Humboldtians in Private

My (Non-)Selfie with the German President

By Qiang Guo, recorded by Thomas Dunkel

Qiang Guo
Qiang Guo (Photo: Fati Aziz, Fotolia / preto_perola)

Hello, can you see the guy at the back of the pic with the engaging smile? That’s me. I’m surrounded by hundreds of Humboldtians at the Humboldt Foundation’s Annual Meeting in the beautiful grounds of Schloss Bellevue, the main residence of the German head of state in Berlin. 

Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier just held a speech welcoming his guests. And now we are all waiting to meet him personally and – best case – get a photo taken together. Of course, not everyone will be so lucky. After all, the President doesn’t have all day.

Well, in the end, I at least, was not successful – or that’s what I originally thought. After shaking countless hands and posing for as many selfies, the President took his leave without having a photo taken with me. But, luckily, there was this extremely friendly Ghanaian, Fati Aziz. When she looked at the photo of herself with Mr Steinmeier, she was pretty astonished. Who had photobombed her picture? Later on, she recognised me and told me about it. We had a good laugh and then she sent me the photo. Luck was on my side. My quest for a selfie finally paid off: I got a great photo and a wonderful souvenir of Berlin and the Annual Meeting.

Incidentally, the same sort of thing often happens to me in the lab at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Munich where I’m still working after completing a Humboldt Research Fellowship. My team and I are using cryo-electron microscopy, or cryo-EM for short. It’s a method of imaging cells which was recognised with the most recent Nobel Prize in Chemistry. We often search for a specific phenomenon like the cause of a particular neurodegenerative disease and then, after weeks of research, we’re surprised when we discover something completely different. But this unexpected result often leads to other, extremely helpful insights.

To be open to the unexpected and new – new contacts, new influences, new ideas – this is really important to me, both in my research and in my private life. And you find all these things at the Humboldt Foundation’s Annual Meeting. I made lots of new friends there who do research in the most diverse fields. In the future, I’m sure there will be opportunities for us to collaborate in one way or another. Then I will certainly do my best to shoot another selfie. 

published in Humboldt Kosmos 108/2018

Until July 2017, Qiang Guo from China was a Humboldt Research Fellow in Martinsried at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry where he continues to work. He shared the selfie with the Federal President on Twitter where his name is @QiangGuo_EM.

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