Prof. Dr. Jürgen Mlynek
Physicist, former President of the Helmholtz Association
DAAD Scholarship 1975–1976
Jürgen Mlynek always wanted to know “his” people, to be available, to motivate and to convince people. When the professor of experimental physics took up his post as president of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (HU) in September 2000, he spent the next few months visiting all the departments, gathering information and, at the same time, promoting his reform ideas: more personal guidance and counselling for and supervision of students; excellent advancement of young academics and researchers (HU was the first German university to advertise junior professorships); more cooperation with business and industry; and increased recruitment of international academic staff. “We want to and will compete with Oxford and Stanford” was his stated goal at that time. He estimated it would take ten years to achieve this. However, budget cuts planned by the Berlin Senate created a massive obstacle, and Jürgen Mlynek and his colleagues at other higher education institutions in Berlin protested vehemently against the plans. In September 2005 he was replaced as HU president and became president of the Helmholtz Association. He remained at the helm of Germany’s largest scientific organisation until 2015, during which time he sought to “establish Helmholtz more strongly as a quality corporate brand, both nationally and internationally.” His maxim: ”Excellent and relevant research is the ideal way to fulfil our Helmholtz mission – as national research centres with strategically oriented goals.” In 2015, at the age of 63, he returned to his professorial chair at HU.
We want to and will compete with Oxford and Stanford.
Mlynek was born in 1951 and became a highly successful scientist. After studying physics at Hanover and at the École Polytechnique in Paris, the latter with the help of a DAAD Scholarship, he spent periods working in California, Zurich and Konstanz. He spent a decade at the university on the banks of Lake Constance as professor of experimental physics and attracted contract funding worth more than 10 million euros for research work in his department. The physicist holds several patents and has supervised over 100 doctoral theses and degree dissertations. Many of his former students are themselves professors today. He has received numerous major awards, including, in particular, the distinguished Leibniz Prize of the German Research Foundation (DFG) in 1992. In his capacity as DFG vice-president from 1996 to 2001, he was responsible for promoting young research talent and actively contributed to the proposal for junior professorships. In 2010, Mlynek was honoured with the Cross 1st Class for Distinguished Service of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. In 2012, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Faculty of Natural Sciences of the University of Ulm. In 2014, he received the Garbsen Ring of Honour.