The Faces of the Foundation

Full Thrusters Ahead!

Who actually does what at Humboldt headquarters? Who are the people behind the scenes making sure that everything runs smoothly? This page is devoted to the colleagues at the Humboldt Foundation, their lives at work and beyond. Today: Sven Vorbach.

  • By Sven Vorbach, recorded by Georg Scholl
Sven Vorbach
Sven Vorbach

Now, before anyone starts cracking stupid jokes: no, this is not what I usually wear to work. At the Foundation, I prepare and organise the committee meetings in which the new fellows in the Humboldt Research Fellowship Programme are selected. At these meetings, up to 60 professors, our peer reviewers, get together at the Humboldt Foundation for two days to make decisions on some 600 plus applications. Each of them presents the applications that fall within his or her area of expertise to the other committee members. Then they discuss them and vote on them. If I appeared dressed as Captain Kirk from Star Trek, I might be a bit of a distraction. I wear this costume when I go to Star Trek conventions, where I have sometimes seen Humboldtians, by the way. But this is not so surprising: there are some scientists whose interest in the universe and science was actually inspired by Star Trek and other science fiction series when they were young. That’s partly what I find so exciting. So actually, it’s really quite fitting that I work for the Humboldt Foundation.

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To ensure everything runs smoothly during the selection committee meetings, a great deal of organisation is required. All the meeting documents have to be compiled and distributed in advance. Late reviews have to be added and sent to the committee, and the proceedings have to be planned: Who will arrive and depart when? In what order will people speak and how will we cope if someone arrives late or has to cancel at short notice? Who still needs a hotel? Who has to leave early because of an urgent appointment? Questions like this make every committee meeting into a logistical challenge. But I enjoy organising it all. And if, like me, you take your inspiration from Captain Kirk, you just love challenges. Full thrusters ahead!

published in Humboldt Kosmos 109/2018

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