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uni'alumni 2016

Prof. Dr. Stefan Hiermaier would actu- ally like to have two professions – at least. The director of the Fraunhofer Institute for High-Speed Dynamics/Ernst Mach Institute (EMI), could have imag- ined becoming a fashion photographer. However, his fascination for research – or for research on materials, to be more precise – turned out to be stronger. “It is such a large field that I’m still discover- ing new and exciting facets of it even after so many years,” says Hiermaier. For example, he is currently focusing on possibilities for constructing modern lightweight vehicles. If the body and internal workings of a car are built with lightweight materials, it will get better mileage. However light or heavy the car is, however, the materials used to make it also need to be safe. “In this respect, I would like to improve the structures to pro- vide more protection for the passengers.” In addition to serving as director of the EMI, the 50-year-old is also, in his capac- ity as holder of the Gips-Schüle Chair of Sustainable Engineering Systems, re- sponsible for coordinating the establish- ment of the Department of Sustainable Systems Engineering (INATECH) at the University of Freiburg’s Faculty of Engi- neering, which opened its doors in Octo- ber 2015. The department focuses on topics that are shaping our future, such as resource conservation, energy effi- ciency, and resilience, the last of which involves making systems resistant, adapt- able, and capable of learning from crises and catastrophes. “These topics will keep us busy for many years to come, and we will arrive at solutions that we can’t even imagine yet today,” says Hiermaier. Organization and Leadership This desire to combine resources and know-how and select from a common knowledge pool is also what motivates the father of a grown daughter in another of his projects: the Sustainability Center Freiburg. “We have a strong university in Freiburg, and we have five Fraunhofer institutes with outstanding resources – the idea of combining them was obvi- ous.” Erlangen and Dresden have similar performance centers, but Freiburg has decided to concentrate on the topic of sustainability. “We want to approach and cooperate with Baden-Württem- berg’s industry sector on the innovative projects we are conducting.” EMI, performance center, INATECH – Hiermaier is juggling a lot of balls at the moment. But he doesn’t make an im- pression of being stressed out at all. He puts this down to good organization and leadership. Before he came to Freiburg to become deputy director of the EMI 18 years ago, he was at the German Army’s Bundeswehr University Munich, where he had studied aeronautics and aero- space engineering, earned his PhD, and written his habilitation thesis. In 2008 he was appointed as an adjunct professor of high-speed dynamics there. “My time with the army allowed me to develop a style of social interaction that means a lot to me and makes me happy,” says Hiermaier. The organization of manage- ment levels at the EMI is important to him. “They are organized to allow the roughly 300 employees to conduct re- search and work in a fun environment. That’s my understanding of leadership.” Textiles for airbags, special glasses for windshields, or ultra-light bodywork – work with materials and so-called com- posite materials, which combine several materials, remains Hiermaier’s greatest passion. But he still finds enough time to cultivate his second passion, his love of photography: “It’s a great way for me to relax and lose track of time.” Claudia Füßler » www.leistungszentrum- Researching materials of the future is Stefan Hiermaier’s greatest passion – his second one is photography. Photo: Fraunhofer EMI Fascinated by Materials Stefan Hiermaier is director of the Department of Sustainable Systems Engineering PORTRAIT 24