Celebrating 30 years of Max Planck Institute of Microstructure Physics

The MPI of Microstructure Physics in Halle was the first Max Planck Institute founded in the new federal states in Germany on January 1st, 1992.

January 19, 2022

We are excited to celebrate 30 years of science at the Max Planck Institute of Microstructure Physics (MPI-MSP). Over the years, the Institute has transformed its physical infrastructure and research focus. Before the founding of the MPI-MSP, the campus had been the site of the Institute for Solid State Physics and Electron Microscopy of the Academy of Science of the GDR since the 1960s. Due to its scientific leadership in electron microscopy, the Institute for Solid State Physics and Electron Microscopy was converted to the first institute of the Max Planck Society in the eastern part of Germany after reunification.

Here is a summary of the history of the Institute and where we are heading.

January 1992: The inauguration ceremony of the first institute in the new federal states took place with renowned guests from politics and science, including the President of the Max Planck Society, Prof. Hans F. Zacher, and the interim management and directors of the new Max Planck Institute, Prof. Gerhard Ertl, Prof. Hellmut Fischmeister, Prof. Manfred Rühle, and Prof. Johannes Heydenreich.

The research site at the Weinberg in Halle owes its reputation to the scientific imagination and the wise scientific policy of Prof. Heinz Bethge, the Director of the former Institute for Solid State Physics and Electron Microscopy. Prof. Heinz Bethge was a pioneer in the field of electron microscopy and solid state research.

From left to right::
Prof. Hans F. Zacher, Prof. Ulrich Gösele, Prof. Jürgen Kirschner, Prof. Heinz Bethge, Prof. Hubert Markl, Prof. Johannes Heydenreich

1993: Prof. Manfred Rühle and Prof. Hellmut Fischmeister ended their terms as interim directors. Prof. Johannes Heydenreich served as the Managing Director, while Prof. Jürgen Kirschner and Prof. Ulrich Gösele were recruited from the Free University of Berlin and Duke University, respectively, to serve as Directors of the newly formed institute. Prof. Jürgen Kirschner and Prof. Ulrich Gösele led Experimental Department I and II, respectively.

1998: Prof. Patrick Bruno arrived from Paris-Sud University to join as the Director of the Theory Department. In 2007, Prof. Patrick Bruno left the Max Planck Institute, and Prof. Dr. Eberhard Gross from the Free University of Berlin was appointed Director of the Theory Department.

With the three departments, the Institute’s experimental and theoretical research primarily focused on solid state phenomena in small dimensions, surfaces, and interfaces.

November 2009: Prof. Ulrich Gösele passed away unexpectedly. The interim management of Experiment Department II was taken over by Prof. Peter Fratzl of the MPI of Colloids and Interfaces.

2015: Prof. Jürgen Kirschner retired.

2019: Prof. Dr. Eberhard Gross completed his directorship and moved to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.


Beginning in 2014, the reorientation of the Max Planck Institute of Microstructure Physics started with the appointment of Prof. Stuart Parkin from IBM Research Almaden Lab. Prof. Parkin served as Managing Director from 2016 to 2020. Prof. Joyce Poon from the University of Toronto started her directorship in 2018 and took over the role of Managing Director in January 2021. In March 2021, Prof. Xinliang Feng joined from the Technical University of Dresden as a new Director.

The Institute is undergoing a dramatic renewal in its infrastructure and research focus. The current research focus of the Institute concentrates on novel materials and devices with useful functionalities. Of particular interest are spintronic materials and devices, nano-photonics, topological metals and insulators, and synthetic chemistry. In June 2021, the Institute arrived at a new mission statement:

Our mission is to enable breakthroughs in science and technologies with transformative materials and devices for information, energy, and health. We aim to be a global hub for research and training in the fields of materials and micro/ nano-technology.

With the commitment of the Max Planck Society as well as the state and municipal governments throughout the years, a new building is being constructed on the campus with an expected completion in 2025. Currently, the Institute is searching for a Director to lead a new Theory Department.

What has remained constant over 30 years is the spirit of scientific curiosity, ambition, and excellence that continues to carry the Institute into the future! The Institute continues to draw talent from around the world as it grows not only in size but also in its scientific breadth and sense of community.

Main entrance to the MPI in 1992

The directors at the time of the foundation in 1992:
Prof. Ulrich Gösele (2nd from left), Prof. Jürgen Kirschner (3rd from left) and Prof. Johannes Heidenreich (1st from right).

Prof. Patrick Bruno, Director of the Theory Department 1998 - 2007

Main entrance to the MPI since 2018

The directors in 2019 (from right to left):
Prof. Joyce Poon (since 2018), Prof. Eberhard Gross (2009 - 2019) and Prof. Stuart Parkin (since 2014)

New director since 2021: Prof. Xinliang Feng

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