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GIF supporting Density Functional Theory and materials research – and German-Israeli friendships

from  Prof. Dr. Leeor Kronik. (Weizmann Institution of Science) & Prof. Dr. Stefan Kümmel (University of Bayreuth)

In 2001, Leeor Kronik and Stephan Kümmel met as young postdocs at a meeting of the American Physical Society. Originally being “competitors”, as we worked on similar scientific questions, we realized upon meeting in person that there were future projects in which being partners instead of competitors could be fruitful – and fun. After we had returned to Israel and Germany, Leeor, who then had started his group at the Department of Materials and Interfaces at the Weizmann Institute of Science in December of 2002, and was aided by a GIF Young Scientist grant, visited Stephan and his Emmy-Noether Junior group in Dresden. Leeor found a thriving scientific scene and was impressed by the combination of old, new, and very new in Dresden. Scientifically, that visit ultimately led to a first joint paper on the electrical response of molecular chains. About a year later, when Stephan had accepted an offer from the department of Physics at the University of Bayreuth, GIF Young Scientists program came also to his attention. With GIF’s support, he established contact to several researchers in Israel, and had a chance to intensify his contacts to Leeor. He also visited Israel for the first time on the occasion of being invited to participate as a lecturer at a summer school in Safed that Leeor had co-organized. The workshop on Density Functional Theory was a success, and Stephan left Israel deeply impressed by how eager for knowledge the students at the workshop had been, how excellently it had been organized, and how much fun and how fruitful it was to do science in Israel.

Numerous visits followed, and the interaction increasingly became one between the groups, not just the group leaders. Two of Leeor’s PhD student spent several weeks working at the University of Bayreuth, and several of Stephan’s PhD students visited Leeor’s group at the Weizmann Institute for extended periods of time. In 2010, Stephan and all of his his group visited Leeor and his group at the Weizmann Institute for a joint workshop and in 2012, Leeor and all of his group visited Bayreuth for a joint workshop. The support from the GIF in the form of two grants in the regular program proved invaluable for allowing two generations of PhD students in both countries to get to know each other and work together. The joint research centered on the theory of electronic structure and dynamics, specifically on density functional theory. The fact that fascinates both Leeor and Stephan about this theory is that it has a clearly defined mathematical structure that is incredibly beautiful to explore, yet at the same time, it allows to access practically relevant problems and is one of the key tools for computational material prediction. Exploring how the power of a seemingly abstract concept such as a derivative discontinuity can be brought to unfold in range-separated hybrid functionals or meta-generalized gradient approximations, and can thus enable much improved in accuracy material science simulations, is still keeping them both busy and happy.

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A personal memory (Stephan): On a morning during one of my first visits to the Weizmann Institute, I had gone to the office early and was working alone at a desk in an open-plan office. An elderly man in work clothing entered and started emptying the bins. In passing by where I was sitting, he looked at my documents. Stopping, he asked in a stern voice “Are you German?” I was surprised by the excellent English, and then, saying “Yes” and looking back at the old man who was looking at me firmly, an unhappy feeling what would be next set in. The awareness of the horror that Germans have brought to Jews became very present in my mind, making me feel insecure. However, the elderly gentleman started to smile, and then told me that he had visited Germany years ago and how beautiful he found the country. We chatted for a while, and at some point I dared to ask whether meeting Germans did not feel strange to him, given the bitter history that happened during his lifetime. He paused for a while, and then he said quietly “It must never be forgotten. But it has not been you.” I was very grateful. And I have always felt welcome in Israel.

A personal memory (Leeor): On a visit to Dresden, Stephan and I went to see the newly refurbished Dresden Frauenkirche, a historical icon that was almost completely destroyed in the war. A particularly poignant moment for me was to learn that a significant portion of the funds needed for rebuilding came from the city and people of Coventry, UK, a city that suffered so terribly itself during the war. I do believe that we should and will remember the past, but I equally well believe that hope can triumph over fear and that the human spirit should prevail. That day was a beautiful demonstration of that. 

