Some biographical details

I was born, some fifty years ago in the town of Salzburg, and after the basic education (which in Austria is primary school and Grammar school) I studied engineering physics at the Technical University in Graz, by the way a lovely town in the southeast of Austria

Since physics by itself is not too interesting without at least some basic skills in philosophy, I attended philosophy at the University of Graz. That way I became familiar with the ancient European culture, which made me switch for a few years to classical Greek and Latin studies . My favorite Greek writer was, by the way, the historian Thukydides. After that Graz did not really offer anything new, so I came to Vienna, where I resumed physics, and in need of a diploma thesis found the surface group at the Institut fuer Allgemeine Physik. The guys did some really interesting work on metal alloys, and my F(ull potential) L(inearized) A(ugmented) P(lane) W(aves) calculations helped in some ways to explain the observed effects. Although the STM observations on metal compounds are still somewhat puzzling, we are quite optimistic to finally get the whole picture. I completed my master's degree in January 1997 with a diploma thesis on the Chemical Resolution on PtRh and PtNi surfaces.

The following two years I spent on my PhD thesis, which was completed in January 1999, it deals with the evaluation of the tunnel current, where I used a combination of FLAPW and a newly developed program to actually calculate the tunnel current between a sample surface and a realistic STM-tip in a first order perturbation approach. The work was done at the Center for Computational Materials Sciences at the TU in Vienna.

From 1999 to 2002 I worked at University College London, in a joint project of Andrew Fisher and Bob Wolkow. This led to some interesting research on the adsorption of organic molecules on silicon. During this time I did not give up working on metals, and some of the most interesting results in this area concern the chemical interactions between surface and tip in an STM, as well as fundamental insights into the mechanism of magnetic conductance. A sideline of this research was the study of chiral adsorption on metal surfaces, in particular nickel, which I did in collaboration with Rasmita Raval in Liverpool. During this time I also published two plays with a publisher in Hamburg, unfortunately they are so far limited to German.

After that, I accepted an offer from Liverpool University and was lecturing in Chemistry and Physics. My main work, however, was still in surface science and I became a member of the interdisciplinary Surface Science Research Centre there. An achievement, in which my contribution was admittedly minor, was the birth of my son Sebastien in February 2003.

In May 2006 I was appointed to a Personal Chair. I was still part of the Chemistry and Physics Departments at Liverpool University, and Professor of Chemical Physics.

In 2010 I took over the role of founding director of the Stephenson Institute for Renewable Energy, a 10 million pound investment of the University of Liverpool into Renewable Energy. This was by far the most interesting management work I had done to date. This new research institute also became a model for new research initiatives across the Faculty of Science and Engineering, and it was only fitting that my roles included the role of research director of the Faculty, which I also found very interesting.

In the same year I won first prize in a competition called 'Writing like Shakespeare' with my play Boston Princes, which has subsequently been onstage in three years in Southern Germany.

In 2014 I became Dean of Research and Innovation at Newcastle University, a fairly complex role which involved mainly communication across the Faculty of Science, Agriculture, and Engineering, and linking the ten schools with the Faculty and the senior management of the University. It was a fascinating role and, as the current Dean will probably acknowledge, it came with a huge amount of work.

I stepped down as Dean in June 2018. At this point the restructuring of the Faculty in four new schools had been completed. I had also completed the work on the foundations of quantum mechanics by showing that it is not a scientific theory, because its very foundations assume that mathematical objects can be physical objects. However, following this line of research my PostDoc Tom Pope and I had also shown that a many-body framework which is restricted to physical objects and remains in real three dimensional space is actually much more efficient than the traditional theory. Quantum mechanics thus is not only wrong, it is also a highly inefficient basis for a many-electron framework. Bets are still ongoing when the physics community will finally notice that the emperor has no clothes. For me, this is little like watching a cartoon character, who has just run over the cliff edge, legs continuing to run frantically, just before gravity takes its inevitable toll.

In November 2018 I became the only British or European academic to hold the position of Distinguished Visiting Professor of Physics at the elite University of Chinese Academy of Sciences (UCAS) in Beijing. There are only three Universities in the world, which teach at this level: Princeton, Caltech, and UCAS. Classes are restricted to less than twenty students, the whole University has less than four thousand undergraduates, and the students come from the best 0.1 percent of China's highschool graduates. Teaching there is extremely demanding but also extremely rewarding. I thoroughly enjoy the role which will give me much more time to do research with my colleagues at the Chinese Academy.


Back to my homepage