The most famous chemist in Saxony: Evamari Hay Hawkins

“I am Eva,” says Professor Dr. Evamarie Hey-Hawkins, when we meet a fellow MDR building who, facing an unfamiliar face, says happily, “Hello, I’m Mathias!” gifts. Hay-Hawkins, about six feet tall, tall, bushy dark hair, patterned logger-legging shirt, comfy sandal. Perhaps in her youth she rocked a Led Zeppelin, Steppenwolf or Jimi Hendrix guitar. The world turned away from trying to give an accurate rendering of “Professor Ivamari Hi-Hawkins” like a pesky fly, “Oh, no, please don’t.” Titles and awards, it’s nice to have, but that’s why Hey-Hawkins isn’t doing what they’ve been doing for decades: researching inorganic chemistry.

Hey Hawkins and the awards

In fact, it wasn’t until 2019 that a researcher at her university in Leipzig dawned world fame for her work – and she was honored with the Leipzig Prize for Science. In 2017, Saxony awarded her the Order of Merit of the Free State, and in 2018 she was the first female professor in Leipzig to be accepted into the European Academy of Sciences. And in the summer of 2021, the Karl Ziegler Prize from the Karl Ziegler Foundation, which was established in 1993 as an affiliate of the German Chemical Society. And no, we’re ignoring the gender issue at this point, although Hay-Hawkins is the first woman to receive the swanky prize and she doesn’t have to share it with another stellar figure, as is often the case with women receiving prizes, such as the Leipzig Science Prize In 2020. “The awards are all well and good, but in the end it is all only possible with my team at the university,” says the researcher, who is hardly in the lab herself, and also admits with regret that she coordinates research and supervises doctoral candidates. It participates in all kinds of international bodies.

Hey Hawkins and the Seven Books are sealed

But who is Hay-Hawkins? She has co-edited two books such as “Boron-Based Compounds: Potential and Emerging Applications in Medicine” and “Inorganic Smart Polymers: Structure, Properties, and Emerging Applications in Materials and the Life Sciences”. Its publication list is long and so is its patent list. The titles and descriptions alone sound like the books with the seven seals of inorganic chemists and other non-chemical chemists.

“We sit at the drawing board as an architect, thinking about what this molecule should look like to have a certain function, for example. In the basics of chemistry you learn: How do I create bonds between elements, how do I break bonds?” With this knowledge you can imagine A molecule has to have a certain function…” Good try.

However, I lose the thread between molecules, neutrons, boron atoms, syntheses, catalysis, and neutron sources. Hey-Hawkins has such a gentle and warm voice, and I can listen to her for hours as she spreads the beauty of inorganic matter in front of me, always in eye contact, to assess whether or not I can follow her. On my own, I can only get an angle and feel the magic of the matter. Chemistry in everyday life, chemistry in medicine, exciting approaches against cancer cells.

Chemistry, Mathematics and Physics: The Trinity of Happiness or Horror?

I involuntarily regret that my relationship with chemistry has been perpetually ambiguous, at least since my teacher Mr. Basic chemistry course in the eleventh grade with the words: “I’ll tell you right away, girls have four!” Hay-Hawkins shakes his head: “It was different for me. Mathematics, physics, and chemistry have always been mine. Although only my three-year-old brother had the wonderful tools of physics, he always let me go.” Physics, chemistry, and math, for some the horror trinity, for Hey-Hawkins, the things that speed your pulse for decades. “I always wanted to know what and why,” says the researcher. Where she grew up, in a village in the old federal states, in the 1970s, a girl’s path in life was as predictable as a chemical chain reaction: school, training, family. Only that He-Hawkins deviates from the path even as a young woman, even if her single mother allows her to enjoy the “girls’ socialization” songs of the wealthy, i.e. horseback riding and playing the piano, through great personal sacrifices.

The spark that welds Hay-Hawkins to inorganic matter

Abitur Hey-Hawkins, of course with a scientific profile and as one of the four girls in the branch, followed one molecule after another, molecules, synapses, interactions that could only lead to a scientist’s life.

