Welcome, Prof. Buiter!

  Prof. Buiter Copyright: © GFZ Potsdam

Appointment 2.0: From the Board of GFZ Potsdam to a Professorship at RWTH Aachen University

Dear Ms. Buiter,

On May 2, 2023, you received your second appointment certificate from the Rector of RWTH. Congratulations! How did your appointment 2.0 come about?

Thank you for the good wishes! In May 2022 i changed positions and became the scientific executive director of the German Research Centre for Geosciences GFZ. I was fortunate in that the RWTH was interested in a joint appointment and so I met the Rektor a second time within three years for a new Berufungsurkunde (certificate of appointment).

How can one imagine your work as scientific director at the GFZ in Potsdam?

Busy :-) It is extremely diverse and spans from national and international contacts, via political information at various levels, coordination with other Helmholtz Centers, projects in for example Brandenburg, to personnel responsibilities. GFZ leads in Solid Earth research: we monitor changes in our planet from space, on Earth’s surface and in its interior, investigate processes leading to those changes, and bridge basic research to applications, with a focus on solutions to societal changes, be it geohazards or climate change. I have lots of meetings, online and in person, and a fair amount of desk work. I love the many contacts.

At RWTH Aachen University, you are now taking on the W3 vacant professorship "Tectonics and Geodynamics " . What is the difference between an empty and a full professorship and what are the advantages for you and for Aachen as a location?

The person filling a “Leerprofessur” will have a position elsewhere. As the name implies, the professorship is “empty” and thus has no offices or positions at the RWTH. I teach 2 SWS and I can supervise PhD and MSc students, but I cannot obtain 3rd party funding for the RWTH. I look forward to strengthening links between GFZ and the RWTH, which are already existing from before through the common appointment of Magdalena Scheck-Wenderoth. In particular, the Division of Earth Sciences and Geography and GFZ are united in their aims to transfer insights from fundamental georesearch to society and industry. GFZ also offers a wide range of scientific infrastructure that is open for academic use by external researchers. Do have a look at our websites for opportunities!

  Photo of Prof. Buiter Copyright: © IUGG/ Frank Woelffing

Will you continue to be involved in teaching as an teaching professor and are there opportunities to write theses with you at the GFZ?

I will teach two courses a year. So far these are “Principles of Plate Tectonics” and “Geodynamic Modelling”, which I teach as block courses at the MSc level. I hope to continue supervising PhD students. Currently Stefan Back and I are co-supervisors for Julia Schmitz and I will supervise a PhD in the EU MSCA Doctoral Network “TALENTS” that we obtained on our 4th attempt. Realistically seen, I will have very little time for MSc projects, but these could work well in collaborative settings.

You were in Aachen for only about two years in total. What did you like so much that you chose RWTH as the location for your professorship?

Our colleagues! Even though it was the pandemic which limited personal meetings, i have really appreciated the constructive interactions and collaborative atmosphere in our division. As a second argument I would bring the excellent research in our division and at the RWTH.

What future topics are seen at the GFZ for research within the next 5-10 years in the geosciences?

That is a nice question and very timely too as GFZ is currently in a strategy process, in which we define our vision for the next 10-20 years. However, as we are in the middle of the process, I will not give you a full answer here. But I would like to highlight two issues: (1) a continued and increasingly urgent topic is set by climate change: we need to monitor and analyse the effects of climate change and use our expertise to contribute geo-solutions to mitigate these effects. Examples ranges from landscape monitoring and satellite observations (GRACE-FO, and from 2028 GRACE-C, for global total water storage), to geothermal energy, CO2 storage and other subsurface storage solutions. (2) to be able to contribute geo-solutions to societal issues, we need to attract and keep diverse talents. The ‘Fachkräftemangel’ will be felt in the geosciences and I hope universities and research centers can work together in ensuring our disciplines are visible and as before experienced as attractive.