The citizens of Görlitz might not have noticed the CASUS Institute, so far. Or maybe they just keep their calm – as many Hollywood celebrities tend to point out how they stroll inside the town without being disturbed. The science institute CASUS has found its place in the very heart of the old town of Görlitz. It thrives to play an eminent role to the understanding of global change, and for now seems to sit well near the Neisse river. This impression is shared by many, among them our interview partners Weronika Mazur and Michael Bussmann.
Weronika Mazur grew up in Zgorzelec and is the head of the international office of the “Centre for Advanced Systems Understanding”, as the CASUS Institute paraphrases its broad spectrum of working fields. Michael Bussmann came from Bielefeld and works as the founding advisor to the institute’s scientific structure. We meet both of them, accompanied by the sympathetic staff member Luise Träger, responsible for Public Relations, at one of the marvellously restored buildings on the Untermarkt in Görlitz.
Dr. Bussmann, Have you been outside today?
Sure, We all love to take a stroll across the wonderful Untermarkt, see the activities in the cafés and the amazed tourists. Most science sites I worked at were well outside of city centres, mostly due to capacity and cost reasons. Usually, when I looked outside the window, I saw research and administration buildings that looked predominantly pragmatic and sometimes futuristic, but only very rarely historic at all. In Görlitz, on the other hand, history is really all around, and I like that a lot.
Ms. Mazur, how difficult a task is it to attract researchers with a mostly international attitude to the relatively small town of Görlitz? By 2023 you aim to settle 100 staff members here; this seems to be a great challenge.
Our view is positive to successfully manage this process. In general, we stress the special German-Polish twin town situation when talking about our site. This is something special, and we can feel how it attracts people.
When looking from a greater perspective, like from India or the USA, Görlitz is perfectly situated between Dresden and Wroclaw/Breslau; and to people with international experience, the distances to the airports of Prague, Berlin and Leipzig are very common. Here you can drive within a beautiful landscape without greater disturbances, where in New York you may spend hours in traffic jam amidst concrete giants.
Do the people from metropolitan areas miss the busy urban life when being in Görlitz?
Weronika Mazur: Since it is relatively quiet here, to many people the calm has positive effects on their concentration. Plus, we are really excited that we can just take a walk to get nearly everywhere in Görlitz and Zgorzelec. Moreover, the opportunity to combine work and family life is really great here; better than in most countries.
We want to attract people and we know that people want more than just an interesting work. The atmosphere and neighborhood become more and more important, and this region can provide that, too.
Michael Bussmann (laughs): Plus, we are actually nerds and no party animals. But no, seriously – we feel great here and we lack nothing. The international networking usually takes place digitally. We had been used to perform video conferences well before the corona crisis, and now it really does not matter where the big screen is that we gather around.
Do you think that the region of Görlitz may benefit from CASUS’s settling here, besides the actual jobs that are created?
Weronika Mazur: Well, we hope so, and we also think ourselves to be a local business. It would be great if we can interconnect the attraction for languages, the international touch, the openness to other cultures, and carry it into the town, for sure.
We already experience it on our side – new international colleagues take German classes, they are interested in the German-Polish twin town, and take trips into the neighboring landscape on their own.
Michael Bussmann: Science needs an inspiring place to flourish, and to us, Görlitz is such a place.
Researchers at the CASUS Institute develop data-intensive computer models to study the complex interconnections of the effects of global change. The institute will provide forecasts to ecosystems for the next 50 to 100 years.
Interview: Axel Krüger
Photo: Paul Glaser