many of its study programs. This is important because English is at the moment the lingua franca of science but there are still other necessary steps that should be taken. There are many good universities but the system should allow them to truly shine and reach their full potential. The Max Planck institutes are a great resource. Is it possible to integrate some of them with university programs?