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Affirmative Action at Jülich Proves a Success

From crash programme to full professor

[16. Januar 2003]

Charlotte Elster's specialist subject field is still very unusual for a woman in Germany: theoretical nuclear physics. The physicist is concerned with the smallest particles of matter. She has recently been appointed full professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Ohio and has left Research Centre Jülich. She will, however, continue to head her working group. "Prof. Elster will be back in Jülich in spring 2003 as a visiting scientist", explains Prof. Richard Wagner as the member of the Board of Directors responsible for further planning.

Charlotte Elster came to Research Centre Jülich in 1999 after spending many years in the USA. The reason for her return to Germany was a special programme. In 1999, with the help of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the Research Centre initiated a crash programme for women scientists. In this programme, six working groups were set up each headed by a woman scientist. Prof. Speth, Director at the Jülich Nuclear Physics Institute, took this opportunity of persuading Charlotte Elster to return to Germany.

Charlotte Elster's working group soon gained a footing and made significant contributions to the analysis of data obtained at the accelerators in Mainz and Jülich. In 2001, in recognition of her contributions to the theoretical understanding of "nucleon-nucleon interaction" and its application in few-body systems and nuclear reaction, she was made a fellow of the American Physical Society.

For Charlotte Elster, who took her doctorate at the Friedrich Wilhelm University of Bonn in 1986, the appointment in Ohio is the next logical step in her career. For the management of Research Centre Jülich, this step proves the success of and the necessity for the crash programme for women scientists. "Although this has not improved our statistics", added Prof. Joachim Treusch, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Research Centre, "we have nevertheless succeeded in helping a highly qualified woman scientist along her career path." The Research Centre greatly regrets that Prof. Charlotte Elster did not receive an offer from Germany, but further cooperation with Ohio will in any case lead to scientific successes.

Upon taking leave of Jülich, Charlotte Elster once again expressed her thanks for the opportunities offered by the crash programme, without which she would undoubtedly not have returned to Germany – even if only briefly. And this is not just her opinion alone – with the crash programme and another affirmative action programme of the Research Centre, the Tenure-Track Programme, it has been possible in recent years to attract a total of three women scientists back to their home country from abroad.


With a bouquet of flowers Research Centre Jülich congratulated and took leave of the newly appointed Full Professor Charlotte Elster (from left to right): Harald Müller-Montué (Personnel Division), Chairman of the Board of Directors Prof. Dr Joachim Treusch, Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors Dorothee Dzwonnek, Prof. Dr Charlotte Elster, Prof. Dr Richard Wagner Member of the Board of Directors, and Prof. Dr Josef Speth Head of the Nuclear Physics Institute.

Photograph: Research Centre Jülich