Professor Helmut Schwarz visited the University of Melbourne from Monday, 30 January until Thursday, 2 February, 2012, as a guest of the Faculty of Science. The visit was coordinated by his long-time colleague, Professor Richard OHair, Associate Dean Science (Research and Industry). Whilst the main reason for Professor Schwarzs visit was for scientific discussions with colleagues in the School of Chemistry (in his capacity as Head of Chemistry at the Berlin Technical University) and to Present a lecture to the Melbourne University Chemical Society, entitled Chemistry with Methane: Concepts Rather than Recipes on the Wednesday afternoon, he took the opportunity to present an excellent lecture at the Bio21 Institute on the Monday evening entitled Promoting Excellence, Building Trust: The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and the Australian-German Research Partnership.
Invitations to attend the lecture and reception to follow had been sent to all Victorian-based Alexander von Humboldt Fellows, to a list DAAD Alumni and more widely throughout the University of Melbourne, with a registration facility managed by Ms Robyn Trethowan, Events Coordinator within the Faculty of Science. The notice of the lecture and reception had also been forwarded to the full Australian membership list of the AAvHF by the Honorary Secretary. A total of 106 registered for the event itself, of whom 20 were AvHFs. Attendees were welcomed on the occasion by the German Consul-General in Melbourne, Dr. Anne-Marie Schleich and Professor Robert Saint, Dean of the Faculty of Science, both introduced Professor Schwarz and facilitated some interesting discussion which followed the lecture.
(L to R) Professor Tony Bacic (Director, Bio21 Molecular Science and Biotechnology Institute), Dr. Anne-Marie Schleich (German Consul General, Melbourne), Professor Robert Saint (Dean of Science, UoM), Professor Helmut Schwarz, Professor Richard OHair (Associate Dean Science (Research and Industry) UoM).
In a most splendid presentation, held at the Bio21 Molecular Science and Biotechnology Institute, Professor Schwarz sketched the history of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (AvHF) and outlined both the Foundations and his own personal philosophy towards supporting research excellence across all disciplines. While admitting that some current and most complex research problems can only be addressed by research associations via project funding, he emphasized that crucial breakthroughs are always the result of a random combination of creativity, intelligence, curiosity, persistence and serendipity, and what lies behind major discoveries or inventions is usually the passion of individual people. His address would have been most enlightening for the many in the audience who were not previously familiar with the AvHF.
Towards the end of Professor Schwarzs formal presentation he made mention of a recent initiative of the Australian Ambassador to Germany, Mr. Peter Tesch who has declared 2013 a German-Australian year of science, as well as marking the 200th birthday of Ludwig Leichhardt. In this context, Professor Schwarz announced, on behalf of the AvHF, that in 2013 one of two, world-wide meetings, which the Foundation conducts annually, was planned for Australia. (It is noteworthy that this initiative had been communicated to the AAvHF by Dr. Katrin Amian, prior to Professor Schwarzs visit.)
Following the formal presentation by Professor Schwarz, he met and chatted casually with attendees at a most enjoyable reception within the atrium of the Bio21 Institute at the University of Melbourne.
The full text of Professor Schwarzs lecture is available for download here (.pdf 160 kB)
Some of the Australian Association members at the reception in the Bio21 Institute at UoM. (L to R): Prof. Dr. Gilles Gasser, Prof. Paul Mulvaney, Assoc. Prof. Walter Veit, Prof. Alison Lewis, Dr. Rolf Beilharz, Dr. Anne-Marie Schleich, Assoc. Prof. Trevor Finlayson, Prof. Gabrielle McMullen, Prof. Helmut Schwarz, Assoc. Prof. Kate Rigby, Prof. Ivan Bertoncello, Assoc. Prof. Wenlong Cheng .
The following evening, Dr. Anne-Marie Schleich hosted a private dinner at the Windsor Hotel, to mark Professor Schwarzs visit. The venue was chosen to give the visitor an experience of traditional Melbourne. In attendance were the former Governor of Victoria, Professor David de Kretser AC, senior officers of Melbourne, Monash and RMIT Universities, and Professor Gabrielle McMullen, AAvHF Vice-President, representing the Association. Whilst attendees enjoyed fine cuisine and local wines, lively conversation ranged from the effectiveness of the AvHFs programs to nineteenth century German Australians and their influences on Australian society, and the planned 2013 meeting in Australia. Professor Schwarz indicated that he was looking forward to returning to Australia for this regional meeting.
(The photographs included in this report are courtesy of the Bio21 Molecular Science and Biotechnology Institute, University of Melbourne.)