On 1 November 2008 Professor Dr. Günther Hasinger took up his appointment as Scientific Director of the Max Planck Institute of Plasma Physics (IPP) at Garching and Greifswald. He succeeds Professor Dr. Alexander M. Bradshaw, who has headed IPP since 1999. At the same time Prof Sibylle Günter was appointed as IPP’s spokesperson in the group of the Heads of the Research Unit.

After studying physics Günther Hasinger, born in 1954 at Oberammergau, did his PhD at Ludwig Maximilian’s University (LMU), Munich, and Max Planck

Institute of Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE), Garching. He then joined MPE, where he was concerned with the EXOSAT, GINGA and ROSAT X-ray satellites. In 1995 Günther Hasinger took his lecturership qualification at LMU, Munich. After research spells in the USA he was given a chair at the University of Potsdam in 1994. At the same time he was appointed as a Director at the Astrophysical Institute Potsdam (AIP); from 1998 he was spokesman for the Board. In 2001 he was finally made a Scientific Fellow and Director of the X-ray and Gamma Group of MPE at Garching.

Günther Hasinger ranks among the world’s leading capacities in the fields of cosmology and X-ray astronomy – the investigation of outer space in X-ray light. With ROSAT he was able to show that cosmic background X-radiation, a very old and puzzling phenomenon, is emitted by massive Black Holes in the centres of distant galaxies. Thanks to his decisive contribution to this research, it is now known that these Black Holes constitute the seedlings of galaxies and motors for their development – results for which Günther Hasinger was awarded the Leibniz Prize of the German Research Foundation in 2005.

Since then he has played a key role in the development of future X-ray observatories such as eROSITA, Simbol-X and XEUS/IXO. These will serve to clarify the early development of Black Holes and galaxies as well as the nature of Dark Energy and Dark Matter. At IPP he will contribute not only his experience in heading major international projects, but also concrete research methods: for example, plasma physics will benefit from his application of X-ray diagnostics, so important to his previous work, in conjunction with astrophysics groups.

Dr. Hasinger and Dr. Zohm playing the guitar at the IPP meeting.

When Dr. Hasinger gave his speech of introduction to members of the IPP on 10 December, one of his lesser known skills was exposed. He and his colleague Hartmut Zohm performed a live rendition of a rock song by guitar, theme: plasma! Indeed, he has been playing instruments like bass guitar and flute for a long time. As part of an established Oberammergau family he made it onto the stage (albeit in crowd scenes) in the world-renowned Passion play in 1970 which takes place there every ten years. More time on stage followed, particularly in the 70s, with performances in “Saffran”, a German rock band playing progressive rock. Instead of following a career in music however, Günther Hasinger took up studies in physics…

Sibylle Günter studied physics at the University of Rostock, where she did her PhD in 1990. After working in the US at the University of Maryland and National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) in 1994, she defended her habilitation thesis on optical properties in dense plasmas in 1996. In the same year she moved to IPP Garching, and changed her research field from the study of quantum statistics of cold dense plasmas to the investigation of magnetohydrodynamic stability of high temperature fusion plasmas. In 2000 she was appointed Scientific Member of the Max-Planck Society and Director at the IPP, currently heading the tokamak theory division. Since 2001 she has been teaching as adjunct professor at Rostock University and in 2006 was made honorary professor at the Technical University Munich. She has been a member of the IPP directorate since 2007. Prof. Günter is now chairing the Topical Group on Energetic Particle Physics in the International Tokamak Physics Activities (ITPA) and has recently been elected to chair the European High Performance Computer for Fusion board. Since 1 November she has been representing the IPP in the EFDA Steering Committee as Head of Research Unit.