Архив метки: Rupert Gerzer

As in space, so on Earth: Skoltech’s Rupert Gerzer on aerospace medicine and creative freedom

Dr. Rupert Gerzer came to work at Skoltech one year ago as an associate director of the research university’s Space Center, but as a qualified medical doctor, he does not hide the fact that his heart lies in medicine.

Dr. Rupert Gerzer pictured outside Skoltech at the university's graduation ceremony this summer. Photo: Sk.ru.

Dr. Rupert Gerzer pictured outside Skoltech at the university’s graduation ceremony this summer. Photo: Sk.ru.

“I am fascinated by space life sciences, but this is only a part of medicine,” says the German professor, an expert on the effects of spaceflight on the human body.

For this reason, Gerzer – now provost of the university – is particularly enthusiastic about the new international medical cluster being built at the Skolkovo innovation center, and hopes that the university will play a key role in the development of the cluster.

“This will be a major thing for Skoltech,” he says. “Skoltech already has a program focusing on biomedicine, and this will be something with practical applications on the ground at Skolkovo.”

Gerzer did not have to think for long when he was offered a job at Skoltech, a private graduate research university that was founded in 2011 in cooperation with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“It was very simple, I retired from my position [as director of the Institute of Aerospace Medicine] in Germany and a colleague and good friend from MIT said: ‘Well Rupert, you’re retiring, wouldn’t you be interested in going to Skoltech?’ I didn’t know anything about Skoltech then. Then I met [Skoltech’s founding president, MIT aeronautics professor] Ed Crawley and it looked very interesting, so I decided to try it out, and now I’ve been here a year, and hope to be able to stay for many years,” he says.

All roads lead to Moscow

Gerzer had long been visiting Russia, having collaborated with a cardiology center in Moscow in the ’80s as a university researcher and with the Institute of Biomedical Problems – the leading space medicine and space life sciences institute in Russia – since the 90s.

“I was here at least once a year since the beginning of the 90s,” he says. “I saw the whole change [in the political system], everything, and I liked Russia more and more, so when I was asked if I would like to come here, I was very excited, and I still am, it was the right decision.”

A crucial factor in his enthusiasm is the most important aspect of the university: the students.

“Excellent students are attracted to come to Skoltech, which is a good sign,” says Gerzer.

“The reputation among the student community is here already,” he added, saying that during the most recent admissions procedure, many students had cited Skoltech’s practical programs as the reason they wanted to study here. A key part of the university’s ethos is that it does not just teach students science, but instils in them a sense of entrepreneurship and inspires them to find a practical application for their science and tech skills.

Gerzer remains a professor of the Skoltech Space Center, but is happy to be focusing on his role of provost – essentially the deputy head of the university – this term. It was a strategic decision by the university’s management to have a foreign provost now that Skoltech’s president is a Russian: Alexander Kuleshov, who took over from Crawley earlier this year. It demonstrates “that it’s an international university,” says Gerzer.

“I think it’s a good decision because I can still look at things from the outside,” he says, adding that while Kuleshov decides the general strategy of the university, Gerzer supports him in aspects such as international collaboration.

Gerzer pictured with German astronaut Dr. Reinhold Ewald, who gave a lecture to Skoltech students earlier this year.

Gerzer pictured with German astronaut Dr. Reinhold Ewald, who gave a lecture to Skoltech students earlier this year.

Doctor without borders

The path from medicine to specializing in human spaceflight is not, perhaps, the most obvious one.

“I was not a space enthusiast, but simply a doctor and a scientist,” says Gerzer, who spent many years after medical school doing research.

“One of the questions I had during that research was whether this [certain tasks] could be solved in human spaceflight, in weightlessness,” he says. His success in this field led him to be offered the post of director of the Institute of Aerospace Medicine, part of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Cologne.

During more than 20 years at the space institute, his interests remained firmly on the ground.

“I’m a scientist and I like to find out how humans function and what science can do to improve human health,” says Gerzer.

“Human spaceflight is part of this. When I was director of the Institute of Space Medicine, I always focused the work of the institute on questions where we can learn something from space medicine for regular medicine,” he said, adding that he accordingly discouraged his staff from doing applied research focusing specifically on astronauts.

