Dear DESY colleagues,

We are still grappling with the COVID-19 crisis. These times are uncertain, in ways we could hardly have imagined. I experience an emotional roller coaster myself every day: on the one hand, I’m filled with worries and fears for my close relatives, good friends, and acquaintances for whom such an infection could be life-threatening. On the other hand, I am reassured that here in Germany we’ve been in the comparatively good hands of prudent politicians as well as competent scientists.

Since 4 May, we are carefully shifting out of a reduced operation mode and back to a secure normal operation, always with the stipulation that we strictly avoid any risk of infection. To this end, DESY’s Corona Task Force has developed a detailed roadmap. I’m counting on you to show caution with the transition process and not to succumb to the misconception that the greatest danger is behind us. Please keep complying with social distancing and our hygiene rules. I wish for everyone to get through this time in good health.

With this in mind, I would like to thank you for your discipline in the past weeks and wish you and yours families all the best.

Helmut Dosch

Go to the video message from Helmut Dosch


DESY manufactures 2000 face shields for doctors and care workers

Creative solutions in times of crisis: a team headed by lead scientist and professor Beate Heinemann has developed and manufactured face shields. The shields have now been given to the Hamburg Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians (KVH) and the Federal Association of Private Providers of Social Services (bpa). They are being distributed to places like at-risk practices or nursing homes. DESY Director Christian Harringa said at the official shield handover: “We are pleased that DESY is able to help in the pandemic with hardware from our workshops where the need is greatest.” One of the models is constructed by a 3D printer from a blueprint from the internet. DESY specialists developed the other. This is all new territory for Heinemann, who says, “As a scientist, I’m quite good at organising, but launching a product line is a completely new experience.” She also thanked DESY colleagues for their help. The shields will also be available at DESY, such as for researchers working on a beamline.

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New: Corona News on DESY Website

A new DESY web page gives an overview of coronavirus-related research activities by DESY and its campus.

Corona News on DESY Website


The Coronavirus Project: from idea to measurement in just two weeks

By Alke Meents, leader of the CFEL working group FS-BMX

Our group FS-BMX (Biomedical research with X-rays) set a goal to develop many new methods at DESY in the area of structural analysis of biological samples, making them available to one of the broader user communities and more useful to research.

We’ve been collaborating for a while on this with groups from Universität Hamburg and other research facilities on the DESY campus and in the Hamburg area. After the spring holidays, we considered whether or not, with our expertise and unique opportunities here at DESY, we could contribute in some way to COVID-19 research. Then the idea struck us to try to look for a medicine for COVID-19 with the help of high-throughput sample screenings at the PETRA III measurement station P11.

We’d already prepared a similar project at the end of last year to look for a medication for Hantavirus. With that, we weren’t unprepared and, within a week, we could put together a suitable consortium that was really enthusiastic and ready to help. Within DESY, too, we didn’t have to perform a lot of prerequisite tasks – on the contrary, all of the groups were immediately ready to support the project quickly and unbureaucratically, a lot of them in their free time too.

In the end, it only took two weeks to go from the idea to the first measurements at P11 – a timespan that would otherwise be unthinkable for a project like this. Now, after six weeks, we’ve found a few interesting candidates for possible active ingredients. A substance that would have immediately been available as a medication is unfortunately not among them. That would’ve been great and easy; however, we have found a compound that readily binds to a coronavirus protein. We want to further research these candidates alongside other partners, as well as more precisely look into a minimum two further target proteins.

Even if it might be too late for this pandemic, maybe we’re better prepared for the next one with the new knowledge we’ve gained. In any case, we want to give a huge thank you to all participants: without your help this would not have been possible. It was and remains exciting, was a lot of fun, and we’re looking forward to further cooperation with you all!


Excitement at P11: the virus under X-ray vision

Universal hope and societal pressure are currently closely related. Many people ask the same questions: When will there finally be a vaccine, when will there be a drug against COVID-19? We visited DESY's X-ray lightsource PETRA III, where a team of researchers led by Alke Meents has been using X-ray screening to identify possible candidates for the development of a COVID-19 medication since the end of March. Between high voltage and tension at beamline P11.

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"Take time to think, to discuss, to doubt."

