Peter Tolstoy, 34, from Russia, research group leader at Freie Universität
“I guess what has kept me in Berlin for all these years is the freedom given to my scientific research combined with access to exactly the right equipment I need for it.”
How long have you been at Freie Universität?
I first came to Freie Universität in 2000 as a master’s student, and my ties to Germany have been growing ever since. I was awarded a Kekulé scholarship by FCI (Fonds der Deutschen Chemischen Industrie), and completed my Ph.D. work in the Institute of Chemistry and Biochemistry under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Hans-Heinrich Limbach. Eventually I became a postdoc and then a research group leader.
Did you first come here through a certain program?
Over the past 10 years I’ve been involved in a number of joint German-Russian research projects, including grants from DFG in cooperation with the Russian Foundation for Basic Research (RFBR) as wells as from the German-Russian Interdisciplinary Science Center (G-RISC).
What is your discipline?
Where are you from, and where did you study at home?
I was born and raised in St. Petersburg and completed my bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the Physical Sciences Faculty at St. Petersburg State University.
Why did you choose Freie Universität?
At the time, Freie Universität was the only university in the world where it was possible to measure liquid-state NMR spectra at temperatures below -150 C, using liquefied gases as solvents. This technique was a result of a decade-long collaboration between Prof. Dr. Hans-Heinrich Limbach from Freie Universität and Prof. Dr. Gleb Denisov and Dr. Nikolai Golubev at St. Petersburg State University.
What do you especially like about Freie Universität?
I guess what has kept me in Berlin for all these years is the freedom given to my scientific research combined with the access to exactly the right equipment I need for it.
What do you like less?
I couldn't think of anything FU-specific to complain about. I guess, a general common-sense complaint could be that compared with the U.S. or U.K. it seems rather hard for foreigners to get tenure in Germany.
Do you have any suggestions for someone new at Freie Universität?
Do not be reluctant to participate in teaching duties, even if you are working on a short-term contract. At Freie Universität, at least in the Institute of Chemistry and Biochemistry, there is a strong bilingual master’s program, and many students in the bachelor's and the master’s programs are willing to help you in your research if you do a good job teaching.
Any suggestions for living in Berlin?
My feeling is that Berlin has earned a unique place among major European capitals by easily accepting people for whom they are. One does not have to choose between cultural identity and being an integral part of the city's image. All in all, broaden your outlook by going out and mixing in.
May 11, 2011