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Great Expectations

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As the CSSB staff and scientist plan their move into the new building, three scientists, who have been involved in CSSB since its inception, share their expectations and hopes for the new research centre.

What do you expect from CSSB?

Professor Dirk Heinz: We are close to the Atlantic coast here, that’s why we could think of CSSB functioning like a lighthouse. CSSB should be visible from far away and known for conducting exceptional structural biology research using the world class infrastructure that is currently available here at DESY in Hamburg. I hope that CSSB’s focus on infection biology research will further boost the light it casts as this is a highly relevant field for our society.

Professor Matthias Wilmanns: The diversity of methods and the exceptional quality of the technology available at CSSB are unique worldwide. Our access to the world-leading infrastructure at DESY and the European XFEL places CSSB in the Champions League of research and, to continue using sports terminology: we are at least in the semi-finals!

Professor Chris Meier: My hope is that combining the strengths of the ten different partner institutions, who are constructing and operating this facility together, will result in new synergies in their joint research. This chance to create something truly new is what I find particularly exciting about CSSB.

You have always insisted upon the creation of a research building. Would it be possible to successfully conduct this research virtually?

Professor Dirk Heinz: Our guiding thought was that if we were to construct the research institute directly on the DESY campus, we would have quicker access to these unique light sources than if we were to access them externally. This is an extremely important advantage for the recruitment of excellent scientists to a new research institute.

Professor Chris Meier: We all have virtual, worldwide networks; we cooperate with colleagues in Australia, the US and many other locations. If, however, you meet colleagues from different CSSB partner institutions in the cafeteria, the hallway or over a cup of coffee or tea, then you can spontaneously exchange ideas and gain inspiration from one another. This stimulates research and is unbeatable for scientific cooperation. This is the benefit of having a research centre that physically exists.

Professor Matthias Wilmanns: We have constructed a research building that supports communication at all levels and facilitates personal interaction as well as spur-of-the-moment exchanges. At CSSB, we want to work together to create a culture of dialogue and trust.

Where do you see CSSB in five years?

Professor Dirk Heinz: I believe we can consider CSSB a success when it has grown to become its own entity. At the moment, there are ten institutions participating in CSSB. This means ten working groups, who all come from very different environments and cultures, coming together and learning to work together. It would make me happy if in five years the expansive reach of CSSB joint publications and research projects could demonstrate that this concept works: the individuals are working together and the results of their research are greater than the single components provided by each individual partner.

Professor Matthias Wilmanns: I would like to appeal to all those involved in CSSB to promote a “Yes, you can do it!” attitude. My serious hope is that we will have a significant number of European Research Grant (ERC) or Leibniz Prize recipients. This is realistic and will lead to international visibility.

Professor Chris Meier: Our ambition is to become one of the world’s best. In five years, I expect CSSB to be internationally recognised; our mission to be known worldwide; and our research to be renowned for its excellence. I hope that openings in our Research Hotel will be highly sought after by young researchers who see CSSB as a place where they can not only successfully begin their career but can also be empowered to solve the complex problems of tomorrow.

If you had one wish …

Professor Chris Meier: I hope that in five years we are to the point that we can begin construction on the first extension of the CSSB building.

Professor Dirk Heinz: It would be nice if the CSSB’s fundamental research could contribute to the development of a new antibiotic.

Professor Matthias Wilmanns: I hope that our Research Hotel is so attractive that it will create new research diversity within CSSB.

This interview was conducted in May 2016 by journalist Angela Grosse. The full version of this interview was published in the CSSB Inaugural Report.