“Neutron scattering is fantastic”


Since the end of February, Prof. Dr. Stephan Förster, Forschungszentrum Jülich, has been appointed as director at the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Zentrum. He succeeds Prof. Dr. Thomas Brückel.

Prof. Dr. Stephan Förster is new director at the MLZ. © Ralf-Uwe Limbach / Forschungszentrum Jülich

Actually, Prof. Stephan Förster's career began 42 years ago in his nursery. He was twelve and had just unpacked a chemistry kit. “The first time I could tinker with molecules, I got addicted to them,” he remembers with a smile. His curiosity about chemical processes has remained and drives him to this day. Förster has headed the Jülich Institute for Neutron Scattering (ICS-1 / JCNS-1) since April 2017, and since the end of February 2018 he is also the Jülich director at the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Zentrum in Garching.

“Neutron scattering let’s us see where atoms are and how they move. I think that's fantastic!”, enthuses the researcher, who was born in Mainz. Building and operating these devices is a core competence of his institute in Jülich. The second focus is the study of “soft matter”. These include plastics, creams, gels and biological substances such as protein molecules. “We are interested in how these materials are built, how their constituents interact and what could be improved,” explains the scientist.

In Jülich, he has a wide range of instruments at his disposal. “You cannot find that at any university,” says the 54-year-old. He regrets that he can barely work in the lab himself as director of the institute. “When you have discovered something new and totally unexpected, you will never forget such moments again!”

He now wants to expand his institute and network it even more closely with colleagues such as the JCNS, ICS, INM or ER-C. That is a lot of work. But Förster also knows how to find a good balance to the profession. The father of two children enjoys leisure time with his family – and jogging, “because you can do it anywhere without much effort”. In contrast to his highly complex research in Jülich and Garching.

Text: Angela Wenzik / Forschungszentrum Jülich


More information:

Prof. Stephan Förster's curriculum vitae