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Nobel Prize Winners in Lindau

Huber: his teachers advised him to become an army officer

Do scientists speak a different language? We had an entertaining encounter with Robert Huber at the Nobel Laureate meeting in Lindau. A conversation about work and other things.

DW: Herr Huber, what did you do after your Nobel Prize?

Robert Huber: That rounded off our work on the structure of the photosynthetic reaction center. But my lab continued working on many biologically and medically interesting projects. Our research went on. After the Nobel Prize I got some outstanding new students – so, in fact, our productivity increased.

What was it like afterwards – did people recognize you on the street?

No. I would be recognized on occasions like the Lindau Nobel laureate meeting. Or I’d travel to universities abroad where people would recognize me. But only in a small circle of colleagues and students – not on the street.

Suppose you had taken a different career path and hadn’t become a scientist – how would it have been?

I’ve never asked myself that question. I think I would have become a chemist anyway – but a different kind – not an academic, but in industry. That had always fascinated me.

What was the greatest moment in your research career so far?

That goes back a long way to the time of my Diploma and doctoral thesis work. Back then I had the task of determining the structure of a hormone involved in insect pupation, ecdysone. And when I succeeded for the first time it was an incredibly exciting experience! I’ve never forgotten that first research result.

Did you also experience setbacks that made you question your choice of career?

Not after that experience. When I was studying, yes. Back then I wondered if there were other possibilities. I was a good athlete. My high school teachers had advised me to go to the Bundeswehr, which had just been founded then. They needed people who had something inside their heads – and strength in their legs and arms. I seriously considered it.

What kind of sports do you like to do?

I bicycle, swim and most of all I like to ski. Back then it was mainly mountain climbing.

Please complete the following sentence:I have no idea about….

…most things. Even in the natural sciences. I greatly admire the things the physicists are doing in their field. And what the chemists do. I have no idea how they do all those things.

Professor Robert Huber is a chemist. In 1988 he received the Nobel Prize jointly with Johann Deisenhofer and Hartmut Michel for contributions to the understanding of photosynthesis.

Interview by Hannah Fuchs