First study chemistry in Marburg. That inorganic chemistry should become Hey-Hawkins’ elixir of life – also some kind of chemical reaction. The Decisive Spark is a first-semester experiment conducted by chemist Professor Dr. In an introductory lecture, Kurt Denek demonstrated, with iodine, aluminum, and water: flame, heat, purple smoke, and the final product, a lumpy, porous substance called aluminum triiodide (if you don’t remember, it succeeded in dislodging the chemistry room like a place of humiliation and defeat).

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Anyway, when I’m talking to Hey-Hawkins, you nodded on purpose, probably with the same interested looking glassy you got in chemistry class. “If there ever was a moment when inorganic chemistry became personal to me, it’s there,” Hay-Hawkins says, looking back. “When the guy stood up front and explained to us how important and great chemistry was, experimentation, and how fun it was, that was the moment.”

A lecture on smoking as an introduction to a research career

It was Dehnicke who would later suggest a college career to Hey-Hawkins. When it was clear to the alchemist himself what shiny head he was looking at with Hey-Hawkins, we can no longer say today. Died Dehnke, who studied in Leipzig himself, received a doctorate in boron trifluoride and received an honorary doctorate from the University of Leipzig.

In any case, the glamorous experience in his lecture led to a chain reaction for Hey-Hawkins. A university career like a picture book, with stops in Germany, England, China, France, Turkey, Australia and New Zealand, initially for study, later for research purposes and finally as a visiting professor. In 1993, Hay-Hawkins docked in Leipzig, a professor of inorganic chemistry who has linked her to the city in Pleiße for decades, even if she prefers to live in the country, a small town east of Leipzig.

The good thing about impatience

Since then, the scientist has supported more than 80 Ph.D. theses and shaped generations of young scientists. This is also an explicitly logical part of this strict life path: the creation of knowledge, the transmission of knowledge. The scientist admits with regret: “I seldom stand in the laboratory.” your daily life today? Every day is different, meetings, meetings with doctoral students about their work, reviews of research papers, as well as membership in specialist organizations, study societies, and reviews of publications and applications.

A diverse daily life requires a lot of patience, regardless of whether it relates to research goals and research, individual steps of working with experiments, or whose results always raise new questions, or support for young scientists in science. Where patience is what Hay-Hawkins lacks, as she herself says: “Just ask my employees …” Is this a defect? It’s about more perspective: “Impatience is also a driving force. We solve a problem, or we make a discovery. And with that discovery or that problem, new questions arise again, new insights. This is the great thing that we’re actually learning new things all the time” .

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That’s the only thing Hay Hawkins gets excited about. The other: “These guys come and start studying chemistry and find out: This is math, this is physics, and it’s also a whole bunch of other subjects. That’s a lot of theory. That’s a lot of understanding, not just rote learning, understanding connections, understanding connections, And work a lot in the lab.” Half of the training is hands-on lab work—the crafts, Hay-Hawkins says. Not only making communications, but also handling chemicals. Many do not even realize how much attendance time is required to study chemistry. It is precisely here that it becomes clear whether the spark is ignited, between the young people in the lecture hall or the laboratory, and between those who bring them close to the subject or not. But perhaps even earlier, in practical labs offered by the university, or when a BELL (Performance of Special Learning at Level 11, editor’s note) is at the university. With a clear goal: “We try to arouse young people’s interest in chemistry at an early age.”

What does a shark do on the inorganic homepage?

When you hear the keyword “inorganic,” you likely have formulas or representations of molecules, microscopes, or test tubes. The question remains: What is the baby shark doing on the homepage of a professor chasing a small fish? In fact, a reference to their name, which is pronounced like “shark,” Hay-Hawkins says. “The first PhD students who called themselves sharks. Some of them had a shark printed on their T-shirt. Then someone programmed this shark for the website.” Some would have liked to use the content of predatory fish with an open mouth as a platform for criticism. Hey-Hawkins leaves it open as to who, from the student’s point of view, wants or should devour who. The baby shark only swims until 2023, when Hay-Hawkins retires.

Which of the fish that accompanied her in the sea of ​​inorganic chemistry will go big and the baby sharks will be revealed, at the latest when their young scientists point to Hey-Hawkins lectures at award ceremonies as the spark for the leap into inorganic chemistry. Then she managed to do what the baby shark does on her website: for curiosity, interest, and questions: “I want to spark curiosity about what we do and what chemistry is. And so, I think it’s also a beautiful symbol of that.”

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