The FWF Supervisory Board has appointed particle physicist Christof Gattringer of the University of Graz until 2024
Christof Gattringer of the University of Graz is the new President of the Austrian Science Fund FWF. He was elected today by the Supervisory Board after a hearing. The election was the final step in a multi-stage selection process. First, seven candidates out of 19 applicants from Austria and abroad were invited to a hearing by the Assembly of Delegates. This resulted in a shortlist of three candidates, which in turn was submitted to the Supervisory Board of the FWF. Finally, the Supervisory Board invited the candidates to a final hearing on 10 February, during which the three candidates got the chance to present themselves to the ten-member board.
“On behalf of the entire Supervisory Board, I would like to sincerely congratulate Christof Gattringer on his election. At the same time, I would like to thank Sabine Schindler and Miranda Schreurs, who were the other two candidates on the shortlist of the Assembly of Delegates”, said Sonja Puntscher Riekmann, chairperson of the FWF Supervisory Board. “Christof Gattringer brings with him many years of experience as a vice-rector, dean, and leading researcher and impressed us with his great commitment to promoting junior researchers and his expertise in scientific and research management. He is not only a huge gain for the FWF, but for the Austrian innovation landscape, in general. I would like to wish Christof Gattringer every success in his new position”.
“It is a great honour for me to be able to work in future as the head of the FWF together with all my colleagues to promote the interests of science in general and basic research in particular”, said Christof Gattringer in a first reaction. “I would like to thank the members of the Supervisory Board and the Assembly of Delegates for the trust they have placed in me. In light of the great challenges facing us as a society, science and research are playing an increasingly important role. My goal is to provide researchers from all disciplines with the best possible support and the freedom they need to be able to advance world-class research here in Austria”, concluded Gattringer.
In April, Christof Gattringer will take over the duties of the office from Interim President Gregor Weihs, who has headed the FWF since Klement Tockner’s departure at the beginning of 2021. The new President’s term of office runs until September 2024, with the possibility of being re-elected for another four years. “On behalf of the Vice-Presidents of Research, I would like to offer my hearty congratulations to Christof Gattringer on his election”, said FWF Interim President Gregor Weihs. “I look forward to a constructive working relationship with the Austrian scientific community in the years to come”, said Weihs in closing.
Federal Minister of Science Heinz Faßmann, also congratulated Christof Gattringer on his election as the FWF's new President. “With Christof Gattringer, the FWF is headed by an internationally recognized top scientist who, however, also brings great experience in science management due to his many years of experience as former Dean of the Faculty of Natural Sciences at the University of Graz. I look forward to working with him and wish the newly elected President every success in his new role.”
With the needs of basic research in mind
To become familiar with not just one domain of science, but the entire academic spectrum of knowledge—this is one of the key sources of motivation behind Christof Gattringer’s professional career. The researcher, born in 1966 in Vienna, got his start in physics, quantum physics to be more precise, which has remained the basis of his research. “My work focuses on elementary particles such as quarks, the smallest building blocks of our world”, explained Gattringer. His aim, among other things, is to improve our understanding of the quantum world with the help of supercomputers: “I am attempting to present quantum field theories in such a way that they can be handled numerically”. This would allow us, for instance, to better understand the physical phenomena that characterised the first moments of our universe.
Gattringer’s research took him, among others, to the University of Washington in Seattle, the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston, before following the call back to Europe. After five years at the University of Regensburg, he finally returned to the place where he studied—the University of Graz, where he became professor of computational elementary particle physics in 2005.
His area of responsibility grew quickly. He not only focused on basic research in theoretical physics but also increasingly contributed to shaping the conditions for research at his university. In 2009, he assumed the position of Vice-Dean for Research of the Faculty of Natural Sciences and was elected Dean in 2015. He also served, for instance, as the spokesman of the FWF particle physics doctoral programme. “The quality of training increases tremendously when doctoral candidates are taught not to be lone wolves but are formed into groups” said Gattringer with reference to his experience. “Taking care of young researchers is one of the most important tasks of being a professor”.
In 2019, he took the next big step in research management when he assumed the position of Vice-Rector for Research and Junior Researchers’ Promotion, without, at the same time, neglecting his own research. His publication record lists him as the author of more than 180 papers. Being responsible as vice-rector for all academic disciplines was a fulfilling task for the father of four children: “Seeing how the different knowledge cultures—from mathematics to the life sciences—work and the different needs they have was an interesting experience for me, which has expanded my understanding of the mechanisms underlying basic research”.
Promoting networks between the sciences beyond the university setting is also an important matter to him, whether it be at the level of the particular research location, Austria, or the European level. “Cooperation and networking are key aspects of research today—they foster creativity and efficiency”, he said, summing up his position on the topic.
In his spare time, Gattringer likes to read books and exercise. Of course, this also includes “a few thousand kilometres on my racing bike per year”.
FWF Supervisory Board
The FWF Supervisory Board is entrusted with numerous powers of monitoring and approval. It adopts resolutions on the FWF’s annual accounts as well as its annual budget forecasts and its multi-annual and annual work plans. Every four years it elects the President and the Vice-Presidents of Research on the basis of a shortlist of three candidates submitted by the Assembly of Delegates. It also appoints the Executive Vice-President.
FWF Supervisory Board, 6th term of office (2019–2023)
The Austrian Science Fund FWF
The FWF is Austria’s central funding organisation for basic research as well as arts-based research. Applying international quality benchmarks, the FWF provides funding for outstanding research projects and excellent researchers who work to generate, broaden, and deepen scientific knowledge.