Contemplating an innovative scientific building brings it to life.
The new research building ZEMOS at Ruhr-Universität Bochum has been inaugurated on Thursday, 19th May. It was a big event: VIPs were flooding in and giving speeches, TV journalists where recording, visitors were…well, just visiting. We, from the RESOLV office, sipped the delicious red wine that was served and tried something special, instead: We looked at ZEMOS, the 4000 m2, four-floor new home of Solvation Science, and asked for an interview. It was that easy.
Q: Good afternoon ZEMOS. Is that a mythological name?
A: I would be pleased to have a God name, but I’m proud of my German-based acronym: „Zentrum für Molekulare Spektroskopie und Simulation solvensgesteuerter Prozesse“ – ZEMOS
Q: Wow! Even if I understand a bit of German, that’s cryptic language to me!
A: First of all you have to understand that I’ll be the first worldwide centre hosting Solvation Science. It’s the study of how chemical substances dissolve, in water for example and how the solvent influences the chemicals. Then about my name: It basically means that scientists under my ehm…supervision, will use spectroscopy (technology based on light, for example lasers) and mathematical simulations to investigate how molecules influence solvation processes. But there will be much more going on here: organic and analytical chemistry, biophysics, microscopy, electro-chemistry etc.
Q: That’s better, thanks. How was it today?
A: Glad that you asked. I felt a bit…invaded. In my privacy, I mean. After two years of almost solitude, being taken care of, suddenly, someone opens my main entrance and – here they are, 200 people at once, journalists and the celebrities: Thomas Rachel, the Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister of Education and Research was here! And then Svenja Schulze, Minister for Innovation, Science and Research of the State of North Rhine Westphalia – I’m friends with her, she put my first stone two years ago. And then of course there was the former RUB Rector Prof. Dr. Elmar Weiler and my mom.
Q: Your mom?
A: Of course! Everybody has one, don’t you?
Q: Yes, but you’re a building…
A: Still, I have one: Prof. Dr. Martina Havenith! She conceived the idea of me in 2009, she fought for me through all the years and she was also here today, of course. She received a big key to celebrate my opening – that’s strange though, I’m a modern building, and I don’t even have keyholes! Human beings!
Q: So what did those VIPs say?
A: Oh, they were all very nice to me. Mr. Rachel said that I am an impressive symbol of the development of modern key technologies – by the way, he specifically called me “a baby”. Minister Schulze marvelled at the discoveries that I could lead to, for the benefit of environment, medicine, and industry. My…ehm… Mrs Havenith gave an emotional speech: She said that I’ll be the home of RESOLV and that I will become a place for innovative and unconventional scientific thinking. Thanks to my good-lookings, you know…
Q: Here we go again! You’re an inanimate construction; what do you mean with good-looking?
A: I seriously doubt you were here for the inauguration. Architecture and design, am I specific enough? For example, look at me from above: My ground plan describes an S shape, which is the first letter of spectroscopy, simulation and solvation, my main topics. I have two main entrances, which are fully coloured in red, yellow, green and blue, like in the rainbow. These are symbols for the wide spectrum of scientists that will work here. In the inside,
scientific areas are not closed or isolated, but transparent to the outside and connected through transparent bridges. In every office area there’s a common space for scientific discussions, relax and chatting in front of a cup of coffee. These are also symbols that there won’t be hierarchies here.
Q: I’m impressed. And what happened after the speeches?
A: There was a nice catering with food and drinks. I was very proud hearing all the laughters and the clinking glasses, watching all the amazed faces and the glittering eyes. Then my friends lead the guests into my chambers, for a visiting tour. People were fascinated and charming. I was flattered; I almost got red cheek…walls!
Q: So far for today. How will your ehm…life change from now on?
A: Well, I guess my lonely days are gone. I’m now becoming the home of Solvation Science at RUB. People are starting to move in – researchers that do simulation are already here. In short there will be around 100 scientists, from RUB but also from outside and even international scientists. They will bring large equipment, like microscopes that allow seeing molecules with atomic resolution, modern laser technology and spectrometers for microscopy in cells.
Q: Thank you ZEMOS, for your time and the small chat. I wish you a radiant future. You’re the most animated scientific construction I’ve ever met.
A pedestrian passes by, and frowns: Mit wem reden Sie denn da?
About the Author
Emiliano Feresin is a science journalist, currently responsible for the outreach activities within the RESOLV cluster at RUB. Born and raised in Italy, he holds a Diploma and a PhD degree in chemistry. Driven by an innate curiosity for scientific stories, he completed his education with a master degree in science communication. Along the path he has written for outlets like Nature and Chemistry World and learned that the reader has always the last word.