Chemist Detlef Günther is set to join the ETH Executive Board. The ETH Board has elected the 50-year-old professor of analytical chemistry as the new Vice President Research and Corporate Relations. Günther is taking over from Roland Siegwart, who will return to his professorship at the beginning of 2015.
Picture: Oliver Bartenschlager / ETH Zürich
Many of the minerals that adorn the desk in Detlef Günther's office have a story behind them. He found the rock crystal above Vättis in the Tamina valley, the cassiterite in Bolivia and the tourmaline in Brazil – all souvenirs from an extraordinary trip that also took him to Mexico. In 2009 he was dumbstruck by what he saw underground when he visited the Naica Mine with a team of doctoral students and post-doctoral fellows. Tree trunk-sized gypsum crystals of astonishing beauty towered over him. Not that it was possible to enjoy it for long, he explains: temperatures in the cavern averaged 60 degrees, and humidity was at nearly 100%. The man is well travelled and has much to tell.
For a chemistry student in East Germany in the mid-1980s, ETH Zurich was a veritable temple for Günther: a university with such tradition and renown in the world of chemistry that it was simply out of reach. Yet Günther would find himself in Zurich much sooner than he could have imagined, albeit via a detour to Newfoundland. As a post-doc in 1994, he spent a year at Memorial University in St. Johns, a “gorgeous, cold and very remote place”, as he recalls it. In other words, it was the perfect place to focus on his work. In Newfoundland, he met earth scientist and ETH Zurich professor Christoph Heinrich. Heinrich, who was interested in the formation processes of mineral raw materials in the Earth's interior, invited Günther to come to Zurich to work on a laser-based method of microanalysis.
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David Spichiger, SCS