TUM Emeritus of Excellence Gerhard Abstreiter

“I wanted to understand the universe”

Gerhard Abstreiter was the first in his family to attend high school and university. Today the TUM Alumni is a one of the leading researchers in Semiconductor Physics worldwide and has throughout his life been a pioneer.

Gerhard Abstreiter was one of the first students at TUM’s newly established Physics department in Garching. Here, being the first doctorate student at the Chair of Semiconductor Physics, he also breaks new ground by successfully conducting experiments on previously unknown properties of Silicon and by eventually doing his doctorate i n Semiconductor Physics – a research area, which his supervisor Professor Frederick Koch had only just initiated at TUM.

Also in his further career Gerhard Abstreiter continued to pioneer, for example with his basic research on quantum effects in nanostructures, biosensor technology, micro-, nano and optoelectronics. Being the author and co-author of more than 700 scientific publications, which have so far been referenced about 30.000 times, the TUM Alumni is among the leading scientists in the area of Semiconductor Physics and Nanotechnology worldwide.

More than 90 doctorate students

None of this was planned. “Long into my studies I basically didn’t know the true meaning of Experimental and Theoretical Physics. I just wanted to understand the universe, that’s why I chose to study Physics.” It was more his teachers and lecturers, who became mentors and important initiators during every step of his schooling and academic education and who gave him access to the research areas, in which he was going to be this successful, in the first place.

He always wanted to show this kind of support to the young up-and-coming scientists at TUM in the framework of his teaching and has supervised more than 90 doctorates and hundreds of diploma students. “Teaching was one side of my academic life I gained a lot from”, Gerhard Abstreiter says, “the other one was and is research, its management and and its funding”.

For me research is always connected to the question of how new insights can be generated with the largest success.

In order to be able to stick to this guiding principle and without further ado, Gerhard Abstreiter created the prerequisites for his innovative research himself. His research has been crucial in allowing TUM to be competitive in the fierce competition with the USA and Japan and eventually permanently ensured its power to compete. According to his vision he established the Walter Schottky Institute, which he initiated, to be “holistic and interdisciplinary”; in an unprecedented manner the basic research in Semiconductor Physics is combined with Material Sciences and innovative applications of Electrical Engineering there.

Nanotechnology at TUM

Almost 20 years later Gerhard Abstreiter is asking TUM President Wolfgang A. Herrmann for the “long overdue” expansion of the institute for his 60. birthday. Within a very short period of time he wrote the proposal to get the necessary funding and was able to once again convince the decision-makers with his progressive thinking and his capacity for innovation. “Back then 35 proposals were received, 15 were approved and one was recommended with highest priority”, Abstreiter tells us smiling humbly, yet proudly. “He simply is a true Bavarian after all”, Wolfgang A. Herrmann supposedly said about Abstreiter’s candid and at the same time effective nonchalance.

Since 2015 Gerhard Abstreiter is retired. In his role as Emeritus of Excellence he is still working for TUM in research and research funding and as a consultant for strategic appointments. “I really enjoy finally having more time to work in my father in law’s carpentry workshop and to make, for example, a wooden canoe with my son or longboards for my grandchildren or to design a garden house for the Afghan immigrant family with 3 kids that I am supporting.”