“My philosophy was: this should be done by the countries that have spacecraft, by Russians and Americans, and not by Western Europe, because if I had found something that was only an improvement in how to care for astronauts, the Americans and the Russians would be happy that the Germans spent their money on helping them,” explains Gerzer.

“I think this way of thinking is now deep in the German space program. Human spaceflight in all countries is always being criticized [for its cost], but there is very little criticism in Germany now, because we could always say we were doing something good for medicine in general, and for our understanding of how we function.

Founding father

Gerzer’s rich experience in the study of human spaceflight has already borne fruit at Skoltech. Earlier this year, Skoltech signed a memorandum of understanding with the DLR, and two students will soon head to Germany to work on collaborative projects with the center, said Gerzer. In addition, Skoltech’s students have the chance to contribute to a brand new journal, REACH – Reviews in Human Space Exploration, founded by Gerzer this summer.

The professor had the idea for a journal offering an overview of all aspects of spaceflight several years ago, but it took time to convince the publishing house to invest in it, he says, laughing.

“There’s no real journal where anyone who’s interested in what’s going on in human spaceflight can find an overview of the whole field,” he explains. “There are many specialized journals, but you have to be an expert to know which journal to look for.”

REACH aims to change this, and in the first issue of the quarterly publication, Gerzer gave his students the chance to publish an article on what should be done after the International Space Station ceases its activity in a few years’ time.

“Young students are the future, and when they are in industry or a government agency or science, they are not free anymore to say what they think should be done – they will be free only 20 years later when they are leaders, but not in the first 20 years when many of them just have to shut their mouths and work, so I gave them the opportunity to be creative and say what they think should be done,” says Gerzer.

“Should humans fly to Mars, or should they build the next Space Station, because that’s so much closer to Earth? Should they land on the moon, should they build a space station around the moon, what should they do? They [the students] had to analyze what different nations have published, and then condense it and give their own opinion. And it’s a very interesting paper,” he added.

Gerzer also has experience in another of Skoltech’s areas of focus: inspiring scientists to turn their knowledge into businesses. He has founded two companies: Temos, a growing international company that provides ratings of hospitals and medical facilities in countries seeking to improve their medical standards, and a smaller company focusing on applications developed for space that could find a market on Earth.

“We’re currently considering founding a subsidiary [of the latter] here at Skolkovo, because students should have the opportunity to do so [start their own business], and it’s in the Skoltech strategy. I think it would be good to found companies that stay in Russia,” says Gerzer.

With his academic work, the new journal, his companies and occasional guest lectures in Germany, Gerzer’s timetable is a far cry from retirement – and that’s fine by him.

“It’s not boring, but I don’t want it to be boring,” he smiles.

Text: Shura Collinson, Sk.ru

Skoltech provost has launched a new journal with Elsevier

Skoltech Space center professor and provost Rupert Gerzer has launched a new journal REACH – Reviews in Human Space Exploration jointly with Elsevier, International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) and International Astronautical Federation (IAF).

Elsevier is a world-leading provider of scientific, technical and medical information products and services.

The cover of the first REACH issue

The cover of the first REACH issue

“REACH is a review journal that focuses on all aspects of human space exploration. The journal will cover comprehensive overviews of the science of human and robotic space exploration, life sciences research in space, and beneficial terrestrial applications that are derived from spaceflight. It is the official human space exploration review journal of the IAA and IAF. REACH will educate readers from academia, industry, and government. Furthermore, special emphasis will be put on summarizing the most important recent developments and challenges and making them legible for a non-specialist audience,” Elsevier reported.

The journal will be under the professional leadership of Editor-in-Chief Rupert Gerzer, Skoltech Space Center, Russia, and his Co-Editors representing established aerospace nations: Jeffrey Davies, NASA, USA; Peter Gräf, DLR, Germany; Yinghui Li, Chinese Astronaut Centre, China and Oleg Orlov, IMBP, Russia.