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Prof. Avi Rivkind

Hadassah Medical Center

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GOVERNOR

Professor Avraham Rivkind, M.D., F.A.C.S. Professor of Surgery, former Chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine and Head of the Shock Trauma Unit in the Department of the General Surgery at Hadassah Medical Center, Jerusalem. He received his Doctorate in Medicine from the Hebrew University Hadassah Medical School in 1980. Personal physician to the late President of the State of Israel, Mr. Ezer Weizman, as well as advisor to the Surgeon General of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on general surgery, trauma and ethics. Professor Rivkind completed a Fellowship in traumatology and critical care at the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services System (MIEMSS), Baltimore, Maryland, and was a visiting Associate Professor in Trauma and Fore-gut surgery at the University of Southern California. He is Chairperson of the Israel Committee on Trauma, and Director of the Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) Program, Jerusalem, Israel.
Professor Rivkind was awarded the Karl Stoll Chair in Surgical Trauma and was recently honored by the State of Israel as a torchbearer for Israel’s 75th Independence Day ceremony. Professor Rivkind is a widely recognized expert in natural disaster management, motor vehicle accidents, and identifying and treating blast injury as a result of shock waves. His research interests include hemorrhagic shock, fluid re-suscitation and all aspects of trauma care; primary interests in fore-gut surgery, gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD), esophageal and stomach diseases and cancer.

Dr. Elke-Vera Kotowski

Moses Mendelssohn Foundation

GERMANY

GOVERNOR

Dr. Elke-Vera Kotowski studied political science, literature, philosophy and cultural studies in Duisburg and Berlin. She has been researching and teaching at the University of Potsdam since 1994 and was involved in the establishment of the “Jewish Studies” course at the University of Potsdam. Her research areas are European-Jewish literary, cultural, and social history with a focus on the history of identity and mentality of German-speaking Jewry in the 19th and 20th century. A special area of research that Ms. Kotowski has been conducting since 2012, in cooperation with the German Foreign Office and German embassies, among others, is the cultural heritage of Jewish emigrants worldwide. From 2009-2016, she was the academic coordinator of the Walther Rathenau Graduate School in the network of Berlin and Brandenburg universities. She has been a member of the Selma Stern Center for Jewish Studies Berlin Brandenburg since its founding (2011). She has also been chief curator of the Moses Mendelssohn Foundation and executive director of the Moses Mendelssohn Institute since 2020. She is currently developing a documentation center on the history of the Berlin deportation site “Platform 17” as well as a student living and working campus for the development of new concepts of commemoration and remembrance in the German-Jewish context (www.else-ury-campus.de).

Ms. Liza Katz

Germany Liaison and Program Manager

ISRAEL

GIF STAFF

Liza joined the German Israeli Foundation (GIF) for scientific research and development as German Liaison and Program Manager in September 2022. Previously, she has been a project manager at the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung’s foreign office in Israel since 2015, focusing on Democracy, foreign security issues and German-Israeli relations. Liza obtained her university degree in Biology and French Studies at the University of Heidelberg. As a native German, living in Israel since 2012, she is convinced that the scientific research collaboration between Germany and Israel is crucial for maintaining a long-lasting friendship between the two countries.

Dr. Meital
Orbach

Senior Scientific Manager

ISRAEL

GIF STAFF

Meital obtained her BSc in chemistry (Bar-Ilan University). Fascinated by the world organometallics, she joined the lab of Prof. Milko van der Boom (Weizmann Institute of Science) and pursued her PhD in Chemistry. Meital then performed two postdoctoral studies: the first with Prof. David Milstein (Weizmann Institute of Science) and the second with Profs. Eli Lebowitz and Wendy Silverman (Yale University). Meital joined the German Israeli Foundation (GIF) for scientific research and development as Scientific Manager in 2021. She hopes to contribute her passion to science and academic experience to enhance the collaboration ties between scientist from Israel and Germany.

Dr. Eric
Zimmerman

University Research Management

ISRAEL

GIF DIRECTOR

Prior to his appointment as GIF Director, Eric spent 27 years in university research management: 13 years at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), Herzliya and nearly 14 years at Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan.

Working together with the President and Provost of IDC Herzliya, Dr Zimmerman established and directed the Academic Affairs, International Engagement and Research Support Offices. His portfolio included responsibility for all competitive research and program grants and the protection of the institutional intellectual property; developing global partnerships and managing all institutional internationalization agreements, including student exchange, summer and study abroad programs; managing the development of double degree MA-level programs; and the development of joint doctoral programs.

Dr Zimmerman has been a member of several national and international committees, most recently a Higher Education Reform Expert (HERE) of the European Commission, and was a past leader of a task group within the largest European professional association of research administrators (EARMA), a founding board member of a European-based association on research information management (euroCRIS), the force behind the development of the Israel National Database of Academic Research and Development (INDARD), and party to other national and global initiatives. He regularly writes and lectures on internationalization, entrepreneurship education, research management, academic productivity and Israel, and advises organizations on information management and work flow practices as they effect academics and administrators at institutions of higher education. Finally, Dr Zimmerman is an experienced grants proposal reviewer.

Eric, born in New York City in 1962, is married to Sharon (an economist and European projects manager), has five grown children and six grandchildren.

