Cosima Schuster is program director in the German Research Foundation (DFG) for the fields of statistical physics, soft matter, biological physics and nonlinear dynamics.
What did you train in? What are you working on now?
I trained in solid state physics as a theorist. Now I work in research administration as a program director in the field of condensed matter physics as well as statistical and biological physics.
Do you think of yourself as a physicist or a funder?
I work for a self-governing organisation for science and research which funds excellent science without regard to extra-scientific factors, in a strict bottom-up competitive approach to ensure science-driven decisions. Hence, I consider myself not a funder, but an administrator who needs a good knowledge of physics.
What motivated you to move away from active research?
I feel more comfortable working on several topics with a broad range of interests than to work hard on specific questions.
What did you find most difficult when you first had contact with other disciplines?
You have to learn a new language with a lot of new definitions.
And what did you find most helpful to familiarize yourself with new concepts and jargon?
First, you need to be aware that there are different definitions and concepts. Second, you have to listen to the experts.
Tell us about your experience the first time you went to a conference outside the field you trained in.
I recall a conference in pure mathematics, where I understood nothing.