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Brilliant Minds

Dr. Angelos Michaelides, Ireland

Twenty-nine year old Angelos Michaelides is a chemist from Ireland. At present he is a staff scientist at the Fritz Haber Institute in Berlin.

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Last year he won a EURYI Award - the European Young Investigator Award. Angelos Michaelides investigates the interaction between water and solid surfaces. His research could answer a number of practical questions - such as: why water freezes more easily when it contains small impurities.

His results are relevant to a number of areas. They could help to improve the action of fuel cells, or to better understand the chemistry of the earth's atmosphere or to help build tiny nano-machines.

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Why do you do your research here in Berlin, at a Max Planck Institute?
Mainly because of the institute. Before I came here, I was in Cambridgde. And then, I was offered a position here in Berlin, in a very prestigeous institute. I decided that it was a nice place to work: a world-leading institute in this field. And this is why I decided to settle.

Of course, there are a lot of other labs. But this one has a nice balance of personnel, there are many good people here who I can interact with on a daily basis. The resources are extremely good, and it is a place where I can relax and focus on my research. Another advantage of working at a Max Planck Institute is that I do not necessarily have to do too much teaching. This gives me time to focus.

Where is the crucial difference to other research groups?
Perhaps it is the size of the theoretical group here in this department. Nowhere else in this world is such a collection of people using such a large array of techniques to focus on specific problems. In other laboratories in the world, there may be half as many people. And so I can interact with many experts in my field. In my department, there are 50 people. Some of them are students and all of them are experts in applying these techniques to study processes – mainly in surface physics

You are exploring the nano world, the world of atoms and molecules. Some people have fascinating ideas about the possibilities provided by nano technology. Do you think it is realistic that in the future - for example - nano robots will repair our bodies?
Certainly, devices are getting smaller and smaller. And this is something to be cherished and not something to be feared. I hear lots of talk about people who get afraid about these robots that will infect their bodies and cause them diseases. But I think overall nano technology is a good thing. It is a way to make devices smaller, in particular in computers - a way to make more efficient, faster and high-performance computers, which is something that we all want.

13.03.2006 PZ Michaelidis 2

As an Irishman - what do you think about the Germans?
I see a huge difference between the Irish and the German people. The Irish would be much more relaxed, much more lazy. And the Germans sort of live up to my expectations in being organized.

... is this a compliment or criticism?
It is a compliment. The German people I meet have a very good work ethic and in terms of research are interested in doing nice high quality research.

Do you have contact to German people in your private life?
Yes, to some extent. Overall I like German people so far, although I find people in positions of administrative responsibility can be quite pedantic sometimes. So this I found challenging at first, but having overcome that I have settled in. And overall I have a good impression of working in Germany and of German people.

I have a few German friends. I enjoy particularly the bars here in Berlin, especially in the summer - the beergardens, sitting out, having a beer with my friends – this is quite a pleasure.

And what else do you like in Berlin?
I like the history and the city centre of Berlin. There are many nice museums and many nice monuments and statues that are always good to look at.

And I certainly like all the parks here in Berlin. It is an extremely green city. People say that one third of Berlin is parkland. And particularly down here in Dahlem, you are surrounded by the woods. I enjoy walking in the woods with my dog. When necessary, I even take the dog to work. And the dog sits with me, and we try and solve as many problems as we can.

13.03.2006 PZ Michaelidis 1

Do you miss Ireland sometimes?
What I miss, is the beach: In Ireland, I grew up right beside the seaside. And in Berlin, while there are inland-beaches, they don't really compare to the beaches that we have along the Atlantic coast. And walking along the Spree doesn't compare favourably. I mean, it's a nice river. When I have visitors it is a good place to take them on a boat - up and down the Spree.

Let's have a look to the future: How long are you going to stay in Germany?
At the moment I have no plans to leave and I have no deadline by which I have to leave. So I see myself settling here for the foreseeable future. And this particular project that I am working on now is a five-year-project. Certainly I would like to stay until the end of this project, so I will be here in Berlin at least for the next few years. I see no reason to leave: I am in the middle of some very exciting work, and I would like to see this through until completion.

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