TUM Emeritus of Excellence Gerd Wegener

“Every tree counts”

For Gerd Wegener, two things have been particularly important in his life: the sustainable use of wood and the education of young people to become responsible architects of our future. To this day, the TUM Emeritus of Excellence is committed to both.

Professor Dr. Gerd Wegener is a sought-after expert in the forestry and timber industry. His inquisitive spirit has resulted in numerous new technologies and products that have been highly appreciated by both science and industry. Already in the 1970s, Gerd Wegener understood the immense importance of wood – which can be processed into high-strength and high-performance materials while being a renewable resource. “The earth’s forests and the renewable raw material that is wood are essential elements of a sustainable environmental and climate policy,” he emphasizes. “The global preservation and increase of our forests therefore deserve the highest priority: every tree counts.”

Intelligent use of Timber

As an institution of TUM, Holzforschung München (HFM) conducts university education, research and development. In his role as its longstanding director, Gerd Wegener expanded the research scope of the Chair of Wood Science and has initiated many field-oriented research and development collaborations. Together with the German Aerospace Center, for example, a major joint project succeeded in converting wood into technical ceramics – and thus into a high-performance material that is renewable.

Gerd Wegener also relied on wood as a natural material in the construction industry. He developed wood-based building panels and building products. For the timber industry, he provided life cycle assessments and ecological drivers for products and production lines.

Safeguarding our Future

The crucial issue of sustainability stands out in all these projects. In research and teaching, Gerd Wegener never tired of emphasizing the great importance of wood for a sustainable future. Wood and wood-based materials are the much-needed alternative and supplement to fossil-based and non-renewable building materials such as concrete, steel, aluminum and plastic. “In terms of energy expenditure and true cost, wood is far superior when compared to other materials,” Gerd Wegener explains. “Building and living with wood is active climate protection.”

Building and living with wood is active climate protection.

Gerd Wegener placed particular emphasis on one strategy for the future: young people. After all, it is them who, through a sound scientific education coupled with practical experience, will responsibly shape the world of tomorrow. For Gerd Wegener, interacting with them at the institute, whether they were students or employees, was his lifeblood. “I have always gained a lot from them myself,” he recalls. “But I also liked being a role model.”

Continued Commitment

In 2010, Gerd Wegener retired. But since then there has been no sign of resting. After his retirement, his dedication to and respect for young scientists moved him to establish the Gerd Wegener Travel Scholarship for young students in the Forest Sciences. Since 2012, the scholarship has been awarded ten times and has supported TUM students in projects abroad in Canada, Chile, Honduras, Zimbabwe, Iran, Nepal and South Africa with 1000 euros each.

Today, Gerd Wegener is still valued at TUM as a competent and objective advisor in selection procedures and evaluations. In 2014, he was named TUM Emeritus of Excellence by the President of TUM for his outstanding academic achievements and ongoing commitment. The honorary title has been awarded once a year since 2006 to distinguished and particularly committed scientists and scholars as well as to those who are present in public eye in order for them to remain actively connected to the university in a variety of ways. “It was a particularly great honor for me to be included in this illustrious circle of TUM Emeriti of Excellence, and even more so as the first ever from the Forest Sciences,” Gerd Wegener stresses. “This recognition of my achievements holds particularly high value for me.”