Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) strives to find answers to the major challenges of our times. Our values encompass team spirit, respect and responsibility.
As a member of the Helmholtz Association with excellent collaborative partners in science and business we help to future-proof Germany and Europe. Our approach: application-based fundamental research in matter, health and energy.
We promote excellence at all levels because scientific progress thrives on the engagement of all members of staff, irrespective of whether they work in research, administration or the technical field. We support academic and non-academic careers equally and provide quality-assured mentoring for both students and PhD candidates. It is our ambition to be one of the region’s first-class vocational trainers. Our campus family comprises almost 1,500 members of staff, of whom about 670 are scientists, including 220 Ph.D. candidates.
What are the smart materials and technologies that can help to preserve or improve the basis of our existence? How can we discover cancers even earlier and treat them more effectively? And how can we use raw materials safely, efficiently and sustainably? We work on solutions to these core questions in the three research fields: matter, health and energy.
Our research machinery grants us insights into ultrafast processes – that are relevant, for example, for tomorrow’s energy supply. They penetrate enigmatic matter or capture elementary processes in cells and molecules that may be linked to the development of diseases. HZDR’s large-scale equipment provides unique experimental stations for inhouse and external scientists.
In a nutshell: what does HZDR actually do?
A comparison with an exploratory expedition describes our work pretty well, focusing as it does on a definite goal that we strive for through our application-oriented basic research. We may slip up on the way, a team might get bogged down and have to go back to the beginning and start again. All in all, the crew is the most important success factor for our voyage of discovery in space and time. It only all works if we cooperate – with trust and respect in international teams.
The crew comprises our own research groups as well as our collaborative partners and, of course, the entire team without whom a huge center like HZDR couldn’t function – the beamline scientists, for example, who keep our largescale equipment running, the technical colleagues, the administrative and infrastructure departments, the support staff and IT departments. They all play a role in our repeated success at transferring research insights to business and society.
What major future issues does the research center address?
We are convinced that by uncovering fundamental phenomena we can find answers and solutions that will make life easier and better for us and our descendants. Without research that investigates substances in the tiniest possible dimensions there would be no future materials for the next generation of computers or the energy and climate transition. Today, across the world, our umpteen electronic devices use vast amounts of power. In industry, for example in the production of basic chemicals, many processes have not yet been understood well enough to launch the necessary energy-saving measures.
At the same time, our modern society is dependent on the available resources and raw materials. Here, we address the major issues of sustainability and circular economy.
And our society is constantly aging. Many of us will suffer from cancer at some point. Only when we manage to understand the origins and spread of cancer cells in detail will medicine be able to fight the disease effectively. As a multi-program, large-scale research center, we tackle these complex topics from several perspectives, using complementary approaches – and we do so from the fundamentals through to technological and medical applications.
What distinguishes HZDR from other research institutions?
We focus on selected topics of major scientific and social relevance – programmatically, long-term and with perseverance. Our complex infrastructures are one of our hallmarks, such as our unique light and particle sources for research under extreme conditions. Or the labs in which we experiment with radioactive substances.
These exciting opportunities, together with our first-class scientists, attract research groups from around the globe, which means that we function in a highly connected way. To return to the idea of an expedition: Our research equipment is the gear for the journey, but we only reach our goal thanks to unique people and their unique abilities.
How important are collaborations for science?
Today, we are confronted with major issues of human life: energy, health, materials and technologies for coming generations. Since these issues are global, we need to create global teams with whom we can meet these challenges – either by recruiting the best researchers ourselves or by cooperating with them. Being connected to excellent institutions worldwide brings added value and saves resources. At the same time, we build bridges across national and ideological borders. That is why we at HZDR ascribe such great importance to the values of internationality and cosmopolitanism.
Where do we encounter HZDR research results in our everyday lives?
In hospitals, for example. We produce radioactive drugs for the precise diagnosis of cancer, and our knowhow also flows into high-precision proton irradiation. Or think of the many products we use in our daily lives. They all contain valuable minerals and high-tech metals. We make sure that scarce resources are used sustainably, whether they are recycled from scrap or extracted from the ground. And the people we train also ensure that there are improvements in our everyday lives. We empower all our undergraduates, doctoral candidates and trainees to draw up and implement potential solutions in science, business or society.