Prof. Yehuda
Skornick

Tel Aviv University

ISRAEL

GOVERNOR

Born in Israel Board certified surgeon since 1978.

Served in IDF as chief surgeon of The Army Frontline Field Hospital.

Basic Research at the Membrane department of the Weitzman Institute of Science (1978-1980).

Visiting Scientist at the Surgery Branch, National Cancer Institute, the National Institute of Health (NIH) Bethesda Maryland, USA 1980-1982, 1988.

Full Professor of Surgery at the Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University. Served as the head of Surgery Department at the Tel Aviv Medical Center (Ichilov Hospital).

Former President of Magen David Adom (MDA), the Israel Pre-hospital emergency services.

Currently, board member of the friend organization of MDA.

Active in the “Advanced Surgery Group”, Assuta Medical Center, Tel Aviv.

Served as the Chairman of the Committee for the Early Cancer Detection at the Israel Cancer Association.

Served as member in the Research committee of the Israel Cancer Association and at the Research committee of the Israel Ministry of Health.

Member of the American Society of Surgical Oncology.

Member of the Board of Trustees, The Bar-Ilan University Ramat Gan.

Board member of the Israel Opera. Board member of the Israel Culture and Art Council and chairman of its Music Section committee.

Publications: More than 150 original articles published in international professional journals and as chapters in books.

Active participation in more than 400 international scientific conferences.

Prof. Ingrid
Mertig

Martin Luther University
Halle-Wittenberg

GERMANY

GOVERNOR

Academic Education

  • 1974-1979 Studies in physics, TU Dresden, Germany
  • 1979 Diploma Thesis in Theoretical Physics, TU Dresden
  • 1982 Ph.D. Thesis in Theoretical Physics, TU Dresden
  • 1985-1990 Postdoc, Joint Institute for Nuclear Research, Russia
  • 1995 Habilitation in Theoretical Physics, TU Dresden

 

Academic Education

  • 1982-1985 Assistant Professor, TU Dresden, Institute of Theoretical Physics
  • 1985-1990 Senior Scientist, Joint Institute for Nuclear Research, Russia
  • 1990-1995 Regular Guest Scientist, Research Centre Jülich, Germany; collaboration with P. H. Dederichs
  • 1996 Guest Professor, New York University, USA; collaboration with P. Levy
  • 1998 Guest Professor, University Paris-Sud, France; collaboration with A. Fert
  • 1999 Guest Professor, University of Nagoya, Japan; collaboration with J. Inoue
  • 2001- C4/W3 Professor, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany 2006 Sabbatical, Kavli Institute of Theoretical Physics, Santa Barbara, USA
  • 2009-2011 Guest Professor, Bristol University, Great Britain; collaboration with B Györffy
  • 2013 Sabbatical, Kavli Institute of Theoretical Physics, Santa Barbara, USA
  • 2016 and 2018 Guest Professor, Riken Center for Emergent Matter Science, Tokyo, Japan; collaboration with N. Nagaosa

 

Professional Activities

  • 2001-2007 Spokesperson of the DFG Research Unit “Oxidic Interfaces”
  • 2001-2007 Elected Reviewer of the DFG
  • 2003-2009 Member of the Nomination Committee of the Gottried Wilhelm Leibniz Programme
  • 2005- Advisory Board: Fraunhofer Institute IMWS, Halle
  • 2006-2014 Member/Chair of the International Union of Pure and Applied Science (IUPAP, C9)
  • 2008-2019 Spokesperson of the DFG CRC 762 “Functionality of Oxide Interfaces”
  • 2009-2017 Editorial Board Member Journal of Magnetism and Magnetic Materials
  • 2011-2017 Member of the German Council of Science and Humanities
  • 2012-2018 Advisory Board: Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf
  • 2018- Member of the Board of Governors RWTH Aachen
  • 2020- Member of the Committee of Senate of the Leibniz Community

 

Fellowships, Awards, and Honours

  • 1997-2001 Heisenberg Fellow of the DFG
  • 1999 Fellow of the Japan Society for Promotion of Science
  • 2007-2018 Max Planck Fellow

Research Interests

Quantum theory of Solids; Density Functional Theory; Transport Theory; Theory of Magnetism; Physics of Nanostructures; Spintronics; Topological properties of solids

Prof. Monika
Wohlrab-Sahr

University of Leipzig

GERMANY

GOVERNOR

Monika Wohlrab-Sahr was born in 1957. She studied Protestant Theology and Sociology from 1976 to 1985.

She holds a doctorate in sociology from Philipps-University Marburg (1991) and a Habilitation from Free University in Berlin (1998). From 1999-2006. Monika Wohlrab-Sahr has been professor of Sociology of Religion at the University of Leipzig, since 2006 she is professor of Cultural Sociology there. She was a research fellow at UC Berkeley, the European University Institute in Florence, the Centre for Advanced Study at JNU in New Delhi and at the University of Montréal. She has done research on conversion to Islam, Islam in Europe and – over many years – on secularity, at first related to the East German secularization process, and then expanding globally and historically. At present she is heading a big research project on “The Contested Legacy of 1989. Appropriations between Politicization, Popularization and Historical-Political Education”, and she is one of the directors (with Christoph Kleine) of the Centre of Advanced Studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences on “Multiple Secularities: Beyond the West, Beyond Modernities” (funded by the DFG since 2016).

She has been on the Review Board for Social Sciences of the German Research Council (DFG) for 8 years, for 4 years she served as the spokesperson of this board. She also has been the director of the Leibniz-program at the University of Leipzig, and is member of several Scientific Advisory Boards and Editorial Boards.

Mr. Maximilian Metzger

Consultancy Activities

GERMANY

GOVERNOR

Professional Career

  • Since 01/2015 Retirement; Consultancy Activities
  • 08/2010 – 12/12014 Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), Deputy Director General for International Cooperation in Education and Research
  • 08/2009 – 07/2010 Deputy Director General for Information and Communication Technologies; New Services at the BMBF
  • 06/2009 – 07/2009 Head of Division; Policy Issues of International Cooperation at the BMBF
  • 2004 – 2008 Secretary-General at CERN 2001 – 2004 Head of Division for European Research Organisations (CERN, ESO, ESRF, ILL. ETIN, DNW) at the BMBF
  • 1996 – 2001 Head of Division for Education, Science, Research, Technology and Nuclear Affairs at the Permanent Representation of Germany to the EU in Brussels
  • 1980 – 1996 Administrator and Head of Division in various divisions at the BMBF
  • 1978 – 1980 Judge at the Administration Court in Munich​

 

Education

  • 1977 2nd State Examination in Law
  • 1974 – 1975 Research Assistant in History of Law at the Universities of Munich and Augsburg
  • 1974 1st State Examination in Law
  • 1969 – 1974 Studies in Law and Philosophy at the University of Munich

Dr. Jens
Brandenburg

State Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education

GERMANY

ACTING CHAIRPERSON

Dr Jens Brandenburg has been a Member of the German Bundestag representing the Rhine-Neckar region since 2017. In the Parliamentary Group of the Free Democratic Party, he was spokesperson on study, vocational training and lifelong learning as well as spokesperson on the Study Commission “Vocational Training in the Digital Work Environment” until 2021. In December 2021, he was appointed Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister of Education and Research. He studied political science and economics at the University of Mannheim and completed his PhD at the Graduate School of Economic and Social Sciences. Prior to becoming a Member of the German Bundestag, he worked for a global management consulting firm.

Ms. Bettina Stark-Watzinger

Federal Minister of Education and Research

GERMANY

CHAIRPERSON

Personal details

  • Date of birth: 12 May 1968
  • Place of birth: Frankfurt am Main
  • Marital status: married
  • Religion: Roman Catholic

 

Education & training

  • 1989 Abitur school leaving certificate
  • 1989 – 1993 Studied economics at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, and Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main 
  • 1994 – 2001 BHF BANK AG, Frankfurt am Main (incl. parental leave) 
  • 1997 – 2006 Career break including continuing education and residence abroad

 

Professional experience

  • 2006 – 2008 Academic Manager, Finance, Accounting, Controlling and Taxation Department, European Business School, Oestrich-Winkel 
  • 2008 – 2013 Executive Director, House of Finance, Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main 
  • 2013 – 2017 Administrative Director, SAFE – Sustainable Architecture for Finance in Europe (research centre)

 

Political career

  • since 2004 Member of the Free Democratic Party (FDP) 
  • 2011 – 2017 County Councillor, Main-Taunus 
  • since 2011 Member, FDP Executive Board of Land Hesse
  • 2014 – 2015; 2019 – 2021 Deputy Chair, FDP of Land Hesse 
  • 2015 – 2019 General Secretary, FDP of Land Hesse 
  • since 2017 Member of the German Bundestag 
  • 2018 – 2020 Chair of the Finance Committee, German Bundestag
  • 2020 – 2021 Parliamentary Secretary of the FDP Parliamentary Group in the German Bundestag
  • since 2021 Chairwoman, FDP of Land Hesse 
  • since 2021 Federal Minister of Education and Research