28. August 2007

New interim Director at PSI

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Leadership change at national research institute

From the 1st September Martin Jermann will take over as Acting Director of the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI). For years he has been Head of Staff and a vice director of PSI, now the ETH physicist will lead the institute until a permanent replacement is found. He relieves Ralph Eichler of the post who will take up the position of President of the ETH Zurich.

When Martin Jermann takes up his new position leading the PSI he will be able to look back on many years of experience at this multi-disciplinary research institute. Since the founding of the institute in 1988 he has played a leading role. As Head of Staff and Vice Director for Planning and Operations he has been decisively involved in strategic development. In the last years he has also led the Proton Therapy project, and with his team, developed and expanded cancer treatment with protons, such that PSI is at the forefront in this field. Jermann (59), an ETH physicist, will continue to implement PSI's strategy and ensure that goals set in current and planned projects and research activities are reached.

“With its large research facilities PSI offers the scientific community an attractive user laboratory which every year draws 1500 scientists from all over the world to Villigen”, states Jermann. He regards the Swiss Light Source (SLS), the Spallation Neutron Source (SINQ), the muon source and the proton accelerator as world class facilities. He attaches particular weight to researching technologies for sustainable energy production. The goal is to reduce CO2 emissions from power production with the use of new technologies, thereby contributing to this world-wide goal. “Climate change is one of the most critical global problems at the moment”, stresses Jermann.

Martin Jermann (59) will lead the institute until a permanent director is chosen. A selection committee has already begun the process. Jermann will be supported in his leadership of the institute by the present members of the directorate including two vice directors.

Ralph Eichler, successfully situated PSI

The present director, Ralph Eichler, will move to the ETH Zurich. The passionate particle physicist and physics professor has been Director of PSI since 2002 and at the end of May this year was elected President of the ETH Zurich. He will take up this challenging position at the beginning of September, where his competence as a team builder and open-minded facilitator will be further employed. These qualities were formative of his time as Director of PSI, under the aegis of which numerous interdisciplinary projects were initiated and realised. The SLS has constructed a dozen experiment stations and has become a world-class facility. Innovation in the energy and mobility sector, such as the founding of the Competence Center for Energy and Mobility (CCEM) or the collaboration with industry on the fuel-cell car prototype, are a tribute to Eichler's facilitation skills.

A special engagement of the departing director is the new X-ray electron laser project, PSI-XFEL. This proposed project will allow pictures of molecules to be taken at intervals of quadrillionths of a second (10-15 s). In part due to the breadth of his political and scientific connections, Ralph Eichler has successfully situated PSI in the national and international research community and supported collaborative work with the universities, technical universities and industry.

Head of Communication also at the ETH Zurich

Likewise, the Head of Communication at PSI, Beat Gerber, moves to the ETH Zurich. The ETH engineer and experienced science journalist will take up the position of Communications Consultant to the President. During a transition phase Gerber will work part time in Zurich and Villigen. Who will succeed him at PSI is still an open question.

Welcome greeting from the new Acting Director

Since its founding it has developed into a successful, internationally renowned research institute for the natural and engineering sciences. This success story is due both to the professional competence, creativity and dedication of its staff, and to the financial support of the ETH Board, the Swiss Federal Council and Parliament – ultimately the Swiss taxpayers.

Education and knowledge are the most important resources in Switzerland, upon which our prosperity relies. The creation of new knowledge and the provision of high quality, internationally competitive education are goals of PSI. These goals are achieved through our own research and by supporting the work of researchers from the two ETHs in Zurich and Lausanne, universities, other research institutes and technical colleges. New knowledge creates new applications beneficial to society, promotes a competitive economy and leads to a better understanding of our world.

Education and training as core business

In the Swiss research and education landscape PSI plays a special role as a user lab, developing and running large, complex research facilities. Since the start of PSI, 15,000–20,000 external researchers have performed experiments in the fields of physics, chemistry, biology, material sciences, energy technology, environmental science and medical technology. Also during this time some 1,500 dissertations have been successfully completed, with most doctoral candidates having been accompanied by the experienced staff of PSI. After concluding their research the majority of these young people find a profession in business or in a university. The support of education and training is, and will remain, a core business of PSI.

World renowned research

In many areas of research PSI is well known at home and abroad. For example in energy research where new types of fuel cells have been developed, and zero-emission vehicles tested. In basic and applied research in physics and chemistry, in the structural determination of materials, matter, or biological molecules where new materials or drugs can be developed as a result of scientific findings. Or for example, in the field of cancer treatment where PSI has pioneered proton therapy and successfully treated over 5,000 patients.

Fostering scientific offspring

To the detriment of the economy, well qualified engineers and scientists are currently scarce – too few young people choose careers in these fields. PSI is setting a future priority to kindle enthusiasm for science in youth and inspire career choices in science and engineering. In 2008 we will open a youth lab where school classes of 12–14 year-olds can get a taste of the PSI research atmosphere by conducting experiments under the guidance of experienced scientists. We are convinced that this experience will make a lasting impression on our young visitors and hope that some of them make career choices which will lead them back to PSI.

Further Information:

Martin Jermann, Direktor, Acting Director, PSI;
Telephone +41 56 310 27 18; martin.jermann@psi.ch
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