“Human spaceflight has a great history and an even brighter future. It is surprising that, until now, no review journal existed that focused entirely on this topic. REACH is an ambitious title, a title that should remind us to extend the possibilities of human activity, ’to reach for the stars’, especially in this highly symbolic realm, to focus on the exciting challenges to come, and to always go forward. I hope REACH will contribute to this positive, ambitious spirit and will help us to tackle the challenges we will face in the future,” Professor Gerzer commented.

The first Issue of the Journal also contains an article written by Skoltech students of professor Gerzer’s recent course on Human Spaceflight.

* The Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech) is a private graduate research university in Skolkovo, Russia, a suburb of Moscow. Established in 2011 in collaboration with MIT, Skoltech educates global leaders in innovation, advances scientific knowledge, and fosters new technologies to address critical issues facing Russia and the world. Applying international research and educational models, the university integrates the best Russian scientific traditions with twenty-first century entrepreneurship and innovation.

Контакты:
Skoltech Communications
+7 (495) 280 14 81

Seminar: The DLR Institute of Aerospace Medicine – Ready for the Future

We are pleased to invite you to the Skoltech Seminar.

And this week: “The DLR Institute of Aerospace Medicine – Ready for the Future”.

Who: Prof. Rupert Gerzer

When: January 29, 2015; 14.30 – 16.00

Where: Beijing-2 Auditorium, China cluster; Skolkovo School of Management

Research facility at  the DLR Insititute of Space Medicine

Research facility at the DLR Institute of Aerospace Medicine

Seminar Abstract:

To prepare for future challenges of human spaceflight and to better link space and terrestrial medicine, the Institute of Aerospace Medicine of the German Aerospace Center has recently opened a novel research facility termed :envihab (www.dlr.de/me/envihab). This facility contains a worldwide unique combination of laboratories for studies on humans and can serve as a terrestrial analog facility to space stations. In addition, a local, regional, and global network of collaborations as well as a special Ph.D. program (www.dlr.de/me/spacelife), in which students from several countries as well as a variety of universities participate, are strengthening the ties between the Institute and its partners. All these activities have led to a strong increase in scientific output of the Institute during recent years (www.dlr.de/me/en).

Some of these successes include the participation in the radiation dosimetry on Mars through participation in the NASA Curiosity program, the participation in the MARS 500 study of IMBP in Moscow, direct collaborations with international partners on the topic of intracranial pressure and vision problems of astronauts, or the international collaborations with the DLR-coordinated facility MATROSHKA for radiation dosimetry in space. With :envihab it was recently also possible for the first time to host a Western European Astronaut in Western Europe for rehabilitation after his return from the International Space Station.

It is assumed that this way to concentrate on important challenges of the future, to link up with leading local and global institutions and especially to invest in educating highly-motivated talented young professionals, is an approach that can also be applied to other fields

 

Prof. Rupert Gerzer

Prof. Rupert Gerzer

Speaker Introduction:

Rupert Gerzer is Director of the Institute of Aerospace Medicine of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and Professor and Chairman of the Institute of Aerospace Medicine in Aachen, Germany, since 1992. He is also Head of the University Council of the University of Applied Sciences Bonn-Rhine-Sieg, Germany (www.h-brs.de/en), and is on the Board of Directors of the Scientific Council of the City of Cologne, Germany (www.koelner-wissenschaftsrunde.de/cologne-city-of-science/?lang=en). He is Member of the Board of Trustees of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA; www.iaaweb.org), Member of the Medical Advisory Board to the German Minister of Defense and is Co-Editor of Acta Astronautica.

He received the Life Sciences Award of IAA in 2003, the Leonov Medal of the Association of Space Explorers in 2013, and the Gagarin Medal from the Russian Federation of Cosmonautics in 2014.

 

 

 

 

* The Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech) is a private graduate research university in Skolkovo, Russia, a suburb of Moscow. Established in 2011 in collaboration with MIT, Skoltech educates global leaders in innovation, advances scientific knowledge, and fosters new technologies to address critical issues facing Russia and the world. Applying international research and educational models, the university integrates the best Russian scientific traditions with twenty-first century entrepreneurship and innovation.

Контакты:
Skoltech Communications
+7 (495) 280 14 81

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