"HZB has become more diverse and more international"

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Anke Kaysser-Pyzalla

Anke Kaysser-Pyzalla is leaving HZB and in May 2017 will become the President of the Technische Universität Braunschweig. lichtblick spoke with the long-standing Scientific Director about the development of HZB, and asked what parting advice she can give the Centre.

You directed HZB for almost nine years. What made you come to Berlin in 2008?

In 2008, preparations for the fusion of BESSY and the HMI were well underway. Managing this restructuring and revealing new prospects was an extremely exciting challenge for me. At the same time, the fusion afforded leeway to pick up new topics. I knew the HMI well and BESSY, too, from certain official contexts, and so I knew: there are excellently qualified and dedicated people working here, with whom we can achieve great things together.

In the last two years, you advanced the HZB strategy and got a lot of measures underway. Why are you leaving now, at this juncture?

We advanced the HZB strategy after intensive internal discussions throughout the entire HZB, and in particular with the managing scientists, and thus set the course for the future. The Perspektivkommission evaluated and supported the HZB strategy, as did the WTR, the Scientific Advisory Board, the bodies of the Helmholtz Association, and the funders in the Federal Ministry of Research and the State of Berlin. The managers of HZB are all outstanding scientists. Plus, last year, we attracted excellent young investigator group heads, including from abroad, who champion the implementation of our strategic goals. Administration, IT and Facility Management are dedicated to giving the best possible support to the HZB researchers and users, and have established efficient structures and processes. In other words, the HZB is ready and willing to go. Knowing this made the decision easier for me to pursue new challenges.

You will no longer get to watch first-hand how the strategy continues to be implemented. Doesn’t that make you a little sad?

Yes, I would have liked to have stayed a little longer, to have still been a part of the completion of bERLinPro, BESSY VSR and the energy material research infrastructures, even the dismantling of BER II. But, this is when they happened to approach me about the new position as President of TU Braunschweig. Plus, I have always recommended to employees: after about ten years, one should do something new. And that goes for me, too, of course.

A lot has happened during your time at HZB. Looking back, what was the biggest challenge?

I can’t really name just one – there were many challenges. During the fusion, we had to strike a balance between different interests. We wanted to introduce new topics and structures, and establish a common, constructive work culture. Ultimately, we succeeded at this because many employees – including those in Administration and Infrastructure – were quite prepared to assume new responsibilities. Also key was that we were able at the right time to hire and retain a lot of good people at HZB, who are now actively shaping the Centre.

Finally, it was a big challenge to bring in new money and acquire cooperation partners for the core strategic expansion projects of HZB – among others BESSY VSR, bERLinPro and EMIL. Today, we hold a strong position within the Helmholtz Association. The fact that HZB has developed so strongly and positively is also thanks to the excellent support from the State of Berlin and constructive cooperation with the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the Helmholtz President. We can also count on the great support of the Berlin universities.

Has HZB also undergone a cultural change?

Definitely. We have achieved a lot in terms of family friendliness and the promotion of talented women. The average age of management has also decreased. HZB has become much more international and diverse over recent years. New employees were warmly welcomed at HZB and there is a high sense of responsibility for the young talent. The working environment is collegial. Thus we have managed to retain outstanding scientists who are in high international demand. That, like the long-standing project management team as well, is a reason why we can realise major projects in accelerator research today. We are connected the universities and institutes through many joint appointments, structures for research, and graduate schools. Many employees from HZB also give lectures. That makes HZB an attractive partner nowadays in the region and beyond.

What would you have liked to continue working on?

I would have liked to continue working intensively on the renovation and modernisation of the Lise Meitner Campus over the next few years.

What parting advice can you give HZB?

HZB can continue to implement its strategy with the tailwind of the Perspektivkommission and the Supervisory Board, and expand its portfolio in energy materials research; it can continue resolutely in realising BESSY VSR and work hard on the concept for BESSY III; it can create career opportunities for employees on multiple levels; and it can attract and foster talented researchers.

What excites you about your new duties as President of TU Braunschweig?

I have always felt that becoming the president of a university of outstanding reputation would be an attractive option. I know the University of Braunschweig well, and I am very impressed by its performance and by its culture of good cooperation, which has been made clear repeatedly in evaluations. There are also many fruitful cooperative projects with partners from research, such as the PTB, the HZI and the Georg-Eckert-Institute, and with many companies. TU Braunschweig is strong not only in engineering and natural sciences, but also in the humanities and social sciences. This exciting, wide range of subjects has a special appeal to me. But I also find the interaction with the students, the complex organisation of a university, and the cooperation with the City of Braunschweig to be other exciting new prospects.

Will you miss Berlin and the capital region?

I will definitely miss the colleagues, and in particular my colleague Thomas Frederking, with whom I have enjoyed working together in a spirit of mutual trust, and I will miss my friends here in the region. I very much liked living here, but Braunschweig also has a lot to offer. The region is even ideal for my hobby, cycling, because the Harz Mountains will be practically at my doorstep.

Interviewed by Ina Helms and Silvia Zerbe