Thomas Feurer appointed Head of European XFEL Management Board

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European X-ray free-electron laser (European XFEL) at the research centre DESY i
European X-ray free-electron laser (European XFEL) at the research centre DESY in Hamburg (Image: wikimedia/Dirtsc)

Professor Thomas Feurer, the Director of the University of Bern’s Institute of Applied Physics, was appointed Head of the European XFEL Management Board. He takes up his new position on 1 January 2024. This international facility began operations in Schenefeld bei Hamburg in 2017. It generates ultrashort X-ray flashes that enable advanced research to be conducted in a wide range of different fields.

Starting 1 January 2024, Professor Thomas Feurer will take over as Head of the European XFEL Management Board for an initial five-year term. He replaces Danish Professor Robert Feidenhans’l, who has successfully led the organisation since 2017 and will retire in 2024. Thomas Feurer was appointed as Professor of Physics at the University of Bern in 2004 and currently heads the Institute of Applied Physics. Thomas Feurer remains a professor at the University of Bern.

Switzerland is among the eleven partner countries that became founding shareholders of the European XFEL, which is complemented by Switzerland’s own X-ray laser facility (SwissFEL) at the Paul Scherrer Institute in Villigen (AG). These two facilities were built in parallel, which led to synergies and a sharing of expertise.

Thomas Feurer’s appointment reinforces already close ties between the Swiss research community and fellow scientists working at the European XFEL and within partner countries. It also bears testimony to Switzerland’s strong commitment to contribute to the European Research Area. The joint construction and operation of research infrastructures by European countries lays a strong foundation for long-term cooperation, integration and networking among researchers across national borders.

European XFEL

The European XFEL operates the world’s largest X-ray laser, which generates ultrashort X-ray flashes in underground tunnels. These flashes allow scientists to map the atomic details of viruses, film chemical reactions and study processes such as those occurring deep inside planets. Experiments conducted at this facility can lead to potential applications in a wide range of areas, including medicine, data storage, power generators and accumulators. Researchers from all over the world have access to the European XFEL for their experiments and measurements. The facility employs over 500 people. Switzerland contributes 1.5% (just above CHF 2 million per year) to operating costs.

Source: State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation SERI