An important personnel change is about to take place at the management level of the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB; Braunschweig, Germany). As of May 1, 2022, physicist Prof. Dr. Cornelia Denz from the University of Münster will head the PTB. The current PTB President, Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Joachim Ullrich, who has held the presidency since 2012, will then retire due to age. In the 135-year history of PTB, Denz will be the first woman to head Germany’s national metrology institute. She received her appointment to this highest office of national metrology from the Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi), Peter Altmaier, in whose department PTB is located. With this appointment, the ministry follows the unanimous proposal of a finding commission prominently staffed with representatives from science and industry.
For Denz, PTB is no stranger—and vice versa. For many years, she has been involved in the PTB Board of Trustees and is therefore very familiar with the tasks and objectives of the federal institute. “I am very pleased about this appointment,” says Denz. “To lead a unique institution like PTB with its long tradition and its future-shaping possibilities is both a challenging task and an incentive. I will work to ensure that PTB, with its far-reaching metrology, will make a groundbreaking contribution to the systemic challenges of the upcoming technical and societal transformations.”
Her scientific career led Denz from the Technical University of Darmstadt, where she habilitated with a thesis on structure formation in nonlinear optics, to the University of Münster. There, she has held the chair of experimental physics with a focus on applied physics since 2003. She has also been director of the Institute of Applied Physics since 2004. Denz is internationally known for her work on complex light structuring, which she applies in nanophysics, biomedicine, and information technologies with her Nonlinear Photonics research group. From 2010 to 2016, Denz was Vice-Rector for International Affairs and Young Scientists at the University of Münster.
Denz has received numerous awards, including the Lise Meitner Prize of the State of Hesse. She has been a member of the Academy of Sciences and Arts of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia since 2014. Her publications have been selected 13 times in the last 10 years among the 30 best papers worldwide in one year by the journal Optics and Photonics News. Denz is an enthusiastic university teacher who is committed to the career development of young physics students and promotes women in physics. In 2012, she was named Professor of the Year by Unicum magazine. Since 2016, in her additional professorship on gender research in physics, Denz has been investigating the causes for the low percentage of women in physics and promoting girls’ interest in STEM topics.
In the long tradition of PTB (the predecessor institution, the Physikalisch-Technische Reichsanstalt [PTR], was founded in 1887), Denz will be the first woman to hold the office of president after 14 presidents before. But even such a circumstance is not entirely new for Denz as a physics professor. For example, at the beginning of her career, she was for a long time the only female physics professor in Münster. “The fact that there are more enthusiastic, successful, and committed female physicists today than 20 years ago is very gratifying. However, there is still a lot to do before equality is achieved. Therefore, I am committed to promoting the careers of outstanding young female physicists. I want to continue this at PTB.”
The outgoing PTB President, Joachim Ullrich, during whose term of office decisive course was set for a metrology of the future, congratulates Denz on her new task: “My warmest congratulations to my colleague,” says Ullrich. “With her diverse competences as an outstanding scientist and experienced manager, the future of PTB is in the best hands with Cornelia Denz.”