Dörthe Eisele was born and educated in East Berlin, Germany. After earning her Ph.D. in experimental physics in 2009 from the Humboldt University of Berlin, she received a 2010 Feodor Lynen Research Fellowship by the German Alexander von Humboldt-Foundation. From 2010-2014, she conducted her research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as a Postdoctoral Associate and was part of an Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs). In 2014, she became a Professor at The City College of New York of The City University of New York (CUNY). With her dynamic research team, Dörthe is bringing together Materials Research and Physical Research approaches to yield fundamental insights into how light interacts with novel, bio-inspired materials at the nanoscale. Her internationally-recognized research has been acknowledged through prestigious awards, such as a 2015 Major Research Instrument Award by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), a 2017 Research Grant Award by the U.S. Department of Energy (Office of Basic Energy Sciences) and a 2018 NSF Faculty Early Career Award that, according to the NSF, offers the “most prestigious award in support of early-career faculty”. Along with her research, Dörthe is driven by her desire to promote science beyond the walls of academia and to integrate fundamental research into educational outreach with a focus on students from underrepresented and minority groups: she developed and hosted numerous Educational Outreach Projects that are in parts presented on the group’s YouTube Channel.
If I hadn't become a physicist ...
In the Eisele Research Group, we live by the motto “Follow Your Interests and Enjoy the Ride!”. With creativity and enthusiasm, we are solving problems and finding new ways to address challenging research topics. This brings me so much joy. However, at the end of the day, life is about people, it always has been and always will be. As a faculty member and principal investigator, I have the luxury to choose who I work with: young professionals, who are hungry to learn and eager to find their own career paths, who keep me on my toes. I love it! Giving back through research and supporting young professional’s careers has been an immensely beautiful and rewarding way to contribute to our society. Frankly, I can’t imagine doing anything else.
How do you relate to the DPG?
As a former (founding) member of the executive board for the DPG’s Working Group on Equal Opportunities (Arbeitskreis Chancengleichheit), I experienced first-hand how the DPG empowers the German society’s recent, extraordinary efforts to foster a diverse and inclusive environment.
Which of the DPG’s offers do you appreciate most?
“For more than a decade, the DPG has successfully supported Germany’s annual international research conference that promotes underrepresented-minority physicists: the ‘Deutsche Physikerinnentagung’. In Germany, in the 1990th, women in physics organized nation-wide annual gatherings. In 1997, being an undergraduate physics student myself, I had the idea to take those highly inspiring gatherings to the next level. Together with my team of fiercely brave peers, we organized and initiated—against all odds—Germany’s very first conference devoted solely to promoting research achievements accomplished by women in science. The motto of the first Deutsche Physikerinnentagung (DPT) was “Kiss the Future!”. I would like to point out that this conference would not have been possible without the generous support of the DPG. Just one year later, at the 2nd DPT conference in 1998, the DPG’s Working Group on Equal Opportunities (Arbeitskreis Chancengleichheit) was officially founded. Clearly, by supporting this impactful conference, the DPG has been contributing substantially to the many positive changes in Germany’s societal climate, especially for its many underrepresented-minority researchers and scientists.
How can physics impact our future in a European context?
Cutting-edge research programs require a vivid exchange of knowledge, ideas and resources not only at the domestic level but at the international level, too. Thus, comprehensive funding mechanisms such as those recently established by the European Union are key for fostering future progress in both fundamental and applied research fields.”
What are you working on today?
Our daily lives have been transformed by the fundamental understanding of how light interacts with matter. For example, Albert Einstein’s work on the photoelectric effect—for which he received the 1921 Nobel Prize in physics—provided basic insights into the control of materials properties, leading to breakthroughs ultimately enabling many of today’s technological advances. In the 21st century, fundamental research on how light interacts with nanometer-sized materials strives to lay the foundation for novel technologies from solar energy harvesting (photovoltaics) to information technology (light sensing or molecular electronics) or nano-medicine (drug delivery or cell membrane fusion)—and beyond.
In my group, chemists and physicists work hand-in-hand in the same team, which opens doors to new research avenues, and creating unique feedback loops, information flows, and knowledge exchange. With my research team, I aim to contribute to our basic understanding of how light interacts with material systems both in time (on an ultrafast time scale) and in space (at a nanoscopic length scale). With my strong physics background, I am passionate about understanding, predicting, and ultimately controlling light-matter interactions at the electronic, atomic, and molecular levels, and aim to elucidate complex electron and energy transport processes in bio-inspired self-assembled nanostructures.
What would you like to give young researchers?
Never limit yourself and think outside the box, find your interests and follow them with passion and joy. Don’t try to copy others, be authentic and be yourself: it is good to be different, it is good to be unique, so love and embrace your uniqueness.
Physics is like ...
Physics is like art: highly creative, complex and impactful.
What else …
Crossing boundaries of traditional research fields will ensure breakthroughs in both fundamental and applied research: we need more programs that foster inter-disciplinary research approaches.