Professor Ulrike Beisiegel, former president of the University of Göttingen, has been advising DESY on ethical issues since the beginning of the year. Voices like hers are now needed to find new directions and better solutions on the way to a new normality. We spoke with Beisiegel, who is now the Chairperson of the DESY Ethics Commission, about understanding, comprehension and responsibility, and opportunities in the crisis: for science and for each and every one of us – a verbal stimulus to think, rethink, think differently.

To the interview


DESY’s Corona Task Force: pointing the way forward in a time of crisis

Who are the people who take care how to apply the COVID regulations at DESY, protect staff and maintain operation? Since the end of February, a crisis team of experts, communicators and decision makers has been discussing these questions and scenarios: the Corona Task Force. Here we take a look at how it operates.

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Great relief: special regulations for parents

After initially ten days, parents can now look after their children at home for up to 20 days and continue to receive their salary. Child care wage continuation payment is the somewhat unwieldy technical term for it. Employees are grateful for this solution: "We have already received over 400 applications. That corresponds to around 1400 working days," says Sonja Gebert, head of the human resources department.

And another important note from the HR department: all employees are asked to take note that leave from 2019 must be used up by 30 September if you do not want it to expire.

Events at DESY: Summer party cancelled

The decision had to be made: on 30 April, the DESY Corona Task Force decided that the DESY summer party in the anniversary year, originally scheduled for 24 September, must be cancelled. But please write down your good ideas and stay in good spirits: the summer festival will be held in 2021, with a new date now being drawn up.

Public evening lectures, scientific lectures and workshops, the Science Café, and DESY guided tours are cancelled for the time being, and the school labs will not offer any courses until further notice. Further information can be found in the informational email circulated by the DESY Task Force.


Appointment with DESY’s company doctor Katharina Bünz

With restrictions in Germany being loosened, DESY is also step by step moving into secured normal operation. The DESY Board of Directors, working closely with DESY’s Corona Task Force, are reviewing the relevant conditions for operation on a weekly basis. Katharina Bünz, the company doctor, is responsible for medical issues in this panel of experts. She warns about a false sense of security and has a clear message to everyone: keep being careful!

Read the interview here


New DESY community platform launched

Exclusively for all DESY people: the community platform is online. That means that you can stay in touch with the DESY community – in your own personal way! With videos, photos, texts or collaborative activities, the community site is as good as your ideas! Valuable tips and good tricks are also always welcome. It's your page: from the DESY community for the DESY community. There are already some great contributions that create a nice atmosphere to start from. We're looking forward to your submissions! How the platform works and the terms and conditions are clearly visible on the platform's website. Take a look – we're looking forward to it!

Community platform DESY


A great honour: Henry Chapman becomes Fellow of the Royal Society

DESY Lead Scientist Henry Chapman, a leading pioneer in the application of X-ray lasers, has been selected as Fellow to the British Royal Society. “I feel very honored,” says Chapman, who is also a physics professor at Universität Hamburg and one of the spokespersons for the excellence cluster “CUI: Advanced Imaging of Matter.” “This is also a great recognition for the promising and exciting field of research with X-ray free-electron lasers, and it speaks for the excellent scientific environment we have created at DESY and Universität Hamburg.” We raise our glasses and give a hearty congratulations.

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On the hunt for dark matter: first BabyIAXO components delivered

Around the world, dark matter stands at the top of the wanted list for researchers. That’s why the new experiment BabyIAXO will be built at DESY in one of the underground halls of the HERA accelerator. The first components for it have just been delivered. The project’s technical coordinator Uwe Schneekloth says, “With ALPS and BabyIAXO, there will soon be two experiments set up at DESY, searching for dark matter and especially for axions.” Investigating them is one of the biggest mysteries in physics. Up to now, axions, as the shy little things that they are, haven’t been discovered by any experiment. The international research team aims to commission BabyIAXO in 2024.

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DESY inform-Team:
Project management: Kerstin Straub
Editorial management: Kristin Hüttmann
Editorial team: Christina Mänz, Barbara Warmbein, Till Mundzeck
Editorial contributions: Joseph Piergrossi, Thomas Zoufal, Ulrike Behrens, Miriam Huckschlag
Production: Stefanie Fahlfeder, Renate Roude, Britta Liebaug, Heiner Westermann

photo credits:
Pressestelle der Universität Göttingen
DESY: Marta Mayer und Gesine Born