What is your role within MC²?
I am the X-ray crystallographer, managing the X-ray facility consisting of single crystal and powder X-ray diffraction.
How long have you worked here, and what did you do before this?
I have been working at the University of Bath for the past 21 years. Before this I had postdoctoral positions at the Humboldt and Technical Universities in Berlin as crystallographer and at the University of Irvine in California working in organometallic chemistry.
What happens in your typical workday? And what would you say is the best bit of your job?
Answering e-mails, preparing and running routine powder samples and or collecting data on single crystals, coffee break, training students, lunch break, refining structures, consultancy work, giving advice…
I am really excited when I meet students who are actually interested in what they are doing and eager to learn. It is not so common nowadays.
I am also jumping up and down when I can refine a structure which looks like a no goer at first glance and I am literally carving out the molecule’s disorder out of a mess of residual density peaks. You can have a look at pictures of the weirdest molecules attached to my door in 1 south 1.35a.
What is the worst part about your job?
When there are problems in the X-ray lab and I can’t find the answer immediately. I had a rough time a couple of years ago when during a period of several months everything which could break or go wrong went wrong. Looking after three machines and their periphery there was not a single day when something stopped working. My pile of unfinished work was mounting on my desk.
Tell us about a recent proud moment you had at work - Why was this special?
The most challenging samples I usually receive from physics. They just wanted the determination of a unit cell from a material which looked highly crystalline showing edges and faces but the devil was in the detail. Every crystal consisted of layers and layers of platelets. Therefore, using the single crystal diffractometer was not possible. To get a powder of the highly absorbent very flexible crystals I had to chop them up with a razor blade to be suitable for transmission powder X-ray diffraction. The powder pattern was sharp and showed preferred orientation but it was still possible to index the material and they had the result they needed for publication.
Who inspired you as a child, and who inspires you now?
My parents were always a beacon of stability in my life and I admired their attitude towards work. Always hard working and trying to give their best even when they were sick.
I admire people who grow old gracefully and not giving in to typical old age ailments. I admire the late BKS Iyengar for his discipline of daily yoga practice until he died at the tender age of 95. His face looked like that of an old person but his skin and body resembled that of a young person.
Do you have any hidden talents, and anything specific you still want to learn?
Figure skating, ice dancing and Yoga have been a big part of my life for the past 30 years. I was member of the first recreational adult synchro team in Germany before I came to Bath. Born to be a stiff person, yoga gave me a glimpse of what it means to be flexible and subtle (I could touch my toes with straight legs for the first time when I was 37!). It helped me to improve my skating and also to cope with stress and anything else which is thrown onto me. Since 2013 I am a qualified Iyengar yoga teacher and have taught beginner’s classes at the Bath Iyengar yoga centre for a number of years. I am also a keen gardener and have a collection of bonsai with some trees collected as saplings over thirty years ago. You can read an article about my bonsai in “Gardens Monthly” and “Somerset Life” (January 2006 editions).
When I have more time in the future I want to brush up my Spanish again and sew more quilts with my stash of fabric. I am also interested in taking up knitting again and crochet.
If you could choose anything at all, what would your Friday evening meal consist of? Would you cook it yourself?
I usually don’t cook during the week, so my Friday evening meal consists of bread, cheese and slices of sausage along with a bowl of fruit and or salad which is a typical German “Brotzeit”. At the weekend I cook from scratch with whatever is in season on my allotment and the leftovers I have for lunch during the week.