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In Memorium: Prof. Dirk Schwalm

The relationship between Schwalm and the Weizmann Institute of Science embodied close friendship as well as fruitful collaboration

“I agreed to come to the Weizmann Institute for a year,” said Prof. Dirk Schwalm in an interview in 2014, “and I have already been here for seven.” Schwalm is a former director of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg, Germany, where he worked on the ion storage ring – an evacuated tube about 56 m in circumference used for physics experiments. Among other things, this ring enables scientists to mimic atomic and molecular processes that occur in the emptiest stretches of outer space. That facility is what drew the Weizmann Institute’s Prof. Daniel Zajfman, a physicist who researches these processes, to frequently visit the Max Planck Institute.

In 2005, when Schwalm retired, Zajfman took over the directorship, spending part of his time in Heidelberg and part in his Weizmann Institute lab. But the next year, when Zajfman was appointed President of the Weizmann Institute, he resigned his position at the Max Planck Institute. He did not, however, give up his friendship with Schwalm and, indeed asked Schwalm to join the Weizmann Institute as a visiting scientist. Schwalm now spends more than half of each year helping lead Zajfman’s research group, thus enabling Prof. Zajfman to invest more time and energy in his presidential duties.

Schwalm very happy to be at the Weizmann Institute. He especially enjoyed the fact that the experimental tools and the research groups are comparatively small, enabling him to get involved again in hands-on physics. “I have the chance to know every screw in the equipment,” he said, adding: “This is a fantastic opportunity to go back to my ‘physics roots.’”



Israel BDS – building dialogue through science – aims to promote the kind of international collaboration that can lead to true understanding between people. Israel BDS stands for the free and open exchange of ideas among scientists everywhere. By reporting on the benefits of Israeli-international scientific research and the web of connections that these scientists create around the world, Israel BDS takes a vibrant approach to highlighting the global necessity of continued international scientific collaboration.


Prof. Dirk Schwalm

Prof. Dirk